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Happy 50th Birthday, Michael Jackson!

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There are many things one can say about Michael Jackson; many things people have said about Michael Jackson. And most of them, if not “true,” are certainly valid. (Hell, even I wondered at the decision to put him on the cover of Ebony magazine for Thriller‘s 25th anniversary. However, given that there’s no Used-to-be-Ebony-and-is-now-Pretty-Much-Ivory magazine, I’m sure there wasn’t much deliberation.)

But it’s Michael Jackson’s 50th birthday today, so rather than focus on the sad circus that has become his life, I wanna remember the time when he was perhaps the single greatest stage performer pop culture had ever seen. Just watch.

I was 12 when this Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special aired, in 1983 (yes, I’m an old man), and it’s hard to convey just how brain-pan-exploding the moonwalk was back then. Within minutes of seeing Jackson glide across the stage, an entire generation of kids—black and white, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics—were bedazzling their winter gloves and scuffing up their kitchen floors trying to figure it out. (Never mind that a tap dancer named Bill Bailey had figured it out decades prior.) So, Happy Birthday, Mike. Thanks for, you know, everything before you skidded off the runway.

I told you my favorite Michael Jackson memory…what’s yours?

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