MTV was only 7 years old in 1988, but [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist] had already established himself as the definitive artist of the video era . . His résumé already included some of the most iconic clips of all time, including the epic “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Beat It” and “Billie Jean.” So it was only appropriate that Jackson receive the Video Vanguard Award at the 1988 Video Music Awards.
The segment opened with a montage of clips from all the singer’s videos. [artist id="1114"]Peter Gabriel[/artist], who won the award in 1987 for his groundbreaking work in clips like “Sledgehammer,” presented Jackson with the award. Jackson was praised for his commitment to “short films” and graciously accepted the prize from Gabriel.
Jackson’s crowning music-video achievement was, of course, “Thriller,” the video he shot (and co-wrote) with John Landis in 1983. Spanning more than 13 minutes and costing more than $500,000 to make (a record at the time), it was a true mini-film, featuring huge sets, makeup by Academy Award winner Rick Baker and incidental music by the legendary Elmer Bernstein. The video’s choreography — particularly Jackson’s midsong dance spectacle with a troupe of zombies — has gone on to become the most imitated (and parodied) in pop-culture history, and the “Guinness Book of World Records” lists “Thriller” as the Most Successful Music Video of All Time, having sold more than 9 million units. In 1999, MTV ranked it as the Greatest Music Video Ever Made.
Jackson’s video history was only getting warmed up by 1988, when he received the Video Vanguard. In the years following, he would create big-budget, star-studded projects like “Black or White,” “Remember the Time,” “Scream” and “You Rock My World.” Jackson’s groundbreaking work as a video artist even led to the award being renamed the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, which was first presented under that name to U2 in 2001.
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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