Way Back Wednesday: The Top Music of March 18, 1983

We continue our look at the top 40 charts of 1983. This week's highlight song is "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson.

This Week In 1983: March 18th

As usual, we’ve got quite a few songs making the slow inevitable slide down the chart as others are still steadily climbing their way up (“Jeopardy”, “Come On Eileen”, “Mr. Roboto” just to name a few). There are three huge songs that vault into the Top 40 this week, though:

  • “Beat It” vaults into the countdown up twenty spots to #24.
  • “She Blinded Me With Science” debuts on the countdown at #36 up from #52.
  • “Little Red Corvette” comes in right behind at #37 up seventeen spots.

Still sitting at #1 though, for the third straight week, is Micheal Jackson and “Billie Jean”.

Song Story: “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson

Jackson based the lyrics for this song on a woman who used to stalk him, writing him letters about him being the father of one of her twin boys (LOL). Jackson rarely spoke about the situation, but he had a very hard time dealing with the attention and became more reclusive as a result.¬†Michael Jackson said of the song, “A musician knows hit material. It has to feel right. Everything has to feel in place. It fulfills you and it makes you feel good. You know it when you hear it. That’s how I felt about ‘Billie Jean.’ I knew it was going to be big while I was writing it. I was really absorbed in that song.”

The video for this song is often credited with breaking the color barrier on MTV. The clip for “Pass The Dutchie” by Musical Youth was the first video by a black act to make regular rotation on the network, but they were considered a novelty, with no member older than 16. Despite the production value and Jackson’s star quality, MTV didn’t play the video until the song was already a #1 hit. Les Garland, who ran the network at the time, claims that they loved the video and played it as soon as they could, but interviews others familiar with the matter suggest otherwise. In the book I Want My MTV (which I’m currently reading), multiple sources claimed that the network wanted to play the “Beat It” video first, because Eddie Van Halen played on it and it fit their format. MTV first put the video in medium rotation, then promoted to heavy rotation when viewers loved it. When the video for “Beat It” was delivered, that one also went into heavy rotation. For a two-month stretch in the summer of 1983, both videos were getting constant airplay, establishing Jackson as a video star. His next video effort was for “Thriller,” which revolutionized the form.

On the 1983 TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, Jackson performs the song live for the first time, which was the first time he did the Moonwalk. This was also the first time Jackson wore his famous white glove on stage



About Eric Vardeman 115 Articles
80's lover. Screenwriter. Cohost of The Greatest Lists podcast. Christmas enthusiast. Tulsa Curling Club founder. Cherokee. Guitar player. Boomer Sooner. Curator of 80's playlists (https://open.spotify.com/user/127168733)

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