Thirty years ago tonight, the world first saw Michael Jackson moonwalk. The big moment came during the end of his performance of ‘Billie Jean’ at the Motown 25th Anniversary special, taped at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and broadcast on NBC about six weeks later.
The moonwalk only lasted two seconds and was not an original move (James Brown had been doing it for years,) but Michael executed it with stunning perfection. Michael’s electrifying performance, with his single sparkly glove and black sequined jacket, helped elevate him to another level. It captured the attention of the entire world, and the next day kids all over America were trying out the move on the playground.
Michael’s album, ‘Thriller,’ had been on shelves for four months by the time of the televised concert and ‘Billie Jean’ was the number one song in the country, but Michael’s performance brought his fame to a whole other level.
It also overshadowed a pretty amazing night of music, including the first performance by Diana Ross and the Supremes since 1969 and sets by Marvin Gaye, the Miracles, Stevie Wonder and an amazing “battle of the bands,” between the Temptations and the Four Tops. Michael’s ‘Thriller’ album went on to become the biggest-selling of all time, and continues to be so!
Michael was initially reluctant to perform at the concert. He was on CBS Records, and the organizers wanted him to play the old Jackson 5 hits with his brothers. He ultimately agreed, under the condition that he’d be allowed to perform ‘Billie Jean’ solo, after the Jackson 5 hits medley. It was the only song of the night not released by Motown and, ironically, the biggest moment of the show.
“Thirty years ago the greatest album ever made was released and it still stands the test of time,” Michael Jackson biographer Stacy Brown told ABCNews.com in November, on the 30th anniversary of ‘Thriller.’
During the moonwalk you can hear gasps and cheers from the audience at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, cementing Michael’s position as the most electrifying performer, in the history of pop culture!