Billboard #1s for the Week Ending February 26, 1983

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Baby Come to Me Patti Austin and James Ingram 2
R & B Billie Jean Michael Jackson


Country Why Baby Why Charley Pride


Adult Contemporary You Are Lionel Richie


Rock Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) Journey 2
Album Thriller Michael Jackson


thriller-michael-jacksonThis week sees Thriller mania take firm hold. Michael Jackson launched a successful solo career in 1971 while still performing with his brothers as the Jackson 5 and later the Jacksons. When he recorded Thriller, he had been to #1 solo three times and logged four other Top 10 hits. Four of those seven singles were from his 1979 album Off the Wall, which was considered a tough act to follow. Somehow, Jackson managed.

Thriller racked up an unprecedented seven Top 10 singles, recalibrating the way albums and songs were treated by major labels. It spent a massive 37 weeks at #1 on the Album charts in four separate runs; only the West Side Story soundtrack has logged more time at the top. Total sales in the U.S. near 30 million units and worldwide sales exceeding 60 million make this the biggest-selling album of all time. In 1983, signs of Thriller were everywhere and Michael Jackson was catapulted to a level of fame unknown since Elvis and the Beatles.

The singles from Thriller [with their debuts on the Pop Hot 100] were:

  1. The Girl Is Mine [11/6/82], duet with Paul McCartney — #2 Pop, #1 Adult Contemporary (4 weeks), #1 R&B (3 weeks)
  2. Billie Jean [1/22/83] — #1 Pop (7 weeks), #9 Adult Contemporary, #1 R&B (9 weeks)
  3. Beat It [2/26/83] — #1 Pop (3 weeks), #1 R&B (1 week)
  4. Wanna Be Startin’ Something [5/28/83] — #5 Pop, #5 R&B
  5. Human Nature [7/23/83] — #7 Pop, #2 Adult Contemporary, #27 R&B
  6. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) [10/8/83] — #10 Pop, #37 Adult Contemporary, #46 R&B
  7. Thriller [2/11/84] — #4 Pop, #24 Adult Contemporary, #3 R&B

With at least one single on the chart from November 1982 to May 1984, Thriller had a stunning 18 months of chart presence on the Hot 100; with only small gaps, it had similar duration on the R&B Chart. It spent 122 weeks on the album chart, impressive, but not enough to even put it in the overall 50 longest (coming in even behind Off the Wall at 169). What’s amazing about Thriller is its concentrated power in sales and chart performance. Its 78 weeks in the Top 10 remained unbeaten for a non-soundtrack album until last year when Adele’s 21 notched 79 weeks.

This week began the album’s true dominance of the charts. Billie Jean was #1 R&B and #4 on the Hot 100, ready to leap to the top the following week. Beat It debuted on the Hot 100 at #78 and would zoom to the top, held off from succeeding Billie Jean by Dexys Midnight Runners’ one week at #1 with Come On Eileen. The album as a whole was in its sixth of 11 weeks at the top of the Dance chart. It also nudged Men At Work from the Top of the Album chart, beginning its astounding run.


About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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