January 3 – The Cinemax television special Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night, recorded on September 30, 1987 at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, USA, is broadcast.
January 20 – The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony inducts The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Drifters, Bob Dylan and The Supremes.
January 28 – A Tampa, Florida man files an unusual lawsuit against Mötley Crüe. Matthew John Trippe, who has a history of mental health issues and trouble with the law, claims that he was secretly hired to pose as Nikki Sixx and toured, wrote and recorded with the band for a time during 1983 and 1984. Trippe drops the lawsuit in 1993.
March 26 – “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson from the Bad album tops the Billboard Hot 100. It’s the first time in history a solo artist has had four Number One singles from the same album.
April 19 – Former rock and roll singer Sonny Bono is inaugurated as the Mayor of Palm Springs, California, USA.
April 25 – Rock supermanager Doc McGhee is sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty to charges of drug smuggling stemming from a 1982 seizure of nearly 40,000 pounds of marijuana entering North Carolina from Colombia.
April 30 – The Eurovision Song Contest, held in the RDS Simmonscourt Pavilion, Dublin, is won by French-Canadian singer Celine Dion, representing Switzerland with the song “Ne partez pas sans moi”.
May 14 – Atlantic Records stages a concert at Madison Square Garden celebrating its Fortieth birthday with performances by many of the label’s greatest acts of the past. Artists include Crosby, Stills & Nash, Iron Butterfly, Ruth Brown, Foreigner and Wilson Pickett, but the most talked-about performance is by a reunited Led Zeppelin with Jason Bonham on drums.
May 27 – The Monsters of Rock Tour 1988 commences in East Troy, Wisconsin. Van Halen headlines with the other acts on the massive bill consisting of Metallica, Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come.
June 27 – Motown Records is sold to MCA and an investment firm for $61 million.
July 2 – Michael Jackson with fifth single from Bad, “Dirty Diana”, he broke the record to have five consecutive charting singles from same album at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, is the first artist and only male in history to get this done.
August 12 – Public Enemy garners publicity by staging a concert at Riker’s Island prison for 250 inmates and 100 journalists.
September 6 -9 – Elton John auctions off many items from his personal collection, including memorabilia and stage-worn clothing, at Sotheby’s for a total of $8.5 million. John had been known for wearing flamboyant stage costumes during the glam rock era of the 1970s, but he increasingly abandoned them in later years.
September 10 – Billboard magazine publishes its Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart for the first time.
September 24 – James Brown faces a variety of charges after leading police on an interstate chase, after reportedly breaking into a seminar in an Augusta, Georgia building he owned an office in, waving a gun and demanding to know who had used his restrooms. Earlier in the year Brown had been arrested on drug and firearms-related charges.
September 25 – The Aalto Theatre, Essen, Germany, opens with a performance of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
October 10 – The new Cairo Opera House is inaugurated by President Hosni Mubarak and Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, brother of the Emperor of Japan. The opening ceremony includes a kabuki performance in recognition of the funds donated by Japan.
November 7 – John Fogerty wins a self-plagiarism lawsuit with Fantasy Records. The record label had contended that Fogerty’s 1985 comeback hit “The Old Man Down the Road” was too similar to his 1970 Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Run Through the Jungle”.
November 12 – U2’s Rattle and Hum hits the Number One spot on the U.S. charts, the first double album to do so since Bruce Springsteen’s The River in 1980.
December 4 – Singer Roy Orbison gives his last concert in Akron, Ohio, USA, before his death from a massive heart attack.
December 31 – The seventeenth annual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special airs on ABC, with appearances by Natalie Cole, Taylor Dayne, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Richard Marx, Reba McEntire and Frankie Vallie and The Four Seasons.
Also in 1988
Peter Ruzicka becomes director of the Hamburg State Opera and State Philharmonic Orchestra.
Andrew Davis begins a term as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and is appointed musical director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera, effective with the 1989 season.
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” experiences a surge in popularity in the USA sparked by television commercials featuring claymation raisin figures dancing to the song. The California Raisins version of the song peaks at number 84 on Billboard’s Hot 100.