Home » 40 Years Ago, Michael Jackson Lifted the 1984 Grammys to Their All-Time Highest Rating (And He Didn’t Sing a Note)

40 Years Ago, Michael Jackson Lifted the 1984 Grammys to Their All-Time Highest Rating (And He Didn’t Sing a Note)

by UNN Feed

The producers of the 1984 Grammys knew they needed to book a performance by Michael Jackson, who in 1983-84 was hotter than anyone had been in pop music since The Beatles in 1964-65. The need was made even clearer when the Grammy nominations were announced in early January, and Jackson set a new record with 12 nods.


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There was just one problem: Jackson didn’t want to do it. As Ken Ehrlich, who was producing the show for the fifth year (of a remarkable 40-year run) put it in his 2007 book At the Grammys!, “Even after his record nominations, Michael hadn’t said yes to performing, and without him, it could be wildly embarrassing.”

In an attempt to stave off that embarrassment, Jackson’s manager arranged what Ehrlich called “a very quiet, discreet meeting at his home for us to talk about what we wanted to do. We sat, Michael barely talking, and when he did, directing his words to the manager, and I knew that we were up against it. No matter where we went, it wasn’t going to be satisfactory. I left very discouraged.”

Ehrlich had allies who were trying to convince Jackson to do it. As Ehrlich wrote: “The people at Epic Records, Michael’s label, wanted him to perform. His father wanted him to perform. [His sister] Janet, with whom I was then working at [the TV series] Fame, talked to him about performing. But no matter what kind of pressure was applied, there was no budging Michael. He wasn’t going to do it. … Even Quincy Jones, a great friend of the Grammys, was unable to sway him, and we went into the Grammy show Michael-less.”

John Denver hosted the show that year, promising “a show so hot it’s going to pop if we don’t get right into it.” I was at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles that year covering the show for Billboard and remember it as a lively and entertaining…

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