Michael Jackson ‘fired his entire team’ after releasing Thriller
Tomorrow, Tuesday February 28, 2023, marks the 19th anniversary of Michael Jackson winning eight Grammy Awards for his sixth studio album, Thriller. While the record marked a turning point for the star’s incredible career, it was also the beginning of the end for the team he worked with every day. And it all started when they began to doubt his mastery.
Jackson’s co-executor of the estate, John Branca, told 60 Minutes that people around the Billie Jean singer doubted she could beat her previous album, Off The Wall, which came out in 1979 and sold more. 20 million copies worldwide.
Branca recalled, “There were a lot of people in the industry who said to Michael, ‘You know, Michael, you can’t expect this album to sell as well as Off The Wall. The industry has changed.’
Despite this, Jackson refused to leave the studio while working on Thriller with its producer, Quincy Jones. “Michael wouldn’t deliver that album until he was convinced it was perfect,” he added. After delivering the album and proving all the doubters of him wrong, he drastically changed his environment.
Branca said, “And then, in classic Michael fashion, as soon as the [third] the single, Beat It, was released, he let go of all of his team. There was no manager, no agent, no press agent. It was Michael, and he would give me business directives and, of course, the promotion directives of the label.”
Jackson “wanted to run his own business himself,” Branca added. And this change ended up leaving Jones worried about the future of the star.
“I will never forget it,” Branca recalled. “I got a call from Quincy Jones who said, ‘Branca, we’ve got a 747 here and there’s no pilot.’ And I said, ‘Quincy, Michael is the pilot.'”
However, Branca was not worried. Instead, she said that Michael was a “marketing genius” and that people didn’t understand him.
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The story speaks for itself. Thriller remains the best-selling album of all time, going 34 platinum and selling more than 70 million units worldwide after the album was released on November 29, 1982.
When the Grammy Awards came around in 1984, he had eight wins, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year.
A year after releasing the record, Jackson released the title track from Thriller, along with a record-breaking music video.
But, in an unexpected turn of events, Jackson secretly wanted to destroy the Thriller music video footage after realizing its content might have promoted things that went against his religion.
Branca said Jackson called him and demanded that all the footage be destroyed. “He said Jehovah’s Witnesses heard he was making a werewolf video. They told him he was promoting demonology and they were going to excommunicate him.”
The negatives were removed and protected while Jackson locked himself in his room.
Music video director John Landis later said, “Bill and I kicked the door in, kicked it down, and Michael was laying there. He said, ‘I feel so bad.’ I said, ‘Michael, have you eaten?’ He hadn’t eaten. It was weird. I just said, ‘Look, I want you to see a doctor right now.'”
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