Thirty years ago today, Michael Jackson took a few stylized, backward steps, igniting a global dance phenomenon.
The King of Pop's first public moonwalk occurred during the airing of a Motown 25th anniversary special on March 25, 1983. The now-legendary move came at the end of a performance of his hit song “Billie Jean,” and it elicited shrieks from the enthusiastic crowd.
Although Jackson certainly launched the moonwalk's peculiar shuffle to international fame, he did not invent the move.
Rolling Stone notes that James Brown had been moonwalking years before the Motown tribute, but the origins of the dance actually date further back than Brown. (Some credit a tap dancer named Bill Bailey with coining the move.)
But Jackson may have learned the move from '80s dancer Jeffrey Daniel, a member of the soul trio Shalamar.
Yahoo!'s Chris Willman points to an interview in which LaToya Jackson admitted her brother was taught the dance by a "Soul Train" dancer. At the time, the dance was known as "the backslide," however.
"There was this dancer [Jeffrey], who was always doing the Moonwalk on that show," Jackson told British television host Frank Skinner in 2004. "He taught Michael how to do it."
Whatever the argument, one thing remains certain: While the move was not exactly original, "Jackson executed [the dance] with stunning perfection," Rolling Stone writes.Yahoo! for an in-depth look at the moonwalk.