Friday, June 26, 2009

My Favorite Michael Thing

I remember having people over one night in 1983. I remember telling them I had to turn the TV on and watch Michael Jackson on the Motown 25th Anniversary Special. And I remember them looking at me like I was the funniest idiot in the world.

But I had read about the taping in that week's Village Voice. The reporter said that Michael lip-synched Billie Jean and the crowd went absolutely nuts. I had never before seen lip-synching described in anything like a flattering light. So I turned the TV on and waited for this:

I know, right?

Sixteen years later, The Stranger ran a piece called 10 Things That've Made Us Say "Wow" Since the Dawn of Time, and one of the 10 was My Favorite Michael Thing.

For those of us who witnessed it, this moment is indelible. On May 16, 1983, mid-way through a lip-synched performance of Billie Jean, Michael Jackson, a hyper-talented little Nellie boy whose album Thriller was about to change pop music forever, unveiled a new dance move -- and blew the world's mind. Known as the Moonwalk, the move saw Michael taking a simple step forward, then gliding effortlessly backward across the stage and into the pop culture stratosphere. Never mind that Michael's earthshaking move had been swiped from inner-city break dancers, or that, in later years, this cute and charming black guy would be replaced by a pasty-white child molester. Michael Jackson's Moonwalk achieved what all great art aspires to -- bonding his audience in awe, propelling its maker to new heights, and simultaneously making and improving upon history. Can Neil Armstrong's boring, actual moon walk of a decade and a half earlier even compare with Michael's dazzling artistic reinterpretation? No.
Exactly right, Stranger. Suck it, Neil Armstrong.