30 years ago, Michael Jackson debuted the Moonwalk

It was 30 years ago yesterday that Michael Jackson introduced the world to “the moonwalk,” his signature dance move that he revealed during a performance of his then-new song Billy Jean.

You can see Michael do the move about 4:15 into the video, below, and then again towards the end.

Bill-Bailey-moonwalkUPDATE: A few of the readers informed me that Michael Jackson did not invent the moonwalk, though he certainly launched into worldwide super-fame. In fact, Bill Bailey (Pearl’s brother) did the moonwalk, a tap-dancing move called the backslide, all the way back in 1955 .

Check out this video of Bailey around the two minute mark.

I was never crazy for Michael Jackson, but I did love Thriller, which I’ll post below the Billy Jean video. Now that one rocked – can you avoid doing the dead dance at your computer while Vincent Prince is speaking? I, alas, cannot.

Enjoy. Here’s Michael NOT inventing the moonwalk.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • hollywoodstein

    Can’t even get a tunnel from Jersey to New York, let alone a bi-coastal supertrain.

  • hollywoodstein

    Kidz these dayz.

  • hollywoodstein

    One of the reasons Playboy Playmate Ola Ray, was cast as Michael’s putative girlfriend by John Landis at the time was that, apart from her obvious charms, she was around 5′ tall and around a 100 pounds, so in heels she still made look Michael look like a big man.
    Interestingly, before this zombies all moved slow. In the video, when they danced, they could move faster.
    Now, they all move faster.

  • hollywoodstein

    My dearest karmanot,
    The larval woodstein saw the under five foot Michael in concert at a fairgrounds singing like a canary way back when woodstein was a larva.

  • hollywoodstein

    How the mighty have sullen.

  • hollywoodstein

    Now what? Two girls and a cup?

  • hollywoodstein

    Wow, the United States of America went to the moon in 1969. Bad ass.

  • hollywoodstein

    actually, themoonwalk goes back to the mime tradition, walking in place, walking against the wind, walking against the wind and being blown backwards. I am old enough to know a vaudevillian who borrowed it from a Parisian street mime in the early 1900s.

    Miming goes back thousands, so probably moonwalking in one form or another has been around ever since people were entertaining each other around campfires.

    Or July 21,1969: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMINSD7MmT4

  • hollywoodstein

    though the wombat post offers hope.

  • hollywoodstein

    I know it’s like nobody uses the google machine anymore. I’m convinced all the kewl kidz have an invite only tech fix that bypasses the google invention, sorta like club 33 at Disneyland.

  • http://twitter.com/MissMJJ Kim

    Not half as good as how Michael did it

  • http://twitter.com/MissMJJ Kim

    and then articles have the NERVE to say it lasted only a few seconds??? WTF it wasn’t that big of a stage, oh and I suppose the longer you moonwalk the better it is??? F**k sakes makes no damn sense, just pure jealousy, THAT’S ALL

  • http://twitter.com/MissMJJ Kim

    OMG seriously?? There are plenty of inaccurate articles about Michael but I don’t see half as many people posting their disgust and demanding changes be made. No one made the Moonwalk famous except Michael. What does it matter we can’t say who invented it in the first place and it is MIchael’s move and his alone he made it what it is today and that’s what we should all be focusing on!!!!!!!!!!!!! but haters are gonna keep hating, so Michael did something right now didn’t he? Michael coined the term “Moonwalk” by the way.

  • Kim_Kaufman

    At the time, the moonwalk and other of Michael’s steps were being “invented” or reinvented in the clubs, especially in LA. There are probably clips from Diana Ross from earlier periods than this, she was using all the best “street dancers” in her big shows and you’ll probably note a similarity of moves. But Michael was a star, no doubt. I believe this show here was choreographed by Lester Wilson although I don’t know how much he did on Michael’s number. Unfortunately, Lester passed and I can’t ask. :( Michael Peters choreo’d Thriller but my fav is Beat It. Unfortunately, he’s gone, too, as are most of those dancers. Double :(

  • Buford

    We’re responding to the inaccurate (and irresponsible) headline which still suggests that this was MJ’s invention. I’m all for celebrating the man, but one could do so under a headline which states ’30 Years Ago, MJ Made The Moonwalk Famous!’, or similar. More credible that way.

  • http://twitter.com/MissMJJ Kim

    NO ONE know who really invented the Moonwalk so saying Michael didn’t invent it is irrevelant, all I know is no one performed it on television the way Michael did during his performance of the greatest pop song in history, this was the 30th anniversay of that performance, iconic in so many ways and this is how you choose to commemorate it, but focusing on the fact Michael didn’t think of it first?? Disgraceful

  • http://twitter.com/MissMJJ Kim

    People are so jealous of Michael we DON”T need to CONSTANTLY hear that he didn’t invent the Moonwalk, no do we? You would think Michael tryed to tell us he did? HE NEVER SAID THAT. you just want to try and take away from his accomplishments. I don’t give a S**t who invented the moonwalk all I know is no one did it like Michael and he’s the only one I want to see do it, Moonwalk,spin 3 or 4 times and land on his toes!!!! NO ONE DID THAT. Signature Michael and it’s his signature move, you could at least give him some credit for something instead of always trying to make excuses or give credit to someone else and insinuate things. I just hate people sometimes.

  • http://twitter.com/Speechless2529 Jennie

    As someone else has said Michael always acknowledged the greats of the past who were his inspiration, he never claimed to have invented the moonwalk but he did bring something really special to it. Like Keirmeister I would love to see something new but Michael isn’t here to provide it and I think we should be grateful he has left us so much. The Estate needs to get on and remaster footage of his performances and get them out there. Those of us who grew up with Michael aren’t going to be around forever. And to Karmanot the reason Michael didn’t stay black is because he had a disease called vitiligo which destroys the pigment in the skin. And to Pappyvet yes Michael did have problems, largely caused by the greed and jealousy of others.

  • Buford

    Yeah… it’s really disheartening to see this ‘MJ Invented The Moonwalk’ nonsense here when a simple google search on ‘moonwalk origins’ returns hundreds of hits providing info on Jeffrey Daniels’ ‘slide’, Cab Calloway’s ‘buzz’, and (most convincingly) Ronnie Hawkins’ move in this 1959 video (jump ahead to 1:40) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDKzNcZ2fYQ

  • Marty

    MJ never claimed to invent the MoonWalk… he enhanced it & made it his own he looked at the greats & became greater. Check out Oprah asking him where the MoonWalk came from

  • Indigo

    He’s the King of Pop. Always will be.

  • http://buddybest.tripod.com/index.html BuddyNovinski

    Thirty years ago, I was wasting my time avoiding the Reganic Depression in the MBA program at Penn State. Because I was so busy getting such a useless degree, I never saw that video. It was quite edifying.

  • Commnt8r

    It goes back even farther than Cab Calloway – I don’t know that we know who’invented’ it. But Michael was always extolling entertainers from the past who inspired him. And it is also a talent to see something out there, realize that it has theatrical potential, and then choose the right moment and venue and make it your own. These artists all worked in different decades, different cultural contexts. I say we’re lucky Michael introduced is to us in our time.

  • keirmeister

    This video reminded me of why Michael was such a superstar. That performance really was electric! But seeing it now, it’s like I’m a bit jaded – still longing to see something new (whatever “new” actually means)…anything that could possibly bring that kind of excitement back. Heck, even this video bothered me because Michael was lip synching! Quelle horreur!

    But back then there was a sense of awe and…shall I say innocence? There was so much to capture the imagination.

    Now, even Michael Jackson can become a punchline before his untimely death. We create celebrities from talentless attention-grabbers, and celebrate them just enough to enjoy their downfall. There are definitely a few that capture our hearts, but how many capture our imagination like Michael did?

    Of course, I could just be romanticizing that era. I was just a kid back then. I should also not drink vodka lemonades before bed. Makes me moody. Oh well.

  • pappyvet

    much talent,many problems

  • HolyMoly

    Wait long enough and everyone thinks it’s a new move, I suppose. No matter. I still think he was one of the most brilliant entertainers of my lifetime. I have to agree with jharp that the “Thriller” video was and still is the standard by which all others are compared. None to date have surpassed it.

    Funny watching the “Thriller” video. All I can think of is the Filipino prison that makes the inmates learn and perform the choreography in the courtyard. Good way to keep people occupied so they’re not stabbing each other with sharpened toothbrush handles, I suppose.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMnk7lh9M3o

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Amazing photo of Michael. He used to be black back then.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yes, I see jharp mentioned it too, interesting.

  • jharp

    Michael Jackson didn’t invent the moonwalk.

    “It was the group’s designated dancer, Jeffrey Daniel–a former “Solid
    Gold” hoofer who was renowned in the R&B/dance community–who
    attracted attention what was then referred to as “the backslide” before
    he taught it to Michael.”

    And to me the Thriller video with the graveyard dancing was the most brilliant video ever.

    http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/stop-the-presses/invented-moonwalk-hint-wasn-t-michael-jackson-160105107.html

  • mtblaze

    Michael Jackson did not create the moonwalk. It’s been around since Cab Calloway. Michael did it well though.

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