It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since that magical performance of “Billie Jean” introducing “The Moonwalk”on Motown’s 25th Anniversary special.
I can still remember watching it on TV as a 13 year old kid who was raised in a musical household. With a father who was a multi-talented musician, singer, and songwriter, who played in a wedding band for many years, along with my older brothers and sisters musical influences, I was well versed in many genres and styles of music.
My earliest musical memories were of my sister Diane’s 8-track player that she had with “The Beatles” cartridge blairing away. Being the oldest of the bunch, she was the go-to person for what was happening in music, and not just what was on the radio either.
It was the “Off the Wall” album released in 1979 that she had that introduced me to Michael Jackson as a solo artist. With it playing in heavy rotation, I would first hear “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough“, “Rock With You“, and “Off the Wall“… all future Top 10 singles.
In 1982, the “Thriller” album came out around Christmas and was a must have for the holidays. “Billie Jean” was the second single released and the album just exploded. Followed by “Beat It” and “Thriller“, the album became and still remains the best selling album of all time. At that time, music videos became the biggest thing for the music industry. Those three videos were seen everywhere… on TV, in stores, at the mall, skating rinks, etc.
On March 25, 1983 I was watching Michael perform with his brothers, The Jackson 5, on the Motown special and thought that it was good. But then he uttered “Those were some good songs, I love those songs a lot. But I especially… like the new songs”. The beat from “Billie Jean” kicks in and he begins. I’m watching in disbelief as it comes to the part where he magically glides backwards across the stage… and the “Moonwalk” is born.
So, my brothers and I, along with the rest of the world, would try to figure out how he did it and practice it. Even today, there isn’t an event that I’m DJ-ing where I’m playing “Billie Jean” that somebody, whether they’re 7 or 70, is trying to do the “Moonwalk”.
Watch the full clip below of that memorable night via YouTube: