1980s

1981: Cable music television channel MTV signs on with the clip of the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." A revolutionary experiment, the channel changes the way music is marketed and ushers in the video age.


1982: Michael Jackson releases "Thriller" (Epic). It spawns seven top 10 singles on Billboard's Hot 100: "The Girl is Mine" with Paul McCartney, "Billie Jean," "Beat It" featuring Eddie Van Halen on lead guitar, "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," "Human Nature," "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" and "Thriller." more »


1982: A landmark year for rap, 1982 witnesses the release of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five's "The Message" and Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force's "Planet Rock." The latter sells more than 500,000 copies.


1983: Though Madonna set the stage one year earlier with the single "Everybody," which peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart, this is the year that the girl from Bay City, Mich., truly began her march to superstardom with the release by Sire Records of her self-titled debut. more »


1984: The U.S. Supreme Court votes 5-4 to find Sony Corp., as manufacturer of the Sony Betamax videotape recorder, not liable for contributing to any copyright infringement by individuals who taped television programs at home for private use -- a permissible time-shifting. Papers later released reveal the decision was originally decided the other way, but was changed after reargument. In October 2004, entertainment companies petitioned the Court to reconsider this holding as it applies to peer-to-peer software providers.


1985: Whitney Houston releases her self-titled debut Arista album, the first of three to reach No. 1 on Billboard's pop albums chart. The set, which features the hit singles "Greatest Love of All" and "How Will I Know," spends 14 weeks on top and 162 weeks on the chart.


1985: Ethiopian famine relief takes center stage via the Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia, plus the No. 1 hit "We Are the World," which features 46 U.S. superstars such as Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.


1985: "Find A Way," the first single from contemporary Christian artist Amy Grant's "Unguarded" album, crosses over to mainstream radio and establishes Grant's presence in pop music. The song peaks at No. 7 on Billboard's AC chart. Grant followed with additional singles then teamed with Peter Cetera in 1986 for the No. 1 duet "The Next Time I Fall." In 1991, Grant hit the top of the AC charts for three weeks as a solo artist with "Baby, Baby," which paved the way for other Christian acts such as Michael W. Smith, Kathy Troccoli, Jars of Clay and Sixpence None the Richer to break into the mainstream pop world.


1986: Following the inroads paved by the Sugarhill Gang, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, rap breaks through in a big way to the mainstream, led by Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys. more »


1987: U2 breaks worldwide with "The Joshua Tree" (Island), the Irish rock band's first album to reach No. 1 on Billboard's Top Pop Albums chart. "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" become the band's first No. 1 hits on Billboard's Hot 100.


1989: Country music's "Class of '89" emerges as Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Travis Tritt all land their first appearances on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. The emergence of these artists and many others marked the beginning of an explosion in popularity for country music, which continued through the mid-1990s.

Brooks would go on to be the most successful of the bunch, celebrating 100 million in sales in 2000 with a black tie party at the Nashville Arena. He has since retired from performing and recording.