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Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' turns 30: How zombies changed pop music's tune

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"Thriller," Michael Jackson's sixth studio album, was released Nov. 30, 1982. 

The fame-changing chart-killing record celebrates 30 years on Friday, and to underscore the album's achievement, Billboard revisited the exceedingly grim context of its release.

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Jackson's previous record, "Off The Wall," had been a success by all widely accepted measures, but that was 1979. 

In 1982, the near-radioactive fallout of disco, combined with the mass-migration of mass-appeal listeners from AM Top 40 to FM stations, led to segregated audiences splintering along musical sub-genre lines.

More to the point, "Thriller" was released at a time when "black artists [were] being ghettoized on urban contemporary radio, while disappearing from pop radio," says Billboard.

Precision targeting of audiences meant that radio stations needed to avoid playing anything that fell outside their target listeners' most narrowly-defined tastes...In all of 1982, only two No. 1 records on the Billboard Hot 100 were by black artists.

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Paris Jackson wants to talk to her grandmother

Michael Jackson Immortalized With Hand And Footprint Ceremony At Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Katherine Jackson and Paris Jackson appear at the Michael Jackson Hand and Footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on January 26, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

Los Angeles Premiere Of Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour By Cirque du Soleil

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Paris Jackson attends the Los Angeles premiere of Michael Jackson 'THE IMMORTAL' World Tour at Staples Center on January 27, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

Michael Jackson Immortalized With Hand And Footprint Ceremony At Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Blanket Jackson, Paris Jackson and Prince Jackson appear at the Michael Jackson Hand and Footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on January 26, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

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Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

File photo: From left, Michael Jackson's sister Janet Jackson, daughter Paris, sister LaToya Jackson, brother Jermaine Jackson and oldest son Prince Michael I attend a memorial service for the 'King of Pop' at the Staples Center in Los Angeleson July 7, 2009.


Michael Jackson's mother Katherine was reported missing over the weekend, but authorities say she is with relatives in Arizona. The late King of Pop's daughter Paris, however, tweeted with alarm this week that she still hasn't talked to spoken to her grandmother/guardian:

 

The executors of Michael Jackson's estate, John Branca and John McClain, issued a statement Tuesday saying they are doing what they can to protect family members from "undue influences, bullying, greed, and other unfortunate circumstances," the Associated Press reports.

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Michael Jackson estate sues the King of Pop's former manager

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Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Michael Jackson arrives on stage during his 'HiStory' concert tour held in New York in 1997

On Friday, the estate of Michael Jackson sued the performer's former manager, Tohme R. Tohme.

The ex-advisor, who worked with Jackson from Jan. 2008 until Mar. 2009, is accused of influencing the Grammy-winning megastar to sign "unconscionable contracts" for self-serving financial gain during the final years of the singer's life.

The contracts in question include a self-negotiated producer’s fee for a series of comeback concerts in London, and a debt-related Neverland Ranch deal.

The estate wants Jackson's missing property and financial records returned, as well as a ruling that keeps Tohme away from the estate's money. 

Tohme claims he is owed a percentage of the millions collected by the estate in the time since Jackson's death. It is believed he will file his own lawsuit.

 

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