Incredible Footage of Michael Jackson's First TV Performance Reveals How His Career Began

Incredible Footage of Michael Jackson's First TV Performance Reveals How His Career Began
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Five years ago, the King of Pop passed away in his Los Angeles home, causing such a massive outpouring of grief that it nearly broke the Internet. Since then, Michael Jackson has been prolific. He's had a Cirque de Soleil show, a video game and two posthumous albums released — including this year’s Xscape, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 (and currently sits at No. 9). In fact, his estate is raking in more money now than it did at the peak of his career.

But the spectacle around Jackson's legacy is so enormous that it's threatening to eclipse what started it all: a supremely talented, charismatic and lonely child star. This video of the Jackson 5's first TV performance gives us a glimpse into Michael's origins, as well as the man he would become. Today of all days, it's an important reminder of the man who shaped modern pop.


The video, from the 1969 Miss Black America Pageant in New York City, shows the Jackson 5 on the brink of massive stardom. Michael and his brothers had just signed with Berry Gordy's Motown Records, and would release their first single, "I Want You Back," later that year. Playing before their first national audience, the four supporting Jacksons lay down a James Brown-like guitar groove while Michael struts and yelps in the front of the bandstand, showing off his impeccable footwork. It's hard to believe he was just 10 years old — younger even than Britney, Miley and Justin were when they became famous as children. Michael would become so much more — and lose just as much. But this was always at his core.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Andrew Chow

Andrew is a New York City journalist. He is a Harvard '14 graduate, was the Music Editor for the Harvard Crimson, and has been published in The New York Times, TV Guide Magazine, The Writer, and the Santiago Times. Things he likes: A Tribe Called Quest, Louie, Carmelo Anthony, all other things New York. @andrewRchow

MORE FROM

Jenny Slate’s raw, honest exploration of female sexuality is the most riveting part of ‘Landline’

Gillian Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm's new film lets its women characters express their sexual desires on their own terms.

MTV VMA Nominations 2017: A complete list of nominees for the 34th annual Video Music Awards

The 2017 MTV VMAs are going for woke with a new best fight the system category.

‘The Defenders’ doesn’t have patience for Iron Fist’s privilege either — and that’s great

The show acknowledges Iron Fist's shortcomings, and that stops him from ruining this series, too.

Know who’s really winning ‘Game of Thrones’ this season? The show’s editing team

Props to Crispin Green and Tim Porter for episodes one and two, respectively. Y'all are some gross monsters.

TJ Miller’s explanation of the “feminist agenda” in ‘The Emoji Movie’ proves the bar is too low

How feminist can a movie with no female writers really be?

On Lana Del Rey’s lust for social consciousness

For her latest studio full-length, LDR proves there's more to her than the flower-crown aesthetic.

Jenny Slate’s raw, honest exploration of female sexuality is the most riveting part of ‘Landline’

Gillian Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm's new film lets its women characters express their sexual desires on their own terms.

MTV VMA Nominations 2017: A complete list of nominees for the 34th annual Video Music Awards

The 2017 MTV VMAs are going for woke with a new best fight the system category.

‘The Defenders’ doesn’t have patience for Iron Fist’s privilege either — and that’s great

The show acknowledges Iron Fist's shortcomings, and that stops him from ruining this series, too.

Know who’s really winning ‘Game of Thrones’ this season? The show’s editing team

Props to Crispin Green and Tim Porter for episodes one and two, respectively. Y'all are some gross monsters.

TJ Miller’s explanation of the “feminist agenda” in ‘The Emoji Movie’ proves the bar is too low

How feminist can a movie with no female writers really be?

On Lana Del Rey’s lust for social consciousness

For her latest studio full-length, LDR proves there's more to her than the flower-crown aesthetic.