“Once that was over, we just knew this was something very special.”

Michael Jackson in 1983. (Photo: Getty Images)

Michael Jackson in 1983. (Photo: Getty Images)

forty years ago Michael Jackson took the stage and left an indelible mark on pop culture with his solo performance Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forevera televised celebration of the launch of the famous label.

The May 16, 1983 broadcast was produced and directed by Don Mischer, who over the years has helped enact other historical moments including the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympics, where Muhammad Ali made a surprise appearance; Prince’s iconic 2007 Super Bowl halftime show Purple Rain; and lots of Academy Awards (fortunately not 2017’s Envelopegate). Mischer spoke to Yahoo Entertainment about working with Jackson and getting a front row seat to one of the most exciting and innovative performances of all time.

Since motown 25 The show was supposed to feature the label’s biggest hits, but Mischer and executive producer Suzanne de Passe initially banned any artist (from Marvin Gaye to the Temptations to Diana Ross) from performing new material. Jackson pushed back and wanted to perform a solo song called “Billie Jean.” Recalling the tense moment, Mischer said, “If we had Michael do a new song, who would take the call from Marvin Gaye on Monday and be like, ‘Why did you have Michael do a new song and I couldn’t do a new one? ‘”Song?'”

But that thorny political game was turned on its head when Mischer witnessed Jackson’s rehearsal for his “Billie Jean” performance. “I think Linda Ronstadt was there, Smokey Robinson was there, Diana Ross was there, but basically the place was empty,” Mischer said. “So we looked at ‘Billie Jean’ for the first time, the whole thing, the hat, the socks, the moonwalk – when that was over we just knew it was really special.”

Michael Jackson on

Michael Jackson in Yesterday, Today, Forever, which aired May 16, 1983. (Photo: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

In the end, Mischer and de Passe had Jackson play “Billie Jean,” with Mischer agreeing to take a call from a presumably disgruntled Marvin Gaye on Monday.

For those who didn’t live in 1983, or perhaps remember the performance incorrectly, Jackson’s actual moonwalk was surprisingly short: it lasted only two and a half seconds. There are a few squeals of approval from fans in the audience, but that moment alone didn’t bring the crowd down. But like most myths, it has evolved exponentially over the years.

Michael Jackson on

Michael Jackson on “Yesterday, Today, Forever”. (Photo: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

A few weeks later, Mischer began editing the concerto together. Jackson visited him to decide what footage of his performance he wanted. “He had very clear creative ideas about what he wanted and how he wanted to see himself portrayed,” Mischer said. “There were times we didn’t agree on a shot or something, but I always submitted to him. … I trusted his judgement.”

But while Jackson might have been an oversized presence on stage, in Mischer’s editing department he was the polar opposite. “He was always quiet … he was a very quiet, shy person,” Mischer said. “He came into a room and just walked into a corner. He whispered to people. [But] When he came on stage he was like a general.”

Also at <em>motown 25</em> Michael Jackson reunited with his brothers for a Jackson 5 greatest hits medley. (Photo: Getty Images).” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/1wShYzWm4tGCik7j9hQ60Q –/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY2MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/homerun/feed_manager_auto_publish_494/1c710a077058a4a67b525c30a4e2f043″/><noscript><img alt=motown 25 Michael Jackson reunited with his brothers for a Jackson 5 greatest hits medley. (Photo: Getty Images).” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/1wShYzWm4tGCik7j9hQ60Q– /YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY2MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/homerun/feed_manager_auto_publish_494/1c710a077058a4a67b525c30a4e2f043″ class=”caas-img”/>

On too motown 25Michael Jackson joined his brothers for a medley of the Jackson 5’s greatest hits. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ultimately, Jackson was happy with it motown 25. Mischer says he received a signed photo after it aired that said, “Thank you for the magical moment.” And the rest of the country shared this opinion. Mischer says he was at the White House days later to film an interview by Barbara Walters with Nancy Reagan. He recalls: “When I came down the elevator [of the hotel], everyone is talking about Michael. In the cab going to the White House, everyone was talking about Michael. In the east wing [of the White House] … everyone is talking about it motown 25 and Michael.”

He continued, “We do things like this and never know how people are going to react, but that morning in Washington … I suddenly said to myself, ‘This show really had an incredible impact.'”

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