Apr 14 2011

Motown 25: “It was his Coronation”

Category: Family,MJ Quotes,Photos,Quotes About MJSeven @ 4:10 am


I’ve written before about the song Billie Jean, and about how, according to legendary sound engineer Bruce Swedien, there were 91 mixes of the song, mix #2 having been the one that was published.

I’ve located a quote, or rather a short article, written by Steven Ivory who was in the audience on March 25th, 1983 when Michael performed the song and unveiled his ‘Moonwalk‘. I want to share this anecdote because it gives a unique perspective of the impact of that performance from someone who was there, in the audience. I think you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Motown 25 – Yesterday, Today, Forever” was taped March 25 1983 in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and aired on May 16 1983 on NBC. More than 47 million viewers saw the program on TV. The Jackson 5 sang I Want You Back, The Love You Save, Never Can Say Goodbye and I’ll Be There, with Randy joining them on stage. Afterwards, Michael performed his non-Motown song – Billie Jean.

Steven Ivory wrote this about that legendary night in Pasadena:

On the evening of March 25, 1983, I drove to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in an economy car and an ill-fitting tux, both rented, for the taping of NBC’s Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. What the tape of Jackson’s performance (lip-synched, which is ironic considering his prowess at singing live while dancing) fails to accurately capture is just what was going on the audience: Sheer bedlam.

What seems routine now, was spellbinding then; we’d never seen this Michael Jackson. Even his brothers, after they’d performed a reunion medley with him, were seeing it for the first time from the wings. Michael, goes the story, put his act together the day before.

If you were a Jackson fan, you were glad he was back. If you were a Jackson fan and Black, you were awash in a wave of cultural pride that transcended mere pop music to fasten itself onto American history outright.

To be sure, the five minutes Jackson was onstage alone somehow elevated the whole race–certainly the Pasadena Civic, where, after Jackson left the stage, the show had to be halted so that entire production and building could regain its composure; so that men in the audience could straighten their ties and women could adjust their wigs.

It was as if Jackson had dropped a bomb on the place, walked away and left us there to negotiate the soulful fallout. “Ladies and gentlemen,” pleaded a stern, amplified male voice, “please take your seats, we have more show to be taped. PLEASE….” Folk dabbed water from their eyes, hugged one another and high-fived strangers. Performance? We’d just witnessed a coronation. Soon, order prevailed. We politely watched the rest of the show, our collective consciousness stuck on Jackson.

Michael has said that, initially, after leaving the stage, he was disappointed with his performance. His plan, when he went up on his toes, was to simply stay there, suspended infinitely. Just as well that he didn’t; the house could not have handled it. As it was, they went nuts when he showed up at the after party, held at an indoor shopping mall across the street that Motown shut down and converted into a massive disco.

As his security team wedged him through the crush of excited well-wishers, Tops, Tempts, Supremes and others pushed their way toward Jackson as if they themselves weren’t legends, as if they hadn’t made music that influenced and inspired this man. Chaos ensued. It was all Jackson’s bodyguards could do to turn him around and push him back out to his limo out front.

Those of us lucky enough to attend the taping had to wait weeks for the show to air. Would Jackson’s performance be all that we’d raved to anyone who’d listen? Yes, even to the Jacksons. Rebbie Jackson told me when the show aired, they, like other viewers across America, taped it off the TV. The next day, friends, entertainers and assorted dignitaries, acknowledging that the universe had indeed tilted, phoned, sent flowers and wired kudos. “People came by Hayvenhurst (the Jackson home in Encino) all day long,” she said. “It was as if someone got married or brought a baby home from the hospital. We played that tape over and over all day until it broke.

And the day after “Motown 25” aired, all retail hell broke loose. At the height of its phenomenal sales history, the album was nationally selling half a million copies a week. With more than one million copies sold in Los Angeles alone, “Thriller” demanded its own zip code. Years later, Quincy Jones confided to me that at some point it all began to frighten him.

-Steven Ivory

Source: eurweb.com (but I think it’s been archived off the site)

Motown 25

Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever - March 25th, 1983

If you haven’t read it or want to revisit, here’s what Michael had to say about this performance in his autobiography, Moonwalk:

The Motown 25 show had actually been taped a month earlier, in April. The whole title was Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever , and I’m forced to admit I had to be talked into doing it. I’m glad I did because the show eventually produced some of the happiest and proudest moments of my life.

As I mentioned earlier, I said no to the idea at first. I had been asked to appear as a member of the Jacksons and then do a dance number on my own. But none of us were Motown artists any longer. There were lengthy debates between me and my managers, Weisner and DeMann. I thought about how much Berry Gordy had done for me and the group, but I told my managers and Motown that I didn’t want to go on TV. My whole attitude toward TV is fairly negative. Eventually Berry came to see me to discuss it. I was editing Beat It at the Motown studio, and someone must have told him I was in the building. He came down to the studio and talked to me about it at length. I said, “Okay, but if I do it, I want to do Billie Jean.” It would have been the only non-Motown song in the whole show. He told me that’s what he wanted me to do anyway. So we agreed to do a Jacksons’ medley, which would include Jermaine. We were all thrilled.

So I gathered my brothers and rehearsed them for this show. I really worked them, and it felt nice, a bit like the old days of the Jackson 5. I choreographed them and rehearsed them for days at our house in Encino, videotaping every rehearsal so we could watch it later. Jermaine and Marlon also made their contributions. Next we went to Motown in Pasadena for rehearsals. We did our act and, even though we reserved our energy and never went all out at rehearsal, all the people there were clapping and coming around and watching us. Then I did my Billie Jean rehearsal. I just walked through it because as yet I had nothing planned. I hadn’t had time because I was so busy rehearsing the group.

The next day I called my management office and said, “Please order me a spy’s hat, like a cool fedora – something that a secret agent would wear.” I wanted something sinister and special, a real slouchy kind of hat. I still didn’t have a very good idea of what I was going to do with Billie Jean.

During the Thriller sessions, I had found a black jacket, and I said, “You know, someday I’m going to wear this to perform. It was so perfect and so show business that I wore it on Motown 25“.

But the night before the taping, I still had no idea what I was going to do with my solo number. So I went down to the kitchen of our house and played Billie Jean. Loud. I was in there by myself, the night before the show, and I pretty much stood there and let the song tell me what to do. I kind of let the dance create itself. I really let it talk to me; I heard the beat come in, and I took this spy’s hat and started to pose and step, letting the Billie Jean rhythm create the movements. I felt almost compelled to let it create itself. I couldn’t help it. And that – being able to “step back” and let the dance come through – was a lot of fun.

I had also been practicing certain steps and movements, although most of the performance was actually spontaneous. I had been practicing the Moonwalk for some time, and it dawned on me in our kitchen that I would finally do the Moonwalk in public on Motown 25.

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 blacks kids had created dancing on the street corners in the ghetto. Black people are truly innovative dancers; they create many of the new dances, pure and simple. So I said, “This is my chance to do it”, and I did it. These three kids taught it to me. They gave me the basics – and I had been doing it a lot in private. I had practiced it together with certain other steps. All I was really sure of was that on the bridge to Billie Jean I was going to walk backward and forward at the same time, like walking on the moon.

One the day of the taping, Motown was running behind schedule. Late. So I went off and rehearsed by myself. By then I had my spy hat. My brothers wanted to know what the hat was for, but I told them they’d have to wait and see. But I did ask Nelson Hayes for a favor. “Nelson – after I do the set with my brothers and the lights go down, sneak the hat out to me in the dark. I’ll be in the corner, next to the wings, talking to the audience, but you sneak that hat back there and put it in my hand in the dark“.

So after my brothers and I finished performing, I walked over to the side of the stage and said, “You’re beautiful! I’d like to say those were the good old days; those were magic moments with all my brothers, including Jermaine. But what I really like” – and Nelson is sneaking the hat into my hand – “are the newer songs“. I turned around and grabbed the hat and went into Billie Jean, into that heavy rhythm; I could tell that people in the audience were really enjoying my performance. My brothers told me they were crowding the wings watching me with their mouths open, and my parents and sisters were out there in the audience. But I just remember opening my eyes at the end of the thing and seeing this sea of people standing up, applauding. And I felt so many conflicting emotions. I knew I had done my best and felt good, so good. But at the same time I felt disappointed in myself. I had planned to do one really long spin and to stop on my toes, suspended for a moment, but I didn’t stay on my toes as long as I wanted. I did the spin and I landed on one toe. I wanted to just stay there, just freeze there, but it didn’t work quite as I’d planned.

When I got backstage, the people back there were congratulating me. I was still disappointed about the spin. I had been concentrating so hard and I’m such a perfectionist. At the same time I knew this was one of the happiest moments of my life. I knew that for the first time my brothers had really gotten a chance to watch me and see what I was doing, how I was evolving. After the performance, each of them hugged and kissed me backstage. They had never done that before, and I felt happy for all of us. It was so wonderful when they kissed me like that. I loved it! I mean, we hug all the time. My whole family embraces a lot, except for my father. He’s the only one who doesn’t. Whenever the rest of us see each other, we embrace, but when they all kissed me that night, I felt as if I had been blessed by them.

The performance was still gnawing at me, and I wasn’t satisfied until a little boy came up to me backstage. He was about ten years old and was wearing a tuxedo. He looked up at me with stars in his eyes, frozen where he stood, and said, “Man, who ever taught you to dance like that?” I kind of laughed and said, “Practice, I guess.” And this boy was looking at me, awestruck. I walked away, and for the first time that evening I felt really good about what I had accomplished that night. I said to myself, I must have done really well because children are honest. When that kid said what he did, I really felt that I had done a good job. I was so moved by the whole experience that I went right home and wrote down everything which had happened that night. My entry ended with my encounter with the child.

The day after the Motown 25 show, Fred Astaire called me on the telephone. He said – these are his exact words – “You’re a hell of a mover. Man, you really put them on their asses last night.” That’s what Fred Astaire said to me. I thanked him. Then he said, “You’re an angry dancer. I’m the same way. I used to do the same thing with my cane.” I had met him once or twice in the past, but this was the first time he had ever called me. He went on to say, “I watched the special last night; I taped it and I watched it again this morning. You’re a hell of a mover.

It was the greatest compliment I had ever received in my life, and the only one I had ever wanted to believe. For Fred Astaire to tell me that meant more to me than anything. Later my performance was nominated for an Emmy Award in a musical category, but I lost to Leontyne Price. It didn’t matter. Fred Astaire had told me things I would never forget – that was my reward. Later he invited me to his house, and there were more compliments from him until I really blushed. He went over my Billie Jean performance, step by step. The great choreographer Hermes Pan, who had choreographed Fred’s dances in the movies, came over, and I showed them how to Moonwalk and demonstrated some other steps that really interested them.

Not long after that Gene Kelly came by my house to visit and also said he liked my dancing. It was a fantastic experience, that show, because I felt I had been inducted into an informal fraternity of dancers, and I felt so honored because these were the people I most admired in the world.

-Michael Jackson

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23 Responses to “Motown 25: “It was his Coronation””

  1. MJGlobal Family Wants Michael Jackson Avenue in Detroit | mjjjusticeproject says:

    […] This August 29th 2018 is also Michael Jackson 60th Birthday and it would be a wonderful day to appropriately honor him for all that he has done, not only for Motown, Detroit but for the world in general. Making a day to celebrate and presenting Michael Jackson Ave to his children Prince, Paris and Blanket would also bring Michael Jackson fans to the city. Don’t forget Motown 25th Anniversary was Michael’s coronaiton. […]

  2. Dialdancer says:


    Again congratulations to your story. It is the bitter & sweet of Michael and reveals more than I think he could know. I agree with Steven if he had done on that first night what he would do later they would still be trying to quiet down the audience.

    @ Kasi,

    I do not usually promote companies even those who offer goods on Michael, but I am going to suggest that you look to Amazon for two reasons. One they are located in China/Japan, UK/Canada, France, Italy and Germany. I do not know which country you are in, but maybe one of them will work for you. Two they do carry a large supply of Music, videos, books and other material on Michael. Here is Borders books and music international, at least here in the USA if they have it in the warehouse you can order it to the closest to you. They may have a mailing service as well.
    Lastly another major book and music seller is Barnes & Nobel they do not have stores outside the USA, but do ship internationally. I hope this will help.

    Look to the bottom of page for Amazon International:

    Borders International:

    Barnes & Nobel:

  3. Sina says:

    Talking about ‘dont stop till you get enough’. Watch the incredible Prince in concert, doing his little tribute to Michael. Right at the start of the clip

    Michaels music has been with us for more than 40 years. Every one of his albums has classics and his songs are covered by many artists.
    And they will stay with us forever.

  4. Sina says:

    Motown 25 performance of Billy Jean is imo the quintessence of Michaels performing art. Its perfection, period. It made history.
    (@ TLS I agree with you 100%)

    Billy Jean is and will stay Michaels most iconic song, it has everything that is typically Michael but still a song in a league of its own.
    There is no other song of any artist like it. Its unique and recognizable from the very first note. The start still gives me goosebumps and you can feel the drama building up.
    Its with BJ thatI first became aware of Michaels ‘sob’ in his voice(dont know a better word)and listened deeper into his songs.
    I love how Michael describes how he composed the song and how he heard the whole orchestration in his head.

    The Motown performance was not live and direct on tv here, we saw it much later. But the video clip was 24/7 on MTV and we were hooked on the tv to watch his grace and coolnes over and over again. Evrything fitted. Even the pink shirt and the high water pants became instant hits. And all the girls were again madly in love with Michael.
    Maybe for the larger audience it was Michaels coronation. But for us, ever since Off the wall, when the disco became our second home and in our discotheque ‘Dont stop till you get enough’ was always the last song before closing time, Michael had been our king of the dancefloor.
    Billy Jean only proved that he was far more than that.
    And he never stopped to amaze us.

    When you see him performing BJ in the This is it docu, more than 25 years later, it is an older mature Michael and there is a lot of awesome improvising, but the performance had not lost anything of its cool.
    It was like Motown 25 revisited. And watch the reaction of his dancers. Priceles.

    Seven thank you for this great article. Its good to be reminded that Michael is not defined by the trouble in his life. Its his genius and excellence and we are lucky to have witnessed it in our lifetime.

    Oh, and Michaels songs are still heard. Even this saturday there was a program on tv to raise funds for Japan and the last performance was an impressive rendition of We are the world.

  5. Kasi says:

    Music critics have rated Paris Hilton album more than some of the albums of Michael. So their opinion is worthless. They were never fond of Michael but now they actually don’t try to hide it. As for Michael lip synching, yes he did.I have a feeling though that only now people consider lip synching as something very bad. Today people go crazy about artists that lip sync and maybe for a reason. Maybe because they actually know that todays artist have to prove something by singing live. Michael didn’t have to prove anything. He was singing live almost his entire career since the age of six. The last years for different reasons he didn’t. If people judge him by that in order to say that he couldn’t sing live and therfore he was not a good singer or he was a mediocre artist, then they may as well do it. After all they always try to find reasons to downgrade Michael’s achivements. But those of us who have actually watched Michael sing live whille dancing in the same time, can say that he was probably one of the most gifted people to have ever walked this earth. As for the others, let them degrade Michael ones more if that gives them pleasure.

  6. TLS says:

    Sorry, Seven, but I’m on a roll, I guess (feel free to cut, but it will make me feel good to get this off my chest):

    Any criticism of MJ’s live performances actually annoys me. People complain about the theatrics and “miming” that Jackson did in concert, as if it was a SUBSTITUTE for talent (as it is today, with so many recording “artists.”) The difference with Jackson is that he established his bonafides incontrovertibly time and again–there isn’t a person who worked with him who doesn’t call him a musical genius. Professional, trained dancers are in awe of his moves–because they transcend technique to achieve art. The larger-than-life elements of his concerts weren’t a SUBSTITUTE for talent, they were a deliberate EXTENSION of it.

    It really rips me to hear music critics say the theatricality of his concerts was proof that he’d lost his edge, was washed up as a musical innovator, etc. All those kinds of comments show is the lack of vision the critics have.

    You’d think it would be enough to be a musical genius and brilliant dancer, but Jackson was determined to be more. Privately, he was a humanitarian on a scale rarely seen coming from a single person (if you calculate giving as a percentage of wealth, it dwarfs the gifts of most philanthropists). Beyond even that, though, he wanted two messages to pass around the globe: that every one is worthy of love and that it’s up to each individual person to make the world a better place.

    He couldn’t have given these gifts or conveyed these messages if he weren’t so phenomenally successful as an artist. He spoke time and again about the obligation to give back. I don’t pretend to know what was in his mind, but I often imagine a game plan that goes something like this: “Become most successful performer of all time. Change world.” In my mind, you can’t separate the two when it comes to MJ. And the more I study his work, the more I learn about how you actually CAN change the world by touching people’s minds, hearts and imaginations. He did it with all at his disposal: brilliant raw talent, special effects, mime and lip synching, props, costumes, film, and a form of L.O.V.E. that communicated itself all around the world.

    There, I’m done.
    Thanks, Seven, for posting articles that inspire me to express myself.

  7. TLS says:

    I wasn’t going to address this, but it’s time someone did. The fact that MJ lip-synched Billie Jean for this Motown Show means only that he was great showman, not that he couldn’t sing live.

    If he recorded it 92 times before picking a version, you know it had to be perfect. He had to bargain just to get a chance to perform a non-Motown song; was it likely he could have his pick of musicians to play the music? Would it make sense to sing it live without the proper musicians and arrangement? Would they let him practice it enough to get it right even if he could have all those things? Would he have even wanted to reveal what he had up his sleeve?

    He said he worked out the dance in the kitchen the night before. That might make people think he threw it together, but everything we know about him says otherwise. He knew exactly what he wanted to do at every moment, and we know he was disappointed that he didn’t stay on his toes longer after the spins.

    And while I’m at it: people like to say he didn’t invent the moonwalk, that he stole it from street dancers and perfected it with the help of a choreographer (who, by the way, doesn’t mind taking credit for it himself). Please. Street dancing is street dancing because it’s done by people on the street, not “owned” by anyone. But beyond that, the brilliance of what MJ did was in HOW he did it. If he was just a street dancer, he’d have spent the whole time lockin’ poppin’ and slidin’. Instead he worked just a tantalizing bit of it into an otherwise sophisticated routine that, as mentioned above, had Astaire and Fosse elements woven into it.

    This is the kind of thing that made MJ the greatest entertainer: he offered the whole package to create unforgettable magic, and if lip-synching helped achieve that, so be it. It wasn’t like he hadn’t sung it, or couldn’t sing it, for heaven’s sake.

  8. siu siu from Hong Kong says:

    Thank you Seven for letting us know the exact details about how Michael Jackson felt, how he communicated with Fred Astaire. I live in Hong Kong and grew up with Michael’s songs. But I remember watch it sometime in TV but actualy watched this show in details until after Michael’s death for many many times including in TV and in private. The one that won the Emmy Award was not even mentioned now.

    That was a phenonenon and even now become a legacy. It was a history that nobody can erase it. I’m glad I’m with Michael during his life time to celebrate his life and stories with my friends and family.

  9. Joyce says:

    Thank you Seven for these wonderful memories of Michael’s legendary, magical performance on Motown’s 25th Anniversary.
    How I wish I could have experienced it in person. I know I will always remember being awe struck as I watched those incredible moves on my portable T.V. in my little Virginia Beach apartment.
    Interesting that Michael only truly believed that his performance was amazing when he heard it from a child who he knew would be speaking with honesty from his heart.

    There is an amazing chapter of the “Michael Jackson Opus” dedicated to Michael’s incredible dancing. Here is a sampling of quotes form the introduction to that chapter. Wish I could include some of the pictures as well!
    “On May 16th, 1983, at Motown’s 25th Anniversary party, Michael Jackson took two, four, six steps back to transport dance into another dimension! …. In a routine that blended classic Fred Astaire style panache, Bob Fosse sexual slinkiness, Jackie Wilson athleticism and the streets’ own gritty break dancing moves, Jackson crowned the moment by sliding across the floor backwards…
    To be a great showman wasn’t merely a way to ‘show off’, it was a way to transform, to move the soul.”

    Michael’s creation of “Billie Jean” was something very special that is an absolute. It never got old or stale. It evolved just as he did over the years but it still remains immediately recognizable and cherished by so many different people. It is a true classic that will remain forever… just like Michael!

    I also like this description by Bruce Swedien,
    “Billie Jean is a perfect example of what I call ‘Sonic Personality’. I don’t think there are many recordings where all you need to hear is the first few drum beats, and you instantly know what song it is”

    Thanks again Seven!

  10. SandyK says:

    I was a kid when I watched this TV performance. Michael was spectacular and I was lifted off of my chair during his electric and inspired performance…inspite of the lip syncing. As the article notes, this was the world’s introduction to a “new” Michael Jackson. It was his time to truly shine and shine he did!!! I’ll never forget seeing this and wanted so badly to be in the audience. In a sense I was, just not in the building…:-) God bless you Michael.

  11. Denise says:

    I can relate to the cultural pride Steven mentioned. My entire family was,and still is,so very proud of Michael/his family and all they accomplished over 40 years in the industry (something not historically acknowledged enough). I remember like yesterday how excited all the kids in my school were the morning after Motown 25 aired. For the first time,kids of all races were excited over the same artist, and he was black. I can not express in words how proud I was. I proceeded to buy every poster, book (included one by Steven Ivory and the first Guinness World Records Book Michael was included in for Thriller sales),button,and any product that promoted Michael. My family always bought Jackson records,along with other Motown artists,but it was so exciting to see Michael celebrated for the brilliant gem we always knew he was. The terrible things that happened to him afterwards however, make me now wonder if things would’ve been better for him if the megastardom and ensuing hysteria had not occurred. He was safer as a gem of the black community.

  12. TLS says:

    I’m always struck by how profoundly moved people were by MJ–and how soon they forgot.

  13. Michelle says:

    Wonderful article, Seven. Michael’s performance of Billie Jean in this event is truly a masterpiece!

  14. june says:

    @cynthia, kasi and all, about finding books on Michael and hearing Michael’s song on radio and tv, I agree there is not much; our local B&N does carry Tarraborelli’s and two others, neither of one I am interested in obtaining. I buy Michael-related books on line, as well.

    One encouraging note, to anyone who lives in southern Virginia, northern North Carolina, next Friday, 4/22, at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, VA, is “The Music of Michael Jackson” with the Virginia Symphony, a rock band and various local entertainers. Odd that it is not widely publicized in the “entertainment” section of our local paper, just one small article, but, hey, it’s something positive, right?

  15. Rose Marie says:

    No matter, I have all his songs on my mp3 player and I listen to him everyday. Every time, my boss asks me what I am listening to I proudly say “Michael Jackson” and he smiles. Even Charlie Rose asked me one-time, when we were in the elevator, what I am listening to and I answered “Michael Jackson” and he said “Really” with a smile.

  16. Rose Marie says:

    @ Cynthia, @Kasi,

    Do not be bothered.
    In New York, I hear Michael’s songs all the time on the radio. Sometimes when I am in Rite-Aid, his songs are on-the-air. I just don’t know what stations they are tuned to.

  17. Kasi says:

    Thank you for this article. It was trully amazing.

    @ Chynthina
    I have the same problem. In my country you can’t find a Michael book or even something that has to do with him like a T-shirt or whatever.And i have also noticed that for some time now the TV and radio station have completely stoped playing Michael’s songs. They used to play allot after his death but now nothing. I don’t know what’s going on but whatever it is its very dissapointing. Sorry for going so out off topic but it’s something that bothers me.

  18. Anne Mette Jepsen says:


  19. Cynthia Kent says:

    Wonderful artical Seven…I remember that magical night watching Michael on this beginning of what was to be the first of his solo proformances. I was in awe! I never really could choose my favorite “Michael” song. I loved them all!! The thing that bothers me most is why the radio stations tend to only play only the same 3-4 songs. Michael had literally over 100 songs and then some for which to choose. I do have XM and they play a lot of his younger hits but still nothing from the “Dangerous” or “Invincible” albums. Is it like this all over? Also something odd..(off topic slightly-sorry), yesterday I went to our local “Barnes & Noble”-Not a single book in the store on Michael and this included the music section. Wonder if it’s because they were out due to the upcoming Murray trial.. Or they just decided not to restock or carry them anymore. I order everything on line so I didn’t ask them. Any theories on this?

  20. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It was so wonderful reading about Michael’s experience and his thoughts on his performance on that special day in history. To hear how he finally felt satisfied with his performance is so wonderful to hear. To receive the responses that he did from his heroes Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly was truly the validation that Michael deserved. I wish I could have been in the audience on that historical day. I’m sure the energy was something that was beyond explanation. We all know Michael’s energy, so to be there when it was unleashed in all it’s glory for the first time, must have been truly amazing. I could feel it just by reading the article. Thank you. <3 Kim

  21. Vanessa Donovan says:

    I absolutely love Michael’s performance of this version of Billie Jean, he was outstanding, breathtaking. Michael will always be “The King” no one will ever replace or surpass him, he was so beautiful, I love you Michael forever your devoted fan xx

  22. Raven says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article! Sometimes, for me, it’s been easy to get a little jaded regarding the Motown performance, largely because (in my opinion) the routine became much more polished as he perfected it through three world tours, and also, because I think in a very subconscious way, I feel too many critics have reduced Michael’s entire performing legacy to that song, that routine, and that particular performance, while all but dismissing everything he did thereafter. It’s easy to lose perspective and to forget just how magical that moment really was. No matter what you can say about later performances of Billie Jean or how later moonwalks became much smoother and more fluidly executed, the fact remains that THIS was “the first time” and there is still something very special and magical about that performance that time cannot touch. I remember when that show aired. My grandmother was watching it. For the most part, I was tuning it in and out. It was just “there,” in the background, as I was getting ready for a date and barely paying attention. But I remembered hearing Billie Jean and seeing this dazzling swirl of rhinestones moving across the stage. The next day, the moonwalk was all anybody could talk about. It wasn’t about the song-the song had already been a hit for months-but it was all about THE DANCE. It was the world’s official introduction to a Michael Jackson who was no longer the child star Michael Jackson, but a whole new personae. Like Steven Ivory says, it was a coronation.

  23. @ Dancethedream38 says:

    I feel deeply moved by this article you wrote, also concerning how Michael felt after Fred Astaire’s phone call, specifically when he says : “It was the greatest compliment I had ever received in my life, and the only one I had ever wanted to believe”.Well, THAT’S an artist ! I want to thank you also because I didn’t read Moonwalk, so as usual, it is a great pleasure.