5 Things Michael Jackson fans should know about Motown 25

I've always taken the moonwalk for granted. 

It was a dance move that Michael Jackson was known for, something that he’d always done, and something he was always expected to do. It's always been one of those things that I considered to be "no big deal".



For years, I had no idea what the moonwalk meant to pop culture or that there was even a debut performance of it. Growing up in a household where Michael Jackson music and watching videotapes like Moonwalker and The Legend Continues is the norm, you kinda just take things for what they are.

My fandom started long before Youtube. But, that was a double-edged sword. On one hand, it would have been awesome to have the resources that are available now. If I could see thousands of hours of MJ footage I would have probably been in Michael Jackson fan heaven. But, then again, isn't it human nature to appreciate things that aren't readily available? I think that was part of the appeal for me. I deeply valued the process of searching and discovering websites like Jetzi’s Michael Jackson Video. The internet, even before social media, was a treasure trove of performances and footage that I never knew existed.

I also loved watching my HIStory On Film Volume II DVD.

That's where I saw Michael's entire, uninterrupted Motown 25 performance of “Billie Jean” for the first time. But I also clearly remember telling my father how annoying it was to have the Motown 25 performance of "Billie Jean" on there, instead of the short film.

It seemed like nothing special to me.

“Nothing special?” my dad repeated my words back to me.

 “No, that performance IS SPECIAL” he corrected me sternly.

 “That's Motown 25. THAT’S WHAT STARTED IT ALL”.

_______________________________________________________________ 

On the 34-year anniversary of Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever, I want to share with you the things I learned about Michael’s performance on Motown 25, why the television special was so iconic, and other things I think all fans should know about it.



1. The Significance of Motown Records. 


If you’re anything like the fan that I was years ago, you may not know much about Motown. In order to understand the significance and impact of the Motown 25 television special, you have to know what Motown Records meant (and still means) both to pop culture and black music history. Motown Records was one of the first black-owned labels that achieved crossover success on the radio and Billboard Charts.

Hitsville- the Home of Motown Records


It was a small record label, based out of Detroit and founded by Berry Gordy in 1958. But, it’s success is indisputable.


Motown birthed acts like The Temptations, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder (all pictured above)...


and the Jackson Five. 

Others like Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and the song-writing and production team, Ashford & Simpson.

With almost 80 records in the Top 10 of the Billboard 100 between 1960 and 1969, and a unique sound, Motown’s acts and music were popular among both black and white audiences. Suzanne de Passe said it best-- “Motown wasn’t just pioneering a sound, but a cultural dynamic”.

And the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was a celebration, of just that.



2. Michael Didn’t Want To Do It.


Believe it or not, Michael initially didn’t want to do the show.

Michael Jackson, at his own admission, wasn’t a big fan of television as it related to his music career.

In his autobiography Moonwalk, Michael shares more about how he made the decision to actually appear on the show.

 “I said no to the idea at first... 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 towards TV is fairly negative”. 

After speaking to Berry Gordy, who visited Michael at a studio session to discuss it, Michael decided he would appear and perform with his brothers, including Jermaine. The only stipulation? That he would get his own solo spot and do “Billie Jean”. It would be the only “non-Motown” song of the show.

Of course, he performed with his brothers first, a Jacksons medley, including Jermaine (and Randy too!).

Here's a rare photo of the Jacksons from the rehearsal:




It was the first time the original members of the Jackson 5 appeared together since 1975.


3. Studio Audience Only.


Did you know that the performance of “Billie Jean” was almost not broadcast? According to Suzanne de Passe, who was the executive producer for the show (and the creative assistant to Berry Gordy at Motown for many years), Michael asked for it not to be included in the show. Here’s an excerpt of her interview with EBONY magazine in 2014:


EBONY: Of course, Michael Jackson performing “Billie Jean” and doing the moonwalk for the first time became the highlight of the show.

SP: A letter came by messenger during rehearsals saying we were forbidden to tape “Billie Jean.” The reason was that Michael wanted to do it for the people in the theater, but he didn’t want it on the broadcast. I went to Michael, and said, “Are you serious? I’ll tell you what, we will tape it and you come to the editing room. And, if you don’ t like it, we won’ t use it.” Luckily he not only liked it, he loved it. His manager later told me that performance helped sell four million more copies of Thriller.

(Source: Suzanne de Passe Looks Back on ‘ Motown 25’ , Ebony Magazine. 2014)


Michael and Suzanne de Passe.


Well, I’m grateful that we, and the 47 million viewers across America watching live that evening, got to see it.

Watch the full performance of Michael Jackson and the Jacksons on Motown 25 here.



4. The Biggest Compliment Michael’s ever received


 Michael Jackson was a perfectionist.

He wasn’t totally happy with his performance that night. His brothers stood at the wings of the stage watching, amazed and proud at how well he had done. But, Michael felt conflicted.



“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.” – Michael Jackson, Moonwalk 

I remember first reading that and feeling bad that Michael was disappointed in his performance. The entire world loved it! But, to me, the beauty of Michael Jackson in part, is his perfectionism. It’s something that made him unique among many of his peers and contributed to him being so accomplished.

The day after Motown 25, the legendary Fred Aistaire called him and complimented him, “You’re A Hell Of A Mover”. Michael said that it was the greatest compliment he had ever received in his life.



After that performance, he met with Aistaire, Gene Kelly and Hermes Pan, at separate times, trading dance moves. Michael, of course, taught them the moonwalk.

 Michael on meeting with the dance greats:

“It was a fantastic experience that show, because I felt that 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”. 



5. An Emmy Nomination 


It’s a fact that Michael has won many awards throughout his career. But, most of them were for his music. Did you know that he was nominated for an Emmy award? His nomination in 1983 was for his performance of “Billie Jean" on the Motown 25 special. He went up against other nominees like comedian Richard Pryor (for his performance as the host of Motown 25), Carol Burnett, and Luciano Pavarotti. Michael didn’t win Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program that year,
* (The winner was Leontyne Price in Live From Lincoln Center).


____________________________________________________________


I will never know the thrill or the excitement that people felt in the audience that night but, I know how important Motown 25 was.


Millions of people who had never seen Michael Jackson perform as an adult solo artist were exposed to his talents. Michael had the forethought to use the opportunity presented to him in a remarkable way.

He knew how best to use a concept that he was less than thrilled about (television) and use it to his advantage.

“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”. - Michael Jackson


I’m glad he did it too. :)




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Weekend Snapshot- Invincible – A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson



I woke up last Saturday morning and decided that I was in the mood for Michael.

When things get busy and stressful, is when I most urgently feel the need to reconnect with some of the things and people that make me happy. Of course, Michael Jackson is usually at the top of that list.

Invincible- A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson is one of the many tribute shows I’ve attended over the years.  Produced by Darrin Ross and choreographed by one of Michael’s former choreographers, Lavelle Smith, Invincible is a theatrical production featuring two well-known tribute artists.



Both Pete Carter and Jeffrey Perez are talented and hardworking guys! Whenever I see this show, I know that some “MJ Fan” energy is going to come out of the performance, which I also enjoy.  I saw them last at NJPAC in New Jersey, during the summer of 2016.




On a whim, I decided to head all the way to one of the outer boroughs of the city to see the show again.

I took one of my close friends from college with me. 

Let me preface this by saying, she is not a Michael Jackson fan. She is a woman who, like most people, loves Michael as an artist in general. To be honest, she’s a Janet Jackson fan more than anything else. She has always respected my dedication and loyalty to Michael Jackson and for that especially, I’ve considered her a true friend. Friendship is so much about acceptance for me. It takes a lot to see someone’s flaws and shortcomings and still go out of your way to cherish them and their role in your life. And she’s one of those people for me.

Despite this, I’ve always kept my “MJ world” compartmentalized from most people. Outside of knowing that I’m a fan, people don’t know much else. And I like it that way for the most part. I’ve had MJ fan friends since I could access the internet, so the need to have other companionship at events or to discuss Michael-related things was never there. But, last weekend I took the plunge and decided to ask her to tag along.

It was a rainy and gloomy day. After enjoying a movie and indulging in lunch from my favorite burger spot (SHAKE SHACK!) we were on our way to the Staten Island venue.

Overall, we both enjoyed the show. They do many of the big hits associated with dance numbers (“Thriller,” “Smooth Criminal,” etc), the big ballads (think “Man in the Mirror” and “Human Nature”) and to my delight, a couple of Jacksons songs that usually don’t get much attention from tribute shows. Pete Carter performs as “Dancing Michael” and Jeffrey Perez performs as “Singing Michael” and it makes for a good balance. Before we went to the show, I sat my friend down and had her watch THIS – Jeffrey’s appearance on the Ellen Show last year.  

A lot of people have asked me why I attend tribute events. 

I guess it's a "thing"- some Michael Jackson fans just don't like them. And I understand it- I used to be that fan. 

But, I love the music and the atmosphere. I love the idea of going to a Michael event because no matter what it is, as long as it’s being done well and in good faith- I enjoy supporting other fans. And I love dressing up in my MJ gear and representing my hero. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember that I was having trouble deciding what to wear that night. I posted this photo:


MJ shirt collection


Here’s what I ended up wearing:





And here I am with the tribute artists: 





Overall, I had a good experience that night. And as for inviting my friend? 


She got a chance to step into my life for a bit and met about 6 or 7 of my Michael Jackson fan(girl) friends. Listening to Michael music, being around fans, and sharing my love for MJ with others has always been something I’ve been so passionate about. 

It felt good to let someone into my world, even for just a few hours. 

I might do it again sometime. 


Do you guys attend MJ-related events often?
Do you go solo, with your regular friends, or exclusively with other fans?


Be sure to follow MJFANGiRL on social for more! 
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Brothers- Best of Michael and Jermaine Jackson PLAYLIST





I've been a fan for ages and realize that each and every one of us is super unique in our tastes; Even within the Michael Jackson catalog of music. In talking about songs that I like, typing the lyrics just doesn't work well enough. So I decided to throw it back to the days of the mixtape, and make my own playlist to share. This is a follow-up to my last post, one that I'm extremely proud of. It was called "What I Know About Jermaine Jackson- A Michael Jackson Fan Perspective" and I shared all that I knew about their relationship, the musical chemistry, and how it was meeting one of them (!) in person. Check it out here.

Before I start, if you haven't been subscribed to a streaming service, you MIGHT be missing out! I used to be a member of Apple Music but, a friend told me about how much more extensive the Jacksons music library was on Spotify and I immediately switched over. I have a lot of Michael Jackson CDs and DVDs but, this is the best way I can access any music I want to, on-the-go!

One of the things that I discovered recently too, was that Spotify finally has the Immortal soundtrack. Even though my favorite Michael Jackson based Cirque Du Soleil show is "MJ One," I am huge into this soundtrack, so it feels like I've been waiting for this moment forever.

This past weekend I typed in Michael Jackson quickly, to find a song to play on a short drive. To my surprise and excitement- there it was. My favorite tracks are "Smooth Criminal- Immortal Version", "This Place Hotel- Immortal Version," and "(I Like) the Way You Love Me/Speed Demon/Another Part of Me- Immortal Version". 




Now on to the best part...

Brothers- Best of Michael and Jermaine Jackson Playlist! 




I'm excited to share with you, a playlist that I've curated especially for the last post called "Brothers- The Best of Michael and Jermaine Jackson". It's a full 1.5 hours of what I consider to be the best songs that showcase the chemistry as singers between Michael and Jermaine. And also, a couple of my personal FAVORITE Jermaine Jackson tracks! I've included notes for some of them.

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What I Know About Jermaine Jackson- A Michael Jackson Fan Perspective

 



As a key member of the Jackson 5, Jermaine was the heartthrob with a mature and soulful sound likened to Marvin Gaye. He has been the sibling that has most often and most consistently come to Michael's defense in the press. He is Michael's older brother, the second lead vocal of the group, and one of Michael's most recognizable "soldiers of love".



Yet, Jermaine Jackson has been so often overlooked and misunderstood in the Michael Jackson fan community.

I’ve been attending events and meeting Michael Jackson fans for over 15 years. I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard fans (including ones within my circle of friends) share negative sentiments about Jermaine. Growing up I had a great deal of admiration for the entire family.
But why didn’t anyone see or hear what I did? 



Why are people so set on believing what they want to when it comes to Michael’s family (especially Jermaine)?

The past few weeks, I sat down to take a closer look. Listening to hours of Jackson 5 music, watching interviews and reading both the words of both brothers. And now I’m ready to share all that I’ve discovered and come to realize.


This is What I Know About Jermaine Jackson- A Michael Jackson Fan Perspective.


Got to Be There-  The Brotherhood & the Musical Rivalry


"Well, you don't get to do things that other children get to do, having friends and slumber parties and buddies. There were none of that for me. I didn't have friends when I was little. My brothers were my friends." 
– Michael Jackson



Each of the Jacksons have shared how tight their brotherhood was during the Motown years. They rehearsed together, toured together, and even before that- they shared space, sleeping in a 3-level bunk-bed in their bedroom in Gary. Jermaine Jackson called it their first “dressing room”.




In “You Are Not Alone, Michael: Through a Brother’s Eyes,” Jermaine’s book, released in 2011, he shares that he and Michael had a very close bond in the early years. They often shared a room together, with their father Joseph in the next adjoining one. He wanted to keep an eye (or an ear) out for his two lead singers.

“Michael and I seemed to spend all our down-time together in those days and the bond between us was sealed tight. I cannot remember an argument or a fight in our childhood… Michael looked up to me, I looked out for him. Onstage, he was always to my right. In hotels, he was always in the bed to the left. If I couldn’t see Michael, and know he was okay, I didn’t feel at ease”.


I can relate. My younger sister and I didn’t always see eye to eye as kids but still-  I’ve never felt comfortable with her facing a difficult or stressful situation. Whether she knew it or not, whether the people around us knew it or not, I always tried to make decisions that I thought were in her best interest. Decisions that I thought, would keep her protected. It’s just something that’s in your nature as an older sibling.

So, when did the rivalry between Michael and Jermaine start?

Well, it probably started with Motown.
The Jackson 5 were brothers and family first.
Family can get complicated. But, the record label just as much as the public, were crafting a rivalry between the brothers that would last, starting with their first solo albums.


Michael Jackson-     Got To Be There           January 24, 1972
Jermaine Jackson-  Jermaine                        July 14, 1972
Michael Jackson-     Ben                                January 4, 1972
Michael Jackson-    Music & Me                   April 13, 1973
Jermaine Jackson-  Come Into My Life        May 6, 1973
Michael Jackson-     Forever, Michael          January 16, 1975





The solo projects for Michael and Jermaine were created to contribute to and strengthen the Jackson 5 brand. However, the press was quick to create a rivalry, asking each of them during interviews how it felt to compete on the music charts. I’ve seen a 1972 interview clip (here) where a news reporter asked Michael about when he was planning to leave the group and start a solo career. But what the media presented as a rivalry between artists, was likely no more than healthy competition between brothers. 

At least during the Motown years.

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