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Rock Hall Anniversary: Michael Jackson’s Disastrous Pepsi Commercial

By January 1984, Michael Jackson was already the King of Pop (though that moniker wouldn’t be heard of for another few years), and his 1982 album Thriller was forever changing the course of popular music. It was at this time Jackson secured a multi-million dollar sponsorship with Pepsi, becoming it’s spokesperson in its commercials. But a filming of one of the commercials would turn disastrous.

It was when filming for the Pepsi commercial took place at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where Jackson appeared with his brothers for a simulated concert. Upon walking down on steps onto the stage, a burst of pyrotechnics accidently set his hair on fire, and a video clip shows Jackson being sprayed with a fire extinguisher, and stagehands rushing to his aid and escorting him off the stage. As news reports of the accident spreads, many news outlets would show Jackson waving to fans with his hand in his famous sequined glove, while being rolled in a stretcher to an ambulance. He suffered second-degree burns to his scalp, and would undergo treatment to hide the scars.

The Pepsi accident came around the same time Jackson released the title track to Thriller as a single. A month later, and as he recovered from the scalp burns, Jackson would attend the Grammy Awards (wearing a hairpiece), where he would sweep the show with eight wins.