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The Best Moments From 40 Years of American Music Awards

Guns N’ Roses’ profane acceptance speech, Justin and Britney’s matching outfits and more

dick clark american music awards

Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Dick Clark created the American Music Awards in 1973 as a populist response to the Grammys. While other awards are decided by an organization of music industry employees, the AMAs were designed to reflect the preferences of the music-buying public.

Barry King/WireImage

1984

In the wake of Thriller's record-breaking success, Michael Jackson (pictured here with friend Brooke Shields) won the Award of Merit along with seven other trophies.

Brad Elterman/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic

1985

In the middle of the Purple Rain tour, Prince — seen here outside the venue under heavy escort — won three awards for the album.

Eddie Murphy, Michael Jackson, American Music Awards

Courtesy of The American Music Awards

1989

Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy onstage during the 16th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles on January 9th, 1989.

Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage(Timberlake), Frank Micelotta/ABC/Getty

2001

After turning up with Justin Timberlake in matching denim outfits, Britney Spears stripped into something a little more comfortable for her performance.

M. Caulfield/WireImage

2003

Eminem was the big winner with four awards, but didn't make it to the show — 8 Mile co-star Mekhi Phifer accepted for him, swearing Em was on his cellphone.

Frank Micelotta/Getty

2004

Anna Nicole Smith was not in top form for her AMAs appearance, slurring her words and becoming the subject of several jokes during the show.

Lester Cohen/WireImage (Jermaine), Kevin Mazur/AMA2009/WireImage (Janet)

2009

Janet Jackson opened the show with a medley, and later paid tribute to her late brother Michael by joining in a dance number and performing their duet, "Scream."

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