How Did Michael Jackson Impact Music?

by Michael Black

Michael Jackson created some of the most well-recognized music in the world during his lifetime. From his work as a child with the Jackson 5 to his iconic solo records, Jackson spent virtually his entire life within the music industry. He is among the most influential musicians of all time.


Michael Jackson's second solo recording, "Thriller," is the best-selling album of all time. The album itself has sold more than 70 million copies worldwide, and singles from the record have sold more than 100 million copies -- also a world record. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin,'" "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" are just some of the major hit songs on this album. The music video for the song "Thriller," in which Jackson performs complex choreographed dance moves with zombies, is among the most famous music videos ever created. This video's success literally changed the music video landscape, influencing the direction of future music videos and paving the way for other big-budget music-video productions.

King of Pop Invents the Moonwalk

Michael Jackson released 13 number-one singles over the course of his career, helping to fuel his overall record sales to an estimated 750 million records worldwide. He won 13 Grammy awards during his illustrious career as well. These distinctions and the overall appeal of Jackson's music led fans and the media to dub him the "King of Pop." The moonwalk, Michael Jackson's most iconic and often-imitated dance move, originated in the "Billie Jean" music video.

Musical Styles

Jackson's career started in the 1970s with the Jackson 5. This band consisted of Michael and his Brothers, and they played a mixture of R&B;, soul and pop music. When Michael left the group, he took these influences and added a bit of disco flavoring to his debut record, "Off the Wall." As Jackson progressed as a musician, he began bringing in more outside influences to his music, including rock and roll -- guitar legend Eddie Van Halen even played the solo in "Beat It" -- and hip hop. Jackson's ability to incorporate different musical styles into his own music made helped increase his impact on all facets of music.

The Michael Jackson Sound

Michael Jackson, along with "Thriller" producer Quincy Jones, pioneered the extremely well-produced sound that is the hallmark of modern pop music. Jackson's songs have been covered by bands and musicians as diverse as Fall Out Boy ("Beat It"), Miles Davis ("Human Nature"), Alien Ant Farm ("Smooth Criminal"), Sheryl Crow ("I Want You Back") and Ashanti ("Rock with You").