Today in Music History (March 3): Rockwell hits #1 with the MJ-infused "Somebody's Watching Me"

March 3, 1984 – Rockwell hits #1 with “Somebody’s Watching Me”

On this day in 1984, one of the most curious – but infectious – songs of the 80s shot all the way to the top. And the story behind it is as twisted as the song itself.

The son of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Jr. – and then estranged from his father - Rockwell (real name Kenneth Gordy) was working on his music with his mother, singer Ray Singleton, and submitted his music to the Motown label for possible release. While Berry Gordy, Jr. was reportedly only moderately impressed with his son’s music, it was tough to resist one song in particular, which featured the vocals of the hottest artist in the world, Michael Jackson, singing the refrain.

March 3, 1984 – Rockwell hits #1 with “Somebody’s Watching Me”

On this day in 1984, one of the most curious – but infectious – songs of the 80s shot all the way to the top. And the story behind it is as twisted as the song itself.

The son of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Jr. – and then estranged from his father - Rockwell (real name Kenneth Gordy) was working on his music with his mother, singer Ray Singleton, and submitted his music to the Motown label for possible release. While Berry Gordy, Jr. was reportedly only moderately impressed with his son’s music, it was tough to resist one song in particular, which featured the vocals of the hottest artist in the world, Michael Jackson, singing the refrain.

Rockwell was indeed signed by Motown, and there was no question what the initial single would be. Jackson was in between Thriller and Bad albums, and radio was screaming for anything with him involved. And the more-than-slightly paranoid dance cut, "Somebody's Watching Me," with Rockwell speaking about his fears in a faux British accent, had enough of Jackson singing gloriously on the refrain, that there was no question it was going to #1. 

Unfortunately, the accompanying album by Rockwell was nowhere near as exciting, and the derivative second single, "Obscene Phone Caller," barely cracked the top 40. Rockwell's two subsequent Motown albums were DOA, and his star faded as quickly as it rose, but for a period in the Spring of 1984, Rockwell and his friend Michael had our ears glued to this oddly fun dance tune.

By Chris Rizik

 

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