Bobby Brown Claims He Taught Michael Jackson How To Moonwalk (Audio)
The moonwalk has become one of the most renowned dance moves of all-time. Its origins are debated by historians, with some tracing it back to Cab Calloway and the 1930s. However, on March 25, 1983, Michael Jackson skyrocketed the maneuver into pop culture consciousness with his televised Motown 25 performance on NBC.
With “Billie Jean” as the backdrop, The King Of Pop made one giant step for mankind when Thriller turned lunar. In an interview this week, New Edition’s Bobby Brown made a major claim, when he told the backstory of teaching Michael the moves during New Edition’s own spaceship rise to fame. This took place on The Cipher, in a 40-minute conversation with host Shawn Setaro.
Just after 4:00, Bobby discusses Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “Scorpio” as a song that he liked to dance to. The 1981 Sugar Hill Records single was a set-up to The Message album. “I had a few moves that was just super. Plus, I was the first one in Orchard Park to do the moonwalk,” begins Brown, referring to his Boston housing projects. “So the moonwalk was one of my signature moves. Nobody…I had brought it up from down South. It was something that just killed the game once I brought it up the East Coast.”
Setaro asks, “That was before Motown 25?” The onetime MCA Records superstar replies, “Oh yeah, way before that…way before that. Actually, I was the one that taught Michael [Jackson] how to do it.”
Following that monstrous revelation, Brown continues, “It was [during] New Edition, and we were invited over to Michael Jackson’s house. We was all just dancin’ in this big room with mirrors, and he saw me do it. We was poppin’; he was watchin’ us pop. He saw me do the moonwalk. And he [asked], ‘What is that?’ And I did it again. He just watched it, and he just started doin’ it.”
Setaro then asks what Bobby what he felt watching the famed television special. “I thought it was great. That was greatness at its finest. He made it look better than I did [Laughs]. He took it and perfected it.” A month before the special, New Edition released its debut, Candy Girl.
Bobby then explains where he learned the move. It was from a fellow young man, during a visit to Alabama. “[This young man] put some sand on the ground, and just started sliding back. I was so in awe of him doing that, I just had to ask him how he was doing it. And he showed me, and I brought it back up to the North and just started battling people and using that signature move.”
The Cipher dutifully examines the history of the moonwalk from a view sources. This inclusion by producer Josh Kross lists Cab Calloway (a move he called “the buzz”), The Wizard Of Oz actress Judy Garland, famed mime Marcel Marceau, comedian/actor Dick Van Dyke, dancers Bill Bailey and Bob Fosse, James Brown, Debbie Allen (in the series Fame), and the Rocksteady Crew’s Mr. Freeze in Flashdance (which reached theaters the month after Motown 25). On page 210 in his 1988 autobiography (titled Moonwalk) Jackson credited “three kids” for showing him, adding to the questions. 210 1988, 1974 Moonwalk. Shalamar’s Jeffrey Daniel is another person who many believe could have taught Jackson. In 1982, he performed a similar move during “A Night To Remember” (with Shalamar) on Top Of The Pops:
Some have traced the roots of the moonwalk to early Jackson 5 routines, particularly with “Dancing Machine.” Some of those circa-1973 performances have been compiled by video:
Elsewhere in the interview, Bobby confirms Large Professor’s July account of botched 1990 recording sessions for an album along with Kool G Rap (25:00). He says Nice & Smooth’s Smooth B also did some early writing for his raps (16:40).
Earlier this year, Brown was credited as a producer on BET’s The New Edition Story.