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The "Thriller" video didn't just send Michael Jackson's album sales skyrocketing, but it also gave VHS tapes a huge boost in the 1980s, as people bought the video on tape so they could watch it any time they wanted.
"Music videos in the early 80s started as a little cottage industry in Britain, really," said Brian Grant, British director of Tina Turner's "Private Dancer" video Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" in an interview with The Guardian. "As soon as the Americans got involved, things became monetized, turning music videos into a proper industry, which operated alongside MTV. The big turning point was 'Thriller.'"
Michael Jackson helped break down cultural barriers on MTV
Videos for Michael Jackson songs like "Beat It" and "Billie Jean" also got heavy rotation on MTV during the 1980s making him the first black artist to get that type of recognition on the channel according to an article on CNN.com
"Michael Jackson made culture accept a person of color way before Tiger Woods, way before Oprah Winfrey, way before Barack Obama," said the Rev. Al Sharpton. "Michael did with music what they later did in sports and in politics and in television. And no controversy will erase the historic impact."
His appeal to a wide range of people from various demographics made Michael Jackson the first African-American global superstar and helped MTV gain mainstream success, Steroboard notes.
"For the first time in the history of MTV, we spotted big time rating spikes," former MTV executive, Les Garland has previous said according to Stereoboard. "We were averaging back in those days like a 24 hour rating of 1.2, but every time we would play "Thriller, "we'd jump up to an 8 or 10. We learned a lot about programming."
The MTV Video Vanguard Award: Controversy and Changing Names.
As their website notes, MTV did not always call its flagship accolade The Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Before 1991, it was simply called he Vanguard Award or The Lifetime Achievement Award.
The first Video Vanguard Award was given out in 1984 at the first MTV VMAs. Those early music video vanguard awards went to David Bowie, The Beatles and Lester. Michael Jackson won the award in 1988.
However, by 1993 MTV started to drop his name from the award or not give it out altogether. According to Stereoboard, these actions coincided with the child sexual abuse allegations against MJ that first became public in 1993. His name was officially returned to the award in 2011 after his death when the honor was bestowed on Britney Spears.
The history and legacy attached to the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award makes it a big draw for the VMA TV audience. Let's see what the 2016 recipient, Rihanna, does on stage to show that she's fit to follow in the King of Pop's moon-walking footsteps.
[Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images]