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Anchored by a pair of number one hits -- the incandescent "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You" -- the record turned into a smash, peaking at four on the Billboard 200, selling millions of copies as it raked in awards, but losing the grand prize of Album of the Year at the Grammys, leaving Jackson with the lingering impression that he needed to cross over into the pop mainstream with greater force.

Before he could do that, he had to complete one more Jackson 5 album: 1980's Triumph, a record with three hit singles ("Lovely One," "This Place Hotel," "Can You Feel It") whose title seemed to allude to Michael's solo success and certainly benefitted from his heightened stardom.

Despite its success, Jackson believed Off the Wall was pigeonholed as an R&B record.

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Returning to Gary, the group cut a pair of singles for the local imprint Steeltown in 1968 -- "(I'm A) Big Boy," "We Don't Have to Be Over 21" -- but their big break arrived when they opened for Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers at Chicago's Regal Theater.

Impressed, Taylor brought them to the attention of Berry Gordy, Jr., who signed the group to Motown in March of 1969 and then sent them out to Los Angeles, where he helped mastermind their national launch."I Want You Back," a song written and produced by Motown's new crew the Corporation, saw release in October 1968 when Michael Jackson was just 11 years old.

Seven of its nine songs were Top 10 hits, it earned eight Grammy awards, and topped the Billboard charts for 37 weeks, matching its American success internationally to become the biggest-selling album of all time, earning 32 platinum certifications in the US and moving over 100 million albums worldwide.

Such a phenomenal triumph pushed Jackson into the stratosphere and Bad -- the eagerly-anticipated 1987 sequel to Thriller, co-produced once again with Quincy Jones -- kept him there, generating five number one singles on the Billboard charts and selling 30 million copies internationally, two thirds of which were outside of the US.

Later that year, "Ben," the title theme ballad to an exploitation movie about a killer rat, earned Jackson his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Song (he would lose).

Not long afterward, the careers of both Michael and the Jackson 5 slowed, victims of shifting tastes, adolescence, and creative battles with their label.All three of these sequels went to number one and, striking while the iron was hot, Motown spun Michael off into a solo act.His first solo single, "Got to Be There," arrived at the end of 1971, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100, and then a cover of Bobby Day's chestnut "Rockin' Robin" peaked at two in early 1972.One last hit for Motown arrived in 1974 -- "Dancing Machine," a single that brought the group in line with the disco explosion -- before the group departed Motown for Epic in 1975.With the new label came a new name, along with a slight lineup change: Jermaine stayed at Motown to pursue a solo career and younger brother Randy took his place.Thriller was designed to appeal to every audience and its diversity was evident by its guests: he enlisted Eddie Van Halen to play guitar on the hard rock of "Beat It" while inviting Paul Mc Cartney to duet on the chipper soft pop tune "The Girl Is Mine." Jackson also expanded the horizons of soul and dance music, producing pioneering masterpieces like "Billie Jean." This single provided Thriller with its 1983 breakthrough, thanks in part to its groundbreaking music video, which became the first clip from a black artist to enter steady rotation on the fledgling MTV.