According to businessinsider.com, the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits 1971 – 1975 is the bestselling music album of all time, followed by Michael Jackson’s Thriller. With the Eagles collection somewhere around 38 million sold and MJ’s Thriller near 33 million, the precise amount of sales varies according to the source. Despite Jackson’s passing and the death of Eagles’ co-founder Glen Frey, profits do not lie. But music revenue does not always equate to artistic significance.
The Eagles Greatest Hits was released in 1976, while Michael Jackson’s mega-chart busting Thriller hit the retail shelves during November 1982. Throughout that same time period, blues rock innovator and legend Muddy Waters, who passed in 1983, along with the help of the late guitar ace Johnny Winter, released several albums, including Hard Again (1977), I’m Ready (1978), Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – Live (1979) and King Bee (1981.) Nevertheless, sales of Waters’ music were and continue to be insignificant compared to Thriller and the Eagles’ Greatest Hits. It is not close or even in the ballpark.
With a crying slide guitar and a solemn delivery, Waters assisted in laying the foundation for future music giants like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and others. The Rolling Stones’ band name is directly taken from a Muddy Waters song. While under no contract to do so, EC went as far as dedicating royalties to Waters because of the Delta artist’s enormous influence on music. Yet, despite the consequence of these contributions, Waters’ record sales have never been a match for the Eagles or Michael Jackson.
Sometimes, lackluster album sales have little bearing on an artist’s integrity or standing with fans. Weezer’s 1993’s Pinkerton did not achieve immediate retail appreciation. Yet, listening enthusiasts have come to embrace the album. Also, as a solo recording artist, Syd Barrett’s albums did not sell anything like the crazy diamond’s former band, Pink Floyd. Nonetheless, the fabled Barrett, who founded Floyd, provided unmatched innovation and inspiration for countless musicians and armies of fans. All things considered, popular selling music artists have a special gift in cultivating a connection with large audiences. The proof is in the numbers. But if history has anything to say, there is more to music than just sales records and the latest top ten lists.
What do you think? This is just one opinion. What’s yours? Let me know.
Paul Wolfle is the publisher of musicinterviewmagazine.com and a web-based journalist who has written for several popular sites. Paul has a passion for a good cup of coffee and connecting with a diversity of musicians.