Being 2 years younger than Michael, I have seen every stage of his career. I'm posting because I want to relay one story which I think reveals how far the U.S. has come since 1982, the year Thriller was released.
At that time, I was in a Senior in college, and living in Hoboken, NJ, which is right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Radio in NYC was representative of most of the nation. Basically, Rock and Urban music were not to be mixed. It was almost like you had to choose a side.
The two big Rock stations in NYC at that time, were WNEW and WPLJ. When Thriller was released, there was a bit of a conundrum. Beat It was rocketing up the charts and these stations would play it, but did not want to acknowledge that it was daring to cross the line. Of course, no one would ever question why Jimi Hendrix was acceptable, nor ask the even more vexing question about where the Rock genre came from.
In a handful of ridiculous cases, they would just focus on the fact that Beat It featured Eddie Van Halen on guitar, while sometimes neglecting to mention that it was Michael Jackson singing. Incidents like these stand out in your mind because they are so blatant. I think (and hope) we're past that.
In closing, let me say that after seeing Quincy Jones at SxSW this year, and Michael's death, I had to get a digital copy of Thriller, since I'm unable to play my vinyl copy.