Michael Jackson reunited with his brothers to perform a medley of their hits “I Want You Back,” The Love You Save,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” and “I’ll Be There.” Brother Randy joined the group for the medley. (When Jermaine left the Jackson 5 for a solo career, Randy had replaced him. He also sang with later group The Jacksons.) Jermaine was also there, performing with his brothers for the first time since leaving the group. Michael originally turned down the opportunity to perform at the show believing he had been doing too much television at the time, however at Berry Gordy’s request, Michael agreed to perform under the condition he was allotted time for a solo spot, which Gordy agreed to.
As the other members of the Jackson 5 left the stage, Michael transitioned dramatically into his own solo spot. Widely hailed as Michael’s breakthrough performance as a solo artist, he performed “Billie Jean”, which at the time was in the middle of a seven-week run atop the Billboard Hot 100 music charts. This was also the first time he performed what would become his most famous signature move, the moonwalk. Michael’s performance at the show was unique in that he was the only artist given time to perform music that wasn’t written under the Motown label.
Michael Jackson’s concert performances of “Billie Jean” in the years since Motown 25 were always formatted on his performance on this special, from the opening pose with the fedora, black sequin jacket and glove, to the moonwalk routine in the song’s bridge.