meta-scriptWatch Michael Jackson Win Best Pop Vocal Performance For "Thriller" In 1984 | GRAMMY Rewind | GRAMMY.com

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Watch Michael Jackson Win Best Pop Vocal Performance For "Thriller" In 1984 | GRAMMY Rewind

While accepting his award, the King of Pop brought sisters Janet, La Toya and Rebbie Jackson up to the GRAMMY stage to help him celebrate

GRAMMYs/Feb 28, 2020 - 11:21 pm

What can be said about Michael Jackson's groundbreaking sixth studio album Thriller—and its classic lead single—that hasn't already been said? 

At the 26th GRAMMY Awards in 1984, the Quincy Jones-produced album received a record-breaking eight golden gramophones, including Album of the Year. Single "Beat It," meanwhile, won Record Of The Year. Its lead single also won Best Pop Vocal Performance, and in today's edition of GRAMMY Rewind, you can watch the King of Pop charmingly accept that award.

Bringing sisters La Toya, Janet and Rebbie onstage with him, Jackson thanked Jones, his family, and even Steven Spielberg. He then told the audience that he'd made a deal with himself that if he won a seventh award ("which is this one"), he'd take off his shades (which he did). 

Jackson, who passed away in 2009, won 13 GRAMMYs over the course of his career and was nominated for a whopping 38. He was also named a GRAMMY Legend in 1993 and Lifetime Achievement award winner in 2010. 

Subscribe to our YouTube channel and visit our video page to watch each GRAMMY Rewind episode, along with other exclusive content, as it's released.

Janet Jackson performs at the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture.
Janet Jackson performs at the 2022 Essence Festival of Culture

Photo Credit: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Essence 

interview

Celebrating 30 Years Of Essence Fest: How New Orleans & Multi-Generational, Diasporic Talent Create The "Super Bowl Of Culture"

Ahead of the 30th Essence Festival Of Culture, held July 4-7 in New Orleans, GRAMMY.com spoke with executives and curators of the legendary celebration of Black excellence.

GRAMMYs/Jul 2, 2024 - 03:02 pm

Every July, millions of Black people, specifically Black women, descend upon New Orleans for the Essence Festival of Culture (EFOC). Known for many years as the Essence Festival, the festival is a celebration of Black culture, community, and heritage. Since its inception in 1995 as a one-off event to commemorate the publication’s 25th anniversary, the festival has evolved into a diasporic jubilee, drawing in people of African descent from across the diaspora. 

In addition to its global presence, the festival pours millions of dollars into the local New Orleans community, which has served as the festival's home for 30 years (with the exception of 2006, when the festival was held in Houston, because of Hurricane Katrina). In 2020, the festival was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, the annual festival continues to be one of the most sought-after and attended festivals in the United States. 

This year’s Essence Festival of Culture will be held at the Superdome from July 4-7, replete with legendary and fast-rising talents. On July 5, Birdman & Friends will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Cash Money Records. The following day will feature a special performance by Charlie Wilson, while Usher will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Confessions.

Janet Jackson and Victoria Monét will headline the festival's final night, while Frankie Beverly and Maze close out the festival with the return of All-White Night. Other performers include The Roots featuring Mickey Guyton, Ari Lennox and T-Pain, Busta Rhymes, Raphael Saadiq, D-Nice featuring Shelia E, Big Boi, and many more.  

Read more: Music Festivals 2024 Guide: Lineups & Dates For Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo & Much More 

EFOC has been compared to SXSW, Coachella, Austin City Limits, and other notable festivals, yet it stands out for its empowerment-centered approach. It is not simply a festival, it is a family reunion. The one festival in the United States that does not pander to or take advantage of Black audiences, but truly celebrates them and their achievements. Although music has always been an integral part of the festival’s ethos — Aretha Franklin and B.B. King performed at the first iteration — the festival excels in its multi-generational and interdisciplinary programming. On any given day, attendees can attend sessions on Black entrepreneurship, politics, mental health, and literature, as well as seminars focused on issues impacting the Black community.  

There’s a reason why the festival is referred to as the party with a purpose. For decades, it has operated as a celebratory convening place for Black people, Black families, and Black communities. Now, more than ever, spaces like EFOC are needed, as the Black community experiences an onslaught of changes — from Historically Black Colleges and Universities in North Carolina and Tennessee being subject to intense government oversight, to Black women-owned venture capital firms being targeted by conservatives, and Black voting rights becoming at risk during an election year. 

Ahead of the festival’s 30th celebration, Michael Barclay, Executive Vice President of Experiential for ESSENCE Ventures and Barkue Tubman Zawolo, Chief of Staff, Talent and Diasporic Engagement for Essence Ventures, spoke to the Recording Academy about the history, legacy, and future of the Essence Festival of Culture.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Are you part of the generation that grew up with the Essence Festival of Culture? If so, how does it feel to be a part of it?

Barkue Tubman Zawolo: I'm originally from Liberia. And even being in Liberia, prior to my family moving to the U.S. in 1980, Essence was always a thing for my mom and my aunts. When we came here, fast forward to me, as an adult, [after] graduating college, I got into the music industry. I've managed artists that have gone through the Essence stages and pages in different ways.

Essence Fest has always been something that we were familiar with. I have to say, I had not really experienced Essence Fest until 2019 when Essence was actually a client. One of the things that I was doing [at that point] was integrating the Diaspora and African creatives within the festival in fashion and music.

To be in the role that I'm in right now and to be on a team with people who have been a part of Essence for a long time…. Essence seems to be ingrained in all of our fabric. [What] started as a music festival now is the Super Bowl of Culture that is the Essence Festival of Culture. To be on the team that helps bring this to life for our community is a daunting but rewarding task all in the same. 

Essence is something that I don't think anybody in our community takes lightly. Even our partners understand the value of it. We certainly understand that we serve the Essence-inverse and, and we are in service to this community. It is a huge honor to be able to be a part of the team that brings this to life and, and, and constantly hear what it means to the community globally too. 

One thing that I admired, especially about last year's festival, was GU Kickback — a music event hosted by Girls United, the publication’s Gen Z vertical. I saw a number of local artists from New Orleans, such as 504ICYGRL. ESSENCE just released a series of cover stories celebrating the 30 year relationship between the publication and New Orleans; how do you highlight the city and their history?

Michael Barclay: As somebody who's worked in experiential, creating gatherings and experiences for almost 25 years now, the venue is always important when you're trying to set the box where you are creating for your community, for your audience. New Orleans has been that backdrop for us for almost 30 years now. 

New Orleans is the convergence of our mission, our brand, in a city that is perfectly matched for that energy. New Orleans is as much a part of Essence Festival of Culture as Essence Magazine is to Essence Festival. 

It is very much a partnership that has created this cultural movement. To be more inclusive, and highlight more of those local relationships and talent is very intentional. It has been something that we have put a lot of energy and effort into over the last couple of years. 

This will be my third festival this year. I think Barkue, you started maybe a year or two before me. We're a fairly new crew that is working to help grow and reshape and solidify those relationships. Even with how we handle the management of the festival. 

Our VP of Essence Festival, Hakeem Holmes is a hometown boy from New Orleans. He's the pride and joy. They love to see him coming. He's always enlightening us on the things that we need to be focused on for the city and how we make the best partnership and make the best impact on the area.

It was intentional what you saw last year. It's intentional this year. We dedicated our entire festival edition of the magazine as a love letter to New Orleans. It's a symbiotic relationship that is one of the key reasons why this festival is the Super Bowl of Culture.  

I would love to hear about the talent aspect of the festival. Last year, Megan Thee Stallion headlined. In previous years, Beyoncé and Prince have served as headliners. What is the formula between balancing local talent, national talent and diasporic talent at the festival?

Zawolo: As we grow the festival, the intentionality becomes even more and more important. And, what we do in understanding where we are as a brand. 

We're 30 years into the festival, the brand is 55 years. What's traditionally known as the Essence Woman is now bringing her daughter. It's multi-generational. We also know that the world is as big as your cell phone, so people are now exposed to different types of content and music. 

We see the influence of Afrobeats and Caribbean music. We are intentional about making sure that every night really speaks to multiple generations, but it's anchored in a generation. It's like, who's bringing, who to the concert on Friday? Is it the daughter bringing her mama? 

It's anchored in  that younger demo, but we're going to make sure that they're going to have a collective good time there. Saturday is usually our heaviest night. We have our living legends that show up there; that really cuts across generations. This is anybody can bring anybody, but let me tell you, you're going to be able to teach each other, connect with each other with the different groupings of talent that we have.

We try to make sure that there is something that speaks to us, but that that connects with the diaspora on as many nights as possible. Sometimes it's not because they're from a different country, but because we know the music also resonates.

If you think of Janet Jackson, you can go anywhere in the world. She can check off that box, although she's not from there. You can create those ties, but we also are intentional about having Ayra Starr and Machel Montano. Last year we had Tems and Wizkid. The goal is to continue to grow what that looks like, because we are a global brand and that is our diasporic and global intent in connecting the global Black community is really important.  

We are intentionally multi-generational. We intentionally lead into where a multitude of generational communities can come together and have fun together. There is something for everybody. We have a unique opportunity with Essence as the brand grows to be able to not only speak to what they want to call the aunties, I call the punties. I also think that this is where we get to educate the next generation on where we're coming from. We also get to learn from them on where they are and where they want to go. 

What a beautiful way to kind of tie all of these connections. Last year, the festival celebrated 50 years of hip-hop; this year you're celebrating the 30th anniversary of the festival. What is the intention behind this year’s music programming?

Zawolo: Paying homage to people who had done some historical things on our stages. We have Janet [Jackson] back. People are like, “Oh, we saw Janet two years ago,” but Janet is also one of the highest sellers in the festival's history. 

If we're going to celebrate, let's celebrate, because we know Janet never disappoints. We also want to lean into some of the [older] talent, like Charlie Wilson, Uncle Charlie. He's graced that stage so many times, but yet it's still very relevant. Using this moment to reignite things that we've done in the past and bring them back to life that we know the audience missed.

Frankie Beverly, who is going to come, this is probably going to really be his last performance. The passing of the torch. This year was about having to be intentional about what other milestones are happening that are important to this culture. Cash Money is also celebrating 30 years. Who better, right?  

Essence has been in New Orleans for 30 years. Cash Money and crew are from New Orleans. Juvenile just got the key to the city from the mayor. We want to honor and celebrate him, but we also want to recognize the influence that this group of very creative, entrepreneurial, rappers and artists have had on culture, because there was a time where we all were backing that ass up. 

Making sure we highlighted milestones, connecting with people who have historically been a part of making history with us, introducing some new ones — that's what we have to do. We have to set up now for the next 30 years. We want to go to the soul of what appeals to our audience, and we're really all about good music.  

I think the 30th year just continues to do what we do. As we look to grow and connect demos, Megan Thee Stallion is a very viable option because again, the daughter now is going to bring the mama. Intergenerational diasporic and connecting demos, I think that only happens at the Superdome. That's also happening in the convention center, which I believe is honestly the soul of the festival. 

What are your hopes and aspirations for the next 30 years of the Essence Festival of Culture? Will Essence Fest always be in New Orleans? Are we going to have an Essence Fest in Lagos, Nigeria?

Barclay: Being on this side of [EFOC], seeing the true impact of the festival and how it impacts the communities, how it impacts the folks that come to New Orleans, and now, because we've expanded to our virtual audience, the 1.7 million that are viewing around the world, my hope for the festival is that we continue to show up where our community needs us.

We're going to be in New Orleans. We're going to be in our official world as we call it. If you can't make it to New Orleans, you can tune into Essence.com and you can see what's going on there. We are creating virtual experiences, AR experiences, VR experiences, all those things, so really keeping up with the way that people continue to connect with each other, whether they're physically in the same place or halfway across the world.

I think that type of innovation is what I want to continue to see us do and allow us to create that joy that we generate in New Orleans and wherever it's needed for our community.

PRIDE & Black Music Month: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ & Black Voices

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson performing in 1996

Photo: Francis Sylvain/AFP via Getty Images

news

On This Day In Music: Michael Jackson Passes Away In Los Angeles At Age 50

The music world suffered a catastrophic blow on June 25, 2009, when the King of Pop died in Los Angeles at just 50 years old. Fifteen years later, reflect on this momentous day.

GRAMMYs/Jun 25, 2024 - 01:20 pm

Nearly 15 years since its release, it’s still wrenching to watch the documentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It — a glimpse of one of the greatest concerts that never happened.

Revisiting behind-the-scenes footage of the planned residency at London’s O2 Arena, it’s clear Michael Jackson was at the top of his game. The Kenny Ortega-directed film takes us through rehearsals, dancer auditions, costume design, and more, as the run of 50 shows loomed.

Despite any personal or medical issues the embattled King of Pop faced, he danced and sang terrifically. All 50 dates had sold out; after more than a decade off the road, This Is It was bound to be a momentous pop event.

But the residency would never happen, for the most tragic reason possible: on June 25, 2009, after returning home from a past-midnight rehearsal, Jackson passed away from acute propofol intoxication, administered by his personal physician, Conrad Murray. Jackson was 50.

The news rattled the world, causing major internet platforms including Google, AOL Instant Messenger, Twitter, and Wikipedia to be pushed to the breaking point with significant traffic spikes. The following year, Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and sentenced to four years in prison. (He was released after serving nearly two years, due in part to good behavior.)

“Our beloved son, brother, uncle and father of three children has gone so unexpectedly, in such a tragic way and much too soon,” read a statement from the Jackson family. “It leaves us, his family, speechless and devastated to a point, where communication with the outside world seems almost impossible at times.”

As Jackson's music sales spiked, Jackson’s memorial service was held on July 7, 2009, at the Staples Center. Berry Gordy, Brooke Shields, and Smokey Robinson offered eulogies, and an all-star lineup — including Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, and others — performed Jackson’s iconic songs.

Of course, true legends never die — but a world without the King of Pop has been a little dimmer. On this day in music, crank up Thriller or Bad, and remember one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived.

Remembering Michael Jackson's Record-Setting Music Career

Explore More History-Making Moments In Music

Kyle Ramar Freeman, Nichelle Lewis, Phillip Johnson Richardson and Avery Wilson in the Broadway revival of "The Wiz."
Kyle Ramar Freeman, Nichelle Lewis, Phillip Johnson Richardson and Avery Wilson in the Broadway revival of "The Wiz"

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

feature

50 Years In, "The Wiz" Remains An Inspiration: How A New Recording Repaves The Yellow Brick Road

From original groundbreaking production to its current Broadway revival, "The Wiz" stands the test of time. A new cast recording will be released June 14, which honors the strength of the music and the message behind it.

GRAMMYs/Jun 12, 2024 - 01:18 pm

Of the many reviews of "The Wiz" over the years, one of the most famous comes from none other than Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim.

When asked what his favorite Broadway show is (besides his own), Sondheim named "The Wiz" and said it’s because, "it's the one show which makes you feel better when you come out of it than you did when you walked in." 

The original production of "The Wiz" had its pre-Broadway tryout in 1974, with a Broadway premiere in January 1975. In the decades since, it's remained beloved among musical theatre fans, as well as a staple of community theatre. Not only does "The Wiz" boast a 50 year legacy and the distinction of being one of the first shows with an all-Black cast, but the musical itself stands the test of time because of the strength of the music and the message behind it. To accompany a tour and Broadway revival at the Marquis Theatre, the 2024 revival cast recording comes out on June 14, paving the yellow brick road for a new generation of fans to ease on down and enjoy the journey.

While many people remember the 1978 Diana Ross film The Wiz (which also starred a young Michael Jackson), it was a critical and box office flop. The Broadway show, meanwhile, had more success. The show won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. The original cast recording is the 30th highest selling cast album of all time. In 2017, the original Broadway cast recording of "The Wiz" was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." 

The tale of Dorothoy's arrival in and travels through Oz has been in the cultural lexicon for over 100 years. "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was written in 1900 and, 39 years later, the Technicolor Judy Garland movie cemented the iconic story. While "The Wiz" (full title "The Wiz: The Supersoul Musical ‘Wizard of Oz'") is still primarily set in the magical land of Oz, the creators and production team made significant, conscious choices to place "The Wiz" among Black culture of the time. The new production, with an updated book by Amber Ruffin, strives to do the same. 

Of "The Wiz," the Smithsonian — which displays costumes from the original production in their National Museum of African American History and Culture — says it is "a tale that celebrates African American street style as a unique subculture and unapologetically American way of life. The song lyrics, script, sets, and costumes all reference and champion the struggles and triumphs of African Americans." 

Analysis of the original cast album cites influences from popular music of the time, along with jargon. Most notably, however, and what Sondheim responded to, is that all the songs in "The Wiz" have a message and emotional core that moves the story forward both literally and within each characters’ arc. Instead of the repetitive "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" from the film, "The Wiz’s" "Ease on Down the Road" encourages the characters and then the audience to keep on keeping on with their goals. Lyrics such as "Cause there may be times/ When you think you lost your mind/ And the steps you're takin'/ Leave you three, four steps behind/ But the road you're walking/ Might be long sometimes/ You just keep on truckin'/ And you'll just be fine, yeah," can be applied to anyone’s life problems not just Dorothy and Company on their fantastical journey. 

After vanquishing the Wicked Witch, Evilene, the principals and ensemble sing, "Everybody Rejoice/ Brand New Day," a celebratory song that exudes joy. They sing, "We always knew that we'd be free somehow," which, when placed in American theatre and sung by an all Black ensemble, holds more historical significance than a simple song about escaping capture. Glinda appears and doesn’t just tell Dororthy to click her heels; she tells her to "Believe in Yourself" not only that she can go home, but that she should believe in her own feelings and power inside her heart.

Finally, "Home," which some say takes the place of the classic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," speaks to a broader character arc and feels more like a pop anthem than a musical theatre song. It has been released as a single throughout the show’s history, including last year by Brandi Carlile to go with the "Ted Lasso" finale. While Garland’s Dorothy learns in the end, "There’s no place like home," "The Wiz’s" Dorothy sings, "And I've learned that we must look/ Inside our hearts to find/ A world full of love/ Like yours, like mine/ Like home." 

The original Broadway cast recording is hard to find. It can be purchased on streaming services like Apple, but on Spotify, only the single version of "Home" is playable. "The Wiz: Live!," a well-received televised version, does have a readily streamable soundtrack, but a new Broadway cast album is very welcome. The cast features Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy and television and Broadway veteran Wayne Brady as the titular role; the stage production updates both script and set to feel more more contemporary. Meanwhile, the score has been lightly "refurbished" with additional songs. 

"The original ‘Wiz’ was a definitive product of the 1970s in its glam and excess," Brady told the New York Times. "Ours is of this time: We have this place and can just be. From the queerness onstage to the costumes, the musicality, light and bricks. I think instead of fighting to be seen, this ‘Wiz’ is, ‘Oh, you see us.’"

Sondheim’s praise of "The Wiz" is particularly magnanimous because Sondheim’s own show "Gypsy" had a revival in 1974, the same year as the original production of "The Wiz," which meant the two shows battled it out both in box office and awards. A revival of "Gypsy" starring Audra McDonald and directed by George C. Wolfe has just been announced, so both "The Wiz" and "Gypsy" will again be on Broadway. This time, both shows will be led by Black actors and directors. 

Broadway has struggled post-pandemic, and America has a lot to learn about love when it comes to race, but, with the release of "The Wiz" back into the world, we get a much-needed infusion of joy. Throughout the last 50 years, there have been many stories and real events that point to a world that is anything but full of love, but, through it all, "The Wiz" holds onto hope. 

New Broadway Musicals To See This Spring: "Hell's Kitchen," "The Wiz" & More

Megan Thee Stallion at the 2021 GRAMMYs
Megan Thee Stallion at the 2021 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

video

GRAMMY Rewind: Megan Thee Stallion Went From "Savage" To Speechless After Winning Best New Artist In 2021

Relive the moment Megan Thee Stallion won the coveted Best New Artist honor at the 2021 GRAMMYs, where she took home three golden gramophones thanks in part to her chart-topping smash "Savage."

GRAMMYs/Apr 5, 2024 - 05:25 pm

In 2020, Megan Thee Stallion solidified herself as one of rap's most promising new stars, thanks to her hit single "Savage." Not only was it her first No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, but the "sassy, moody, nasty" single also helped Megan win three GRAMMYs in 2021.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the sentimental moment the Houston "Hottie" accepted one of those golden gramophones, for Best New Artist.

"I don't want to cry," Megan Thee Stallion said after a speechless moment at the microphone. Before starting her praises, she gave a round of applause to her fellow nominees in the category, who she called "amazing."

Along with thanking God, she also acknowledged her manager, T. Farris, for "always being with me, being by my side"; her record label, 300 Entertainment, for "always believing in me, sticking by through my craziness"; and her mother, who "always believed I could do it."

Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage" remix with Beyoncé also helped her win Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance that night — marking the first wins in the category by a female lead rapper.

Press play on the video above to watch Megan Thee Stallion's complete acceptance speech for Best New Artist at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards, and remember to check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

Black Sounds Beautiful: How Megan Thee Stallion Turned Viral Fame Into A GRAMMY-Winning Rap Career