Sources: AZ Central – By Ed Masely| All Things Michael
It barely lasts three seconds. Blink and you’ll miss half of it. But even after all these years, the sight of Michael Jackson in his prime unveiling his signature dance move — a series of backward glides we’ve learned to call the moonwalk — while performing “Billie Jean” on “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” is fascinating television.
You can hear the audience go wild as though they’d just experienced the most amazing thing ever. In the midst of a song then enjoying a seven-week run at No. 1 onBillboard’s Hot 100, you can hear the excitement level surge.
See for yourself when the Emmy Award-winning special returns to television for the first time since it aired that night in 1983 at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, on KAET.
Mary Wilson was there the night show was taped, performing as part of a Supremes reunion with Diana Ross and Cindy Birdsong. She remembers being blown away by the moment that marked Michael Jackson’s arrival as the King of Pop.
“Michael and the Jackson 5 became the focal point,” she says, “because it was as new for all of us as it was for the audience. And I would say that perhaps the highlight of the whole show was just seeing him emerge as this new talent. None of us had seen that. This was new. It was a growth. And it was fascinating, as it is today. He became an international star far beyond what any of us had done at Motown at that point.”
Versions of the moonwalk, in which Jackson appears to be trying to move forward while being pulled backward by an unseen force, had been floating around for decades.
“Those of us old enough that we had grown up watching Jackie Wilson doing all of those great moves,” Wilson says, “Michael Jackson took that with James Brown and created a whole new movement, a new dance. So that was very exciting.”
As exciting as it may have been, though, Wilson points to Marvin Gaye’s as her favorite performance of the night.
“I remember when we used to do the Motown Revue tours,” she says, “he was the one everybody wanted to watch. And it was the same that night. I mean, I can’t mention Marvin Gaye enough. Marvin was like an angel. He’s one of those people, I know they say Elvis is the king, but Marvin should be the king as well.”
Other key performances include Smokey Robinson’s reunion with the Miracles, a Stevie Wonder medley and a battle of the bands between the Four Tops and Temptations.
As for Wilson’s performance with the Supremes on the chart-topping “Someday We’ll Be Together”?
“Well, our performance was probably not as fascinating as I would have wanted it to be,” she says. “Everybody else’s performance, to me, was more exciting than ours. And I was not very happy about that. But you know, you have to take life as it comes and it was one of those things where we had to understand that we were just in different places.”
The tension between the Supremes was never personal, she says.
“It was always more about business. That’s one of the sad things that happens sometimes if you’re not family. Sometimes the business gets in the way and you just can’t get ahead of it. So I just tried to have as much fun as I could and still enjoy it. For me, once you’re on that stage, you’re there. So I had to enjoy that moment.”
Despite her disappointment in her performance, Wilson’s memories of the night are mostly positive.
“It’s really more of a family reunion situation because all of the artists, the writers, the producers, we all kind of grew up together,” Wilson says. “We were all very young. So the television special was really like a family reunion, us coming together. We had so much more fun backstage than probably the people out front watching it. Or, should I say, as much fun. Marvin Gaye came in and all the girls were just like, ‘Oh my God, Marvin. He’s still so cute.’ It was a wonderful, wonderful gathering.”
Wilson is thrilled to know the show is coming back to television after more than 30 years.
“The Motown artists inspired most of the people who are out there today,” Wilson says. “I can’t wait to hear what the young people who see it today, what they think. Because when they see this special, it is definitely professionalism at its best. When we used to work on shows with other artists, you could always tell the Motown artists by their professionalism. So I think the world is going to relive a beautiful moment in what show business should be like.”
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, on Channel 8 (KAET).
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