It was 38 years ago tonight (May 16th, 1983) that the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever TV special aired on NBC. Motown 25 aired to instant critical acclaim and went on snag the 1984 Emmy Award for Best Variety Program. Apart from Motown's greatest acts from the 1960's reuniting onstage for the first time in years, Motown 25 has earned a place in pop culture as the night that millions of viewers watched Michael Jackson moonwalk to his then-current single “Billie Jean” from his recently released album Thriller.
Earlier that night Jackson had reunited with the original Jackson Five — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon Jackson, along with younger brother Randy — for a medley of their early Motown hits, including “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” and “I'll Be There.”
The Temptations — including former vocalist Eddie Kendricks — and the Four Tops squared off during a battle of the bands trading off their legendary Motown hits. Other acts included Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and Marvin Gaye, who was fresh off his recent hit “Sexual Healing,” and sat at the piano and performed an emotional version of his 1971 classic “What's Going On.” Smokey Robinson reunited with the Miracles for a medley of their hits, and teamed up with Linda Ronstadt for renditions of the group's “Ooh Baby Baby” and “Tracks Of My Tears.”