Iconic singer Michael Jackson hit the stage and debuted his trademark “moonwalk” dance move today (May 16, 1983).
Michael Jackson thrilled an audience of over 50 million people who tuned in to catch the “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” special.
There were a number of climactic moments during the special, including rousing performances by Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes and a reunited Jackson 5.
After the performance with his brothers, it was Michael Jackson’s rendition of his classic song “Billie Jean” that would send the “Motown 25” special into the history books.
Although Michael had left Motown and was now recording for Sony, the execs at both labels decided to let him perform his single “Billie Jean,” which was in the middle of a seven-week run at the top of the Pop charts.
Halfway through his five-minute performance, Michael Jackson wowed audiences around the world by gliding backwards across the stage, debuting the “moonwalk.”
“I’ll never forget that night, because when I opened my eyes at the end, people were on their feet applauding. I was overwhelmed by the reaction. It felt so good,” Michael Jackson later said of his performance.
According to Michael himself, he had been practicing the moonwalk for quite some time when it dawned on him in his kitchen, that he would do it in public, during the “Motown 25” special.
In his autobiography properly titled “Moonwalk,” Michael Jackson noted that the dance move was not an original, but had been born out of Hip-Hop culture.
“Now the moonwalk was already out on the street by this time, but I enhanced it a little when I did it. It was born as a break dance step, a ‘popping’ type of thing that black kids had created dancing on street corners in the ghetto,” Michael Jackson said.
The day after the “Motown 25” special aired, Michael Jackson got a call from Hollywood legend Fred Astaire, who complimented his dance moves.”
“You’re a hell of a mover,” Fred Astaire told Michael Jackson. “Man, you really put them on their asses last night.”