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Rock Hall Anniversary: Michael Jackson’s Thriller Video

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In 1983, Michael Jackson helped revolutionized the music video, thanks to number one singles “Billie Jean” and “Beat It”. By year’s end, he would take it even further.

In December, Jackson would release the video for the song "Thriller". It stood at thirteen minutes long, and was directed by John Landis. Along with Jackson himself, the video also starred former Playboy centerfold Ola Ray as his girlfriend. It would began with Jackson and Ray in a 1950s setting running out or gas, and walking in the woods, where at the presence of a full moon, Jackson becomes a werecat, and Ray runs away. The scene later cuts into a movie theater, and after leaving it Jackson goes into singing verses of “Thriller” to Ray while walking through a foggy street, where they later encounter zombies (which Michael himself becomes). And of course, this would be followed by the famous dance number (which would be reenacted on numerous occasions), and Michael (back in human form) singing the chorus.

Jackson’s "Thriller" video would also be noted for the disclaimer in the beginning of the film, made due to the fact he was at the time a Jehovah’s Witness, and the video was criticized for belief in the occult, which Jackson denies. It would also featured an hour-long documentary of the video’s making, which included interviews from Landis and Ray, video clips of the Jacksons’ “Can You Feel It”, as well as audio clips of songs “Off the Wall” and “Workin’ Day and Night”.

Overall, "Thriller" would be rotated heavily on MTV, and became the top-selling home-video release, with sales of over nine million copies. It would go on to be hailed as the greatest video of all time, and would go on to be selected for the National Film Registry and the Library of Congress. Equally iconic is the red jacket worn by Jackson, becoming one of the hottest fashion statements in the mid-1980s, but going on to become one of the greatest rock memorabilia in history.


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