Wax Facts: Motown 25 Years – 10 Facts About the Special

Michael Jackson performing during Motown 25 special
Michael Jackson performing during Motown 25 special

1. None of The Funk Brothers were invited to the Motown 25 special, despite the fact that they were the musicians that played on almost every Motown hit.

2 Legendary bassist James Jamerson, who helped define the Motown sound, was refused a ticket. He bought his own and sadly watched from the balcony with the crowd. A few weeks later, Jamerson died at the age of 45.

Michael Jackson

3. Over 50 million people tuned into the special, which was broadcast on NBC on May 16th, 1983.


4 . Michael Jackson’s routine, which included his public debut of the moonwalk, garnered him an Emmy nomination. He lost, but overall special won an Emmy.

5. Legendary Hollywood actor/dancer Fred Astaire called Michael to commend him on his legendary performance at Motown 25.

6. Diana Ross and The Supremes reunited on stage, although a tiff broke out between group members Mary Wilson and Diana Ross. Their performance was edited for TV after Diana allegedly shoved Mary Wilson on stage.

7. Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was the only non-Motown, non-lip-synced performance.

8. Mary Wilson sued Motown for $10 million in 1986, claiming the label sold unauthorized videocassette copies of Motown 25 and used her Image illegally.

9. Motown 25 was recorded on March 25th 1983, at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

10. Michael Jackson’s legendary sequined glove he wore during Motown 25 was auctioned off for $350,000 in November of 2009.

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