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The Eagles Have The Best-Selling Album Of All Time ... For Now

Aug 20, 2018
Originally published on August 21, 2018 7:19 am

Congratulations are in order for the Eagles. The American rock band's first compilation album, Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, has just surpassed Michael Jackson's Thriller as the best-selling album of all time. The comp, which collects nine singles and "Desperado," is now 38-times platinum as certified by the Recording Industry Association of America — meaning it has sold a total of 38,000,000 albums worldwide and bested Thriller's 33-times platinum certification.

This is not the first time the Eagles and the King of Pop have battled for the title. In fact, it's been going on for years. The RIAA also reports that the Eagles' Hotel California is now certified 26-times platinum, which places it right behind Thriller.

Documentarian Alison Ellwood, who directed the 2013 mini-series History Of The Eagles, is proud of the band she profiled. "I'm thrilled for them, no pun intended, that they've beaten Thriller out and hopefully more people will listen to the music as a result," Ellwood says. "Those songs came to define moments in our lives. They evoke memories. That band had something very magical and the music captures it."

Even though the Eagles landed two of the top three slots on the RIAA's list, the band shouldn't get too comfortable. With the exact parameters for measuring album sales always changing and new fans discovering music from decades past all the time, RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy notes that the top seller can and will change.

"That list is going to be competitive," Lamy says. "You've got to stay tuned. You've got to keep an eye on it because I have no doubt, it's not going to be the exact list it is now in five years."

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(SOUNDBITE OF MICHAEL JACKSON SONG, "THRILLER")

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All respect to Michael Jackson, but when it comes to the best-selling albums of all time, the king of pop has just been dethroned. His 1982 album "Thriller" is now the second-best-selling album of all time according to the Recording Industry Association of America - second despite going platinum 33 times.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THRILLER")

MICHAEL JACKSON: (Singing) Because this is thriller, thriller night.

CHANG: And who now claims the crown? Who has gone platinum 38 times?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE IT EASY")

EAGLES: (Singing) Take it easy. Take it easy.

CHANG: The Eagles - for their 1976 album titled "Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)." And this is not the first time the Eagles and Michael Jackson have dueled for the top spot.

ALISON ELLWOOD: The only album that ever out sold the Eagles' "Greatest Hits" was Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

CHANG: That's Alison Ellwood. She directed the 2013 documentary "History Of The Eagles."

ELLWOOD: It's great news for the band. And I'm thrilled for them - no pun intended - that they've beaten "Thriller" out. And hopefully more people will listen to the music as a result.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESPERADO")

EAGLES: (Singing) Desperado, why...

ELLWOOD: The songs came to define moments in our lives. You know, they evoke memories. It's something about those guys that were in that band that had something very magical. And the music captures it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESPERADO")

EAGLES: (Singing) Oh, you're a hard one.

CHANG: OK, so to recap, the artists holding the best-selling albums of all time - we got the Eagles at number one, Michael Jackson at number two. And number three, it's the Eagles again for their album "Hotel California."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOTEL CALIFORNIA")

EAGLES: (Singing) Welcome to the Hotel California.

CHANG: Even though they've landed on two of the top three perches, the Eagles should stay alert. Jonathan Lamy is the executive director of communication at RIAA, the group keeping track of this musical achievement. And he says best-selling album positions can and will change.

JONATHAN LAMY: That list is going to be competitive. You've got to stay tuned. You've got to keep an eye on it because I have no doubt it's not going to be the exact list it is now in five years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONE OF THESE NIGHTS")

EAGLES: (Singing) One of these nights, one of these crazy old nights, we're going to find out, pretty mama, what turns on your lights. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.