Saturday, June 27, 2009


I can't remember what spurred me, but many months ago I went searching for video clips of "moonwalking"--the dance move that Michael Jackson famously popularized and is often credited with "inventing." I never got around to finishing my blog post on moonwalking, but the time seems right to do so now.

Michael Jackson was an amazing performer and creative genius, but he didn't invent the moonwalk. He was taught the move--called the "backslide"--by choreographer, Jeffrey Daniel, who reports that it took much practice for Jackson to get it just right. A fascinating NPR interview in which Mr. Daniel discusses Jackson's choreography and influences can be heard here. His recollection is that Jackson first saw the backslide when Daniel performed it at Disneyland with The Electric Boogaloos. Here's a video of Jeffrey Daniel bustin' some moves with Shalamar. The moonwalk comes in at about the 2:00 mark.

Levon Helm, the Band's remarkable drummer and singer (and my favorite member) wrote about gigging with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks in his early days, and mentioned that Hawkins had several dance moves including a moonwalk. The clip I found on YouTube has been removed for licensing reasons, but I managed to find this excerpt on MySpace. Ronnie Hawkins does a slow version of the moonwalk near the end. That's a young Levon Helm at the drumkit. I'll get around to a Levon Helm post one of these days.

Tap dancer Bill Bailey puts on an amazing performance in this 1955 clip, with a moonwalking exit at 2:05.

This video of Cab Calloway performing "Kickin’ the Gong Around" (1932) is great, great fun. At about 2:00 he throws in some dance steps, including something close to a moonwalk and a Michael Jackson spin.


Stephen said...

that is a very impressive post.
& I thought that I was smart!
Thank you.

splattworks said...

Oh, you made my day with the Hawks video. Thanks. I also share your affection for Levon--he's on my list of people I'd really like to meet someday. Recently ran across an anecdote about Sonny Boy Williamson talking with Robbie Robertson after coming back from a tour in early Sixties England (where he played with a young Clapton). He said, "Man, those cats want to play the blues so bad. And that's what they do."

Also, Dr. Phun said I should hip you to the following book: