In the hours after news broke of Michael Jackson’s death, sales of the King of Pop’s albums skyrocketed, occupying every slot in the top 15 on the Amazon.com best-seller list and about half the top 20 iTunes album and single lists. Yet this post-tragedy sales spike was only the latest boom in a 40-years-long career of unparalleled hit-making. (Sources for this article include Jackson’s Web site, the RIAA and Billboard, among others.)
Jackson sold more than 750 million records worldwide. He notched eight platinum or multiplatinum albums and 13 #1 singles, and had 47 tracks crack the Billboard Hot 100. He won 13 Grammy Awards, was inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of the Jackson 5 and as a solo artist) and received the American Music Awards’ Artist of the Century Award. His 1982 album, Thriller, is the biggest-selling original album of all time (it has been neck-and-neck with the Eagles’ Greatest Hits collection for several years). The “Guinness Book of World Records” cites the singer as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time.
Michael joined his brothers Jackie, Tito, Marlon and Jermaine in the Jackson 5 in 1963, when he was just 5 years old. Starting with 1969’s “I Want You Back,” the Motown group notched five #1 chart hits, including “ABC” and “I’ll Be There.”
While his solo career began in 1971 and included hits like “Ben” and “Rockin’ Robin’,” it kicked into high gear with the release of the classic Off the Wall in 1979. The album eventually went platinum seven times, stayed in the Billboard Top 200 for 73 weeks and spawned four top-10 hits. The singles “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You” went platinum too.
Yet it was just a run-up to the global superstardom he was about to embark upon: 1982’s Thriller went platinum a mind-boggling 28 times, making it the biggest-selling studio album in history. It spent 37 weeks at the top of the Billboard albums chart and won a record-breaking eight Grammys in 1984. Seven songs — out of a total track list of nine — reached the top 10 Billboard singles chart, including “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.”
The 1985 benefit song “We Are the World,” which Jackson co-wrote with Lionel Richie, went platinum four times and stayed in the top Billboard spot for four weeks. The song raised an estimated $50 million for famine relief in Africa.
After Thriller, nearly five years passed before the release of his next solo album, but Bad proved worth the wait. It went platinum eight times and settled into the Billboard chart for 85 weeks. The album produced five #1 Billboard Top 100 singles: “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana.”
1991 brought “Dangerous,” another Billboard-topping album. It went platinum seven times and hung around the chart for 117 straight weeks. The single “Black or White” went platinum and hit the top Billboard spot.
His 1995 greatest-hits album, HIStory: Past, Present and Future: Book I, stayed on the Billboard chart for 36 weeks and went platinum seven times. His 82-show world tour was seen by 4.5 million fans, the biggest tour of his career. A remix album of the greatest-hits record, called Blood on the Dance Floor, also went platinum.
His final studio album, Invincible, reached the #1 Billboard spot and remained on the chart for 28 weeks.
At the time of his death, Jackson was preparing for 50 sold-out shows at London’s O2 arena that grossed an estimated $85 million in ticket sales.
MTV will be paying tribute to MJ throughout the weekend with music videos, exclusive performances and calls and tweets from celebrity admirers and friends. For everything we’ve got on the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit “Michael Jackson Remembered.”
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