Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ Reaches Major Milestone after 39 Years

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Phil Dent/Redferns)

Thriller is likely Michael Jackson’s most iconic album. The 1982 release introduced some of Jackson’s most loved hits, and his song by the same name has been famously recreated by schools, prisons, and nursing homes. The album, which was his 6th studio production, won eight Grammys and broke the record for the most top 10 singles from an album. 39 years later, the phenom is still breaking records. Thriller has now been certified platinum 34 times over.

Over its lifetime, Thriller has sold 70 million copies. And the album is the second best-selling record in US history. The Eagles hold the number one spot with the Their Greatest Hits(1971-1975) album. However, Thriller holds the number one spot for worldwide sales. 

Thriller was home to some of Jackson’s best work, including Billie Jean, Beat It, and P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing). And his signature moonwalk was born from the Thriller tour. But ironically, Michael Jackson almost didn’t release the record. In an interview from the 80s, Jackson’s recalled telling his producer that “Thriller sounded so crap. The mixes sucked. When we listened to the whole album, there were tears… I just cried like a baby. I stormed out of the room and said: ‘We’re not releasing this.'”

Elvis Presley Inspired Michael Jackson to Become the King of Pop

Micheal Jackson lived his life trying to de-throne Elvis “The King” Presley. And when he smashed records with his 1984 Thriller album, he came close. But it wasn’t until the 1989 release of Bad when the world dubbed Michael “The King of Pop.” 

But Jackson only paralleled Elvis. He never overshadowed his place in musical history. And according to those who knew Michael Jackson well, he spent his life obsessing over a man he never knew. “If Elvis is supposed to be the King, what about me?” he often said.

“The way Elvis destroyed himself interests me because I don’t ever want to walk those grounds myself,” Jackson once said. Presley’s life served as a cautionary tale for Jackson. The man rose from nothing and become one of the most—if not the most—famous person in musical history. Though on his way to greatness, he fell into a deep state of depression. And while down, Elvis turned to drugs both to fill a void that stardom wouldn’t heal and to keep up with his desire to stay in the limelight. Then eventually, his addictions and lifestyle killed him.

Michael Jackson famously married Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa-Marie in 1994. And The King of Pop once told her that he was afraid he was “going to end up like him [Elvis Presley], the way he did.” And on Myspace, Lisa-Marie said that is exactly what happened. Micheal had focused so hard on beating her father, that he became her father.

Michael ended up so bent on becoming an artist whose legend would endure the times that he also pushed himself to mental exhaustion, near financial ruin, and drug addiction. Michael Jackson died when he was only 50 years old after an overdose at him home in Los Angeles.