Story by Valencia “Mother Diva” Dantzler,
It was April 14th 1982 at noon (same day as the crucifixion according to Bible) a group of music collaborators came together to begin the creation process of what would be known as “The Greatest Selling Album of All Time” Chicago’s very own Quincy Delight Jones super producer enlisted the top musicians in the entertainment industry from various genres jazz, blues, rock, soul, latin classical and more.
These musicians are known as legends with an extraordinary body of work. Paulinho Da Costa (Percussions) Greg Phillinganes (Keyboards) Jerry Hey (Horns) Matt Foger (Engineer), all still living to tell their stories.
Then of course a family affair with the Porcaro Brothers, Jeff & Steve (Toto) and the guitar scientist Mr. Eddie Van Halen ( Beat It) The album was recorded from April to October of 1982.
The first single released in October of 1982 was “The Girl is Mine”. The strategy was MJ doing a duet with a Beatle was guaranteed to be a hit and make headlines. However it was the 80’s and kids wanted to dance and the world had changed since the 60’s when the Beatles had their time. On November 30, 1982 the “Thriller” album was released to a slow start and MJ was upset. Keep in mind this album was made with an, “I will show them mood”.
Michael Jackson felt disrespected by the Grammys for “Off The Wall” which sold 8 million copies out the door, mind you. Thriller was MJ’s chance to show the world and his peers that he would not be denied the recognition he deserved. He wrote on mirrors “I am the greatest entertainer in the world Thriller will sale millions”
I was 11 years old when Thriller came out. We all have our Thriller stories. Most of us can remember 3 iconic moments as lovers of Michael Jackson.
1. When Thriller came out. 2. Motown 25 Moonwalk 3. The day Michael Jackson left the flesh. I will never forget I went to Loop Records in Chicago which I walked to from my home yes by myself.
My mother gave me too much freedom. We lived downtown Chicago in a deluxe apartment in the sky. Thriller was 7.99. I was one of the first to buy it so there were no long lines. I took it home and recorded it to cassette, put it in my walkman and went off to school. I was a 6th grader at Mark Sheridan Math and Science Academy, a school I hated. I felt like a superstar. I had listened to the entire album before taking it to school. I was the only kid who had the Thriller album on the playground that morning. My best friend Alicia Backus (RIP) heard those drum beats and said, “what is this? I said some song he made called “Billie Jean.” It was the beat for us. We were living in the disco/transitional/birthing stages of house music in Chicago; so we were all about our drums and bass. Little did we know that, “Billie Jean” would become the most iconic song from the Thriller Album next to the title track.
“Billie Jean” was mixed 91 times by Bruce Swedien recording engineer. and dear friend to Quincy. Michael recorded the vocals through a six-foot-long tube, and only did one take. It went on to win two GRAMMYs, a Juno, and an American Music Award among others. To date the music video has over 1 billion views on Youtube.
Most of us who purchased Thriller in its beginning stages listen to the whole album. In my interview with engineer Matt Foger we discussed the slow build of the album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWnpcO41-bw
In my opinion it was the obvious. It had a slow build because the first song released was too slow and boring. But on January 2, 1983 Billie Jean hit the airwaves and the rest was history.
The track basically tells the story of an alleged baby mama drama. We saw the video Mr. Jackson. You clearly got into the bed with this woman, so it is possible the kid may be your son. MJ always, “Wanna Be Startin Somethin.” A song that used a Bathroom Stomp Board, just google that. I don’t have the time to explain that contraption PURE GENIUS! The chant was inspired by Soul Makossa by Manu Dibango. MJ reworked the chant to “Mama Se Mama Ma Ma Coo Sa”. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything in MJ’s rework, however the history of this language is derived from Pan African and simply means to dance. MJ wrote and produced 3 songs on Thriller Album now do your homework and find out which ones.
So let’s talk about the amazing Dick Zimmerman, the man who photographed and created the Iconic Thriller Album Cover, and gave MJ the shirt off his back literally. Ha!
“So Michael comes in and goes through all the clothes and he didn’t like any of the selections. I said well Michael what do you want ? And Michael looked at me and said I like what you have on. So I took off my suit and gave it to him and there you have it,” said Dick Zimmerman. Wow how simple and astonishing is that? Don’t even get me started on that baby tiger, just adorable.
Thriller Album soared to number one and stayed on the charts for an impressive 542 weeks, that is 10 years. It has been certified platinum 34 times by RIAA and has sold over 100 million records worldwide making it go diamond 10 times. To date it has over 3 billion streams. The 40th Anniversary Edition was released on November 18 went from No.40 to No.10 to NUMBER ONE !
Now, just last month baby sister Janet “Donk” Jackson (family nickname) celebrated the 25th Anniversary of her “Velvet Rope” album going No. 1 again. In 1997 Velvet Rope debuted at No 1 upon its release on the Billboard 200 Charts and launched Billboard chart hits like “Got ‘Til It’s Gone,” the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “Together Again,” the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart-topper “I Get Lonely” and the Dance Club Songs No. 1 “Go Deep. 25 years later, it is No. 1, again. (The album topped the U.S. Apple iTunes Store’s R&B/Soul top sellers ranking following its reissue.)
According to Billboard once again the incomparable little talented kid from Gary Indiana Michael Joe Jackson, King of Pop, King of Music has done it again 40 years later. No other artist in the history of the music industry has gone No.1 40 years later for the same musical work.
Tonight we salute MIchael Jackson with a very special 40th Anniversary Thriller Album party.
VALENCIA “MOTHER DIVA” DANTZLER is a producer, writer, community activist, election campaign strategist and Madam Ambassador of House/EDM, www.facebook.com/motherdivashouse, www.youtube.com/motherdivashousetvseries, Twitter @MotherDivaShow, Instagram @MotherDivasHouse
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