Michael Jackson, who died today at age 50, ruled the music world throughout the 1980s, selling millions of records and concert tickets and dubbing himself the "King of Pop." And while Michael Jackson won multiple times at such popularity contests as the American Music Awards and the MTV Awards, he also earned the respect of his peers in the music industry with his 13 Grammy Awards.
After striking out on his own from the Jackson Five, Jackson won his first Grammy in 1980 for best R&B male vocal performance ("Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"). That track from his chart-topping "Off the Wall" album also contended for best disco recording.
"Thriller" – his second solo effort as an adult – was released in November 1982 and spent a record 37 weeks at No. 1, producing an unparalleled seven Top 10 singles. In March 1983, Jackson debuted his moonwalk dance to "Billie Jean" on the TV special "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever." Michael Jackson earned an Emmy nod for best performance in a variety or music program. He lost to opera diva Leontyne Price for her concert with the New York Philharmonic on "Live From Lincoln Center."
At the Grammys in February 1984, Jackson shared in seven of the eight awards won by the album (the exception was for best engineered recording). Michael Jackson shared the wins for album of the year and producer of the year (non-classical) with "Thriller" collaborator Quincy Jones, who also produced his Grammy-winning children's recording "E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial."
For the three chart-topping singles off the album, Jackson won Grammy Awards for male vocal performance in an unprecedented three genres – R&B ("Billie Jean"), rock ("Beat It") and pop ("Thriller"). He shared in the record of the year win for "Beat It" with the production team. And as the songwriter, he picked up a Grammy for penning the best R&B tune ("Billie Jean"). However, Sting's "Every Breath You Take" edged out two Jackson compositions – "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" – for song of the year.
Jackson's total of eight Grammy wins in one night broke the record set in 1965 by Roger Miller, who'd won six awards, most for the country hit "King of the Road." And the eight Grammys awarded to "Thriller" was another record haul as well. Both of these achievements were tied by Santana and the album "Supernatural" in 1999.
Michael Jackson won another Grammy the following year in the category of best video album for the film that documented the making of the landmark "Thriller" video. That $500,000, 14-minute video, directed by John Landis, told the story of a boy (Jackson) and girl enjoying a date until he turns into a singing, dancing werewolf.
In 1986, Jackson and Lionel Richie won the song of the year Grammy for the charity single "We Are the World," which also took home record of the year. As Jackson was one of the pioneers of the music video, it seems appropriate that the last two Grammys he won were for that medium. In 1989 he and his team won the short form video award for "Leave Me Alone" off his follow-up album "Bad." And in 1995 he and his sister Janet Jackson shared in the short form winning "Scream" from his double album "HIStory."
Photo: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times