It was 31 years ago tonight (May 16th, 1983) that the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever TV special aired on NBC. 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."
The evening's only sour note came during the reunion between the Supremes, when Diana Ross, in an effort to position herself between Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong, was seen shoving Wilson to the side, feeding rumors that the feud between Ross and Wilson which had been brewing since the late-'60s was still running high.
Ironically, the Supremes performed their final single "Someday We'll Be Together" -- the recording of which neither Wilson or Birdsong appeared on.
Martha Reeves explained says that Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. always had the eye and ear for talent, and feels that Motown's golden era is a direct result of Gordy's vision: "He had chosen the best of the amateur shows. I had competed with them, the groups that turned into the Miracles, the Supremes and the Temptations at 'Hitsville U.S.A.' So he went out and made a sweep of the city, and found the most talented (acts)."
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