The '80s was the decade that crowned Michael Jackson as The King of Pop - but that journey started in earnest with a single that came from his last album of the '70s. "Rock with You," the second single from 1979's Off the Wall, hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 on Jan. 19, 1980.
Off the Wall wasn't Michael's first solo project - he'd cut four albums apart from The Jackson 5 between 1972 and 1975 - but it was the record that established him, at 21, as a "grown-up" entertainer. A year before, he'd helped his brothers take fuller artistic control over their music on The Jacksons' Destiny, which spun off a Top 10 disco classic, "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" - Michael's first hit as a songwriter. Off the Wall had an even sharper musical pedigree: it was produced by Quincy Jones, already a legend in jazz and pop for his work with Frank Sinatra, Lesley Gore and others.
Among the many talents Jones helped bring to the studio to craft Off the Wall: songwriter Rod Temperton. Though hardly a household name, Temperton was the keyboardist for the U.K.-based disco group Heatwave, and penned all their songs, including "Boogie Nights," "Always and Forever" and others. Michael and Quincy cut three of his songs for the album, including "Rock with You," the album's title track and closer "Burn This Disco Out."
Michael later wrote in his 1988 memoir Moonwalk that "Rock with You" had "a more relentless, get-down arrangement" before "Quincy softened the attack and slipped in a synthesizer that sounded like a conch shell's insides on a beach." He also had high praise for Temperton's songwriting. "Rod was a kindred spirit in many ways," he wrote. "Like me, he felt more at home singing and writing about the night life than actually going out and living it."
"Rock with You" followed lead single "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," becoming the album's second No. 1 single. Michael would be heard on some 20 Top 10 singles through the rest of the decade, including two more hits from Off the Wall, seven from follow-up Thriller (the best-selling album of all time), five No. 1s from Bad and supergroup USA for Africa's charity chart-topper "We Are the World."