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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moonwalking before Michael Jackson?

Michael Jackson made the moonwalk world-famous during his performance in the 1983 TV special, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. But who inspired the King of Pop to make it his signature step? Here's a glove full of earlier moonwalkers who could have influenced him in one way or another:

Jeffrey Daniel, a dancer/choreographer who worked with him on the “Bad” and “Smooth Criminal” videos, claimed in a recent NPR interview that he taught Jackson the move. Daniel moonwalked in on BBC television's Top of the Pops in 1982 and says he got it from the Electric Boogaloos.

Tap dancer Bill Bailey, brother of singer Pearl Bailey, was the first to moonwalk on film, which he called “backslide,” in the 1943 classic Cabin in the Sky. Bailey can also be seen doing it at the end of a tap routine in 1955.

French mimes had a similar traditional move for “walking in place.” Marcel Marceau's teacher, Jean-Louis Barrault did it with moving scenery in the 1945 French film Children of Paradise (“Les Enfants du paradis”).

David Bowie, who studied mime, was likely the first rock musician to moonwalk during his 1974 Diamond Dogs Tour, a show Jackson saw in Los Angeles and would later talk about.

And forty years ago this month, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were the first men to actually walk on the Moon, a journey Aldrin describes in his new book, Magnificent Desolation.

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