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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

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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.

american music awards michael jackson donny osmond

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Fellow teen idols Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond shared the hosting duties at the 1974 American Music Awards.

Aretha Franklin

Courtesy of The American Music Awards


Aretha Franklin takes her heels off as she poses for photographers at the 10th Annual American Music Awards on January 17th, 1983.

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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.

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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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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."