Remembering an icon: Relive Michael Jackson’s most memorable performances

Remembering an icon: Relive Michael Jackson’s most memorable performances

Happy birthday, pop legend

Text: Su Fen Tan

Image: Getty Images

In honour of the late star’s birthday on 29 August, we look back at some of his best live performances over the years

Although Michael Jackson left the world far too soon, he will always live on in his emblematic body of work. It wasn't just his music that captivated fans, it was the whole package. His signature dance moves, groundbreaking music videos and charismatic stage presence will always serve as a source of inspiration for aspiring artistes and music lovers around the world.


Before he became known as the King of Pop, he was a member of the Jackson 5. The eighth child of the Jackson family, he made his professional debut in 1964, when he was just six years old. Michael emerged as a solo artist in the early 1970s, going on to become one of the most influential pop icons in history. It is safe to say he dominated the industry in the 1980s to early 90s—how many people out there can you find that hasn't listened to Beat It, Billie Jean or Man in the Mirror? The 14-minute video for Thriller has also rightfully earned its reputation as one of the most iconic music videos of all time.


Here, we remember Michael Jackson by looking back at 7 of his most memorable performances:

1. With the Jackson 5 on The Ed Sullivan Show, 1970

The Jackson 5 first made their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show 1969, capturing hearts with their infectious energy and upbeat sound. They returned to perform the following year. The show proved to be a major career-booster, and here a young Michael is seen belting out to their hit ABC—already a natural on stage.


2. The debut of the moonwalk, 1983

At the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special to celebrate Motown's 25th anniversary, Michael reunited with his brothers for a live performance. But the most memorable part of the special was his solo performance of Billie Jean, where he showed off his sleek moonwalk to the world for the very first time.

3. Thriller at Yokohoma on the Bad Tour, 1987

Bad was Michael's first solo concert tour. Spanning 16 months, he performed 123 concerts across 15 countries. Fans have called the Yokohoma concert one of his bests. Here, watch as he brings his iconic music video to life.


4. Performing at the Grammy Awards, 1988

It started with a slowed down version of The Way You Make Me Feel, before he upped the gear, complete with his awe-inducing dance abilities. He then brought things to a climax with Man in the Mirror, with the initial five back up singers growing into a full gospel choir towards the end.


5. That halftime show at Super Bowl, 1993

It was the first Super Bowl performance that drew higher audience figures than the game itself—it can only be Michael Jackson. He entertained the lucky audience for an exhilarating 13 minutes, churning out hit after hit, with the dance moves to match.


6. The 15-minute medley at MTV VMAs, 1995

Complete with on-stage costume changes, a guitar solo by Slash, many of his biggest hits and smooth dance moves, Michael set the standard for the Video Vanguard performance with his showstopping performance at the 1995 VMAs, proving just why he is the King of Pop.


7. Defying gravity at the Munich leg of the HIStory World Tour, 1997

In his music video for Smooth Criminal, which was taken off the 1987 Bad album, Michael and the dancers around him performed a seemingly impossible forward lean. 10 years on, and he showed that he still has it as he defied gravity at the Munich show of his HIStory tour—look at those turns, look at that lean (3:30). 


Bonus: The hologram version of the late King of Pop performs Slave To The Rhythm at the Billboard Music Awards, 2014

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