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A decade before the King of Pop Michael Jackson did his eye-popping Moonwalk on the Motown 25 television special, he became famous for another dance move: the Robot.
The date was October 27, 1973 when, on a Soul Train appearance by The Jackson 5 to promote their new album Get it Together, Michael Jackson moved like a motorized robot during the instrumental break on their performance of “Dancing Machine,” which at this time was a popular album track not yet released as a single. By 1972, Soul Train was seen in 25 major television markets across the United States.  People everywhere tuned in not only to see the recording artists, but to see the Soul Train Gang and the dances they were going to do. Watching other young black people in their teens and early twenties “get their groove on” on television every Saturday was a big thrill for Michael, since he lived a sheltered life as a result of being a busy child star and could not be as free as other teens.  He could watch Soul Train and, for one hour, pretend he was one of the Soul Train Gang doing their various dance styles. By 1972, Soul Train had had all of the big name R&B stars on the program, but to have a superstar group like the Jackson 5 on the program could open a lot of doors for the program. It was at that first Soul Train appearance that they wanted to meet the popular regulars on the show such as Jimmy “Scoo B Doo” Foster,  Damita Jo Freeman and Patricia Davis.  Eventually, the Jackson family became friends with the Soul Train Gang and they would invite the dancers to their home in Encino, California for parties and gatherings.  In a Right On! When The Jackson 5 performed “Dancing Machine” for the first time on television on the Bob Hope Special in September 1973, Michael took what he learned from watching the Soul Train Gang and debuted the Robot during the song’s instrumental break. When the Bob Hope Special aired on September 26, 1973, Michael was disappointed that his Robot move was not captured properly since he wanted it to have more impact.  He always realized the importance of dance being filmed properly for television.
When The Jackson 5 was booked to tape Soul Train on October 13, 1973, Michael was determined that this time his Robot dance step would be captured the right way for television. This time around, the cameraman focused precisely on Michael during the instrumental break of “Dancing Machine,” as he stepped away from his brothers and executed some automatic, robotic moves while donning a trance like glare. Michael wanted to perfect the dance move, so two popular regulars from Soul Train whom he was friends with, Patricia Davis and Gary Keys, would go to the Jackson family’s home to work mainly with Michael and his brother Marlon in their living room to practice various ways of doing the Robot. Patricia and Gary’s work with Michael became evident in his future concert performances, as well as on future television performances of “Dancing Machine” on programs such as Sonny & Cher and Carol Burnett. In its heyday, Soul Train was the definitive program to showcase and promote dance, fashion and music.
To commemorate the fourth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s untimely passing, this month’s edition of Soul Train History Book will focus on Michael’s solo work on Soul Train and Soul Train-related programming.
When Motown Records Chairman Berry Gordy saw the Jackson 5‘s audition tape, he enthused about the whole group, but he was especially impressed with Michael. Seeing Michael perform this touching song, in light of his untimely death and how he spoke often about his missed childhood due to being in show business, makes one a little emotional. The song reached number #14 on the soul singles charts and no higher than #50 on the pop charts, but the chart showings don’t reflect the beauty of this song.
Stevie Wonder also had written and produced tunes for a Jackson 5 album as well, but both the group’s songs and Michael’s songs produced by Stevie remained in Motown’s vaults until one of those tracks, “Buttercup,” was released in 2010 as part of a CD compilation. After the Jackson 5 were a smash at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, the powers-that-be at Motown had boosted the group’s fee for making personal appearances, especially on television.
The Dancing Machine album, which Michael had said in interviews he was not pleased with and was not as good as it could have been, was basically comprised of previously unreleased tunes that Motown Records put together in an obvious attempt to cash in on the huge success of the “Dancing Machine” single. Michael didn’t look too enthused when Don was interviewing him about the album, half-heartedly stating his favorite tracks from the album. The movie that was being referred to was “Isoman Cross & Sons,” which was written and going to be produced and directed by veteran actor Raymond St.
Michael then performed a beautiful ballad from the album entitled “If I Don’t Love You This Way.” He closed the show with a percolating track called “What You Don’t Know,” causing Soul Train dancer Little Joe Chism to blow his party whistle and the Soul Train Gang to scream and cheer. A sister group, MDLT, who had been performing with the Jackson 5 as an opening act for their concerts in 1974, also performed two tracks on this episode, the second being one that the Jackson 5 wrote and produced for them entitled “What’s Your Game?” It was released on Joseph Jackson’s new label Ivory Tower Records, and their Soul Train appearance helped boost the single up to 89 on the soul single charts. The Dancing Machine album went to number 16 on the pop album charts, becoming the Jackson 5’s last gold album at Motown. The next time Michael performed solo on Soul Train was on a show taped in December 1975, featuring tunes from his Forever, Michael album, the last studio album he recorded for Motown. Don asked Michael what his hobbies were, to which Michael replied reading books and feeding the birds in his bird collection.
Michael’s comments about Danny nearly caused him to get into a fight with his classmate the Monday after this program aired. Michael told Don of his future plans, which included recording other artists and doing movies which he stated he really wanted to give a try.
Michael’s promotion of Forever, Michael was an attempt to boost sales of the album, which sold poorly when it was released in January 1975. Michael’s last solo performance on Soul Train was on the January 1979 taping, a tenth anniversary salute to the Jacksons career in the entertainment industry as well as a promotion for their new album on Epic entitled Destiny.
Michael’s very last appearance on Soul Train was a cameo spot to further discuss his work in The Wiz (this segment was taped the same day of the tenth anniversary salute of the group).
Although Michael no longer performed on Soul Train, his affiliation with the show did not cease. At the third annual Soul Train Music Awards, Eddie Murphy and legendary movie actress and Michael’s dear friend Elizabeth Taylor presented him with the Heritage Award for Career Achievement and the very first Sammy Davis Jr.
At the seventh annual Soul Train Music Awards, TV viewers and those in attendance at the ceremony were shocked to see Michael on crutches which he later explained was due to him twisting his ankle while rehearsing (Bob Jones, Michael’s former PR person claimed in his book The Man Behind the Mask that once Michael returned to his Neverland estate, he threw his crutches to the ground and started dancing around saying, “It’s a miracle!,” believing Michael pulled a publicity stunt during the awards ceremony). In November 1995, Michael took part in a 25th anniversary special saluting the Soul Train television series.
For some reason, Michael’s performances for the special were filmed on a separate night apart from the main ceremony. Over the years, Michael also worked with Don Cornelius to have artists on his record label, MJJ Music, to appear on Soul Train. In 2009, the year Michael passed way, he received a posthumous honor as Entertainer of the Year at the Soul Train Awards. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has acquired a variety of set props and artifacts from the legendary Soul Train franchise.
In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Soul Train has donated a collection of iconic signs to be displayed in the museum’s music and popular culture exhibitions when it opens to the public in 2015. The program will begin with a conversation moderated by museum curator Tuliza Fleming exploring the series’ phenomenal impact on popular culture, television, fashion, advertising and race relations.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors tradition bearers from across the United States and around the world. The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established by an Act of Congress in 2003 making it the 19th museum of the Smithsonian Institution. PLEASE ANYONE FROM SOUL TRAIN KNOW HOW I CAN GET COPY OF TAPING SOUL TRAIN AIRED IN CHICAGO 1972 i WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL AND A GROUP OF US WAS ON DANCING SEVERAL TIMES!!!I I WOULD SO LOVE TO SHOW MY KIDS AND GRANDBABY. Billy attended Temple University, West Philadelphia Music School and Granoff School of Music for formal vocal training. He cut his first record entitled “Why Am I” with a trio he formed on Jubilee Records before being drafted into the Armed Forces. Billy later performed “This is Your Life,” a nice tune about celebrating one’s life which was taken from his previous album Going East. It was unusual for an artist to return to the following month’s Soul Train taping to perform the same song he or she did on the previous taping, but Billy did just that on the program’s November taping to not only further promote “Me & Mrs. Naturally, the Soul Train Gang wanted to know more about the man whose record the majority of them bought, so a Q&A session with Billy was held midway in the show. Dancer Bobby Washington asked Billy if he ever thought of singing with a female singer to which Billy replied, “I have a couple in mind including a young lady from Cincinnati named Randy Crawford.” (Randy Crawford would go on to become a popular singer years later).
Billy’s fifth album, the outstanding War of the Gods (with an equally outstanding album cover), was released in October 1973.
Billy returned to Soul Train on its January 20, 1974 taping to perform “Thanks For Saving My Life” and an uptempo danceable tune entitled “The Whole Town’s Talking” from War of the Gods.

Several of the songs he performed on the London leg of the European tour were released on his wonderful live album entitled Billy Paul Live in Europe. Billy’s seventh studio album, the fantastic When Love Is New, was released in November 1975. Later during the interview, Don asked Billy if he was gratified over the success of the When Love Is New album.
Billy then performed the uptempo, thumping “People Power,” a great song about solidarity among the human race. Billy closed with the aforementioned “Let’s Make A Baby.” Unlike what most people think of the song’s title, the song is a gentle, beautiful ballad about a married couple coming together to “be fruitful and multiply” and make children and raise them with wisdom and knowledge. During the course of the interview, Billy said while he was working on the album for the past nine months his twin sister had died.
Billy closed with “I Trust You,” a wonderful song about a solid relationship based on trust.
Journalist, actor, filmmaker, dancer, performer, writer, poet, historian and choreographer.
I had the enormous please of meeting Billy Paul last week at the Bill Medley Time of your Life tour.
THE WONDERFUL THING ABOUT ALL OF US BEING TYPE CAST UNDER THE LABEL OF BLACK IS WE CAN ALL WORK TOGETHER. With its smooth, soulful tunes and groovy dance moves, Soul Train launched the careers of countless African American artists and set lasting trends in music, dance, and fashion for more than three decades. The Jackson family was among those who watched Soul Train when their busy schedules permitted.  They were all fascinated by the Soul Train Gang’s splits, tumbles, pop-locking and freestyle dance moves. Magazine interview, LaToya Jackson recalled how the Soul Train Gang and she and members of her family would do Soul Train lines in their living room. However, only the studio audience present at the taping of the performance saw Michael’s mechanical maneuvers since, for some strange reason, the cameraman did a close-up on youngest brother Randy playing the congas during the instrumental section instead of focusing on Michael doing the Robot.  The cameraman only caught the brief tail-end of Michael doing the Robot before he joined his brothers in doing a lockstep routine in which they “roboted” behind each other like wind-up dolls. When he was younger, he would get mad when the cameramen would only show close ups of his idol James Brown during television performances instead of showing his feet and whole body, since he wanted to watch and study him.
Following the airing of that Soul Train broadcast, kids across the country were doing the Robot . Michael loved how animated Patricia Davis would be when she did the Robot on the program, and he wanted his robot performances to have the same effect. For instance, at a party for Al Green in 1974, rock star David Bowie wanted to learn how to do the Robot so Michael, accompanied by Patricia Davis, Little Joe Chism (another popular regular from Soul Train) and Al Green himself, tried to demonstrate to David how to do the Robot.  Bowie could not get his joints to move the right way and the demonstration soon became laughable. Michael Jackson took note of this and realized how important the power of television was and utilized Soul Train as a vehicle to make his dance step popular. The Jackson 5 was the opening act for Gladys Knight & The Pips on this show and Don, like everyone else in attendance, was in awe of the entire group, particularly young Michael’s showmanship. If anyone didn’t know that this song was originally recorded by Stevie Wonder in 1966, one would think the song was written specifically for Michael.
By the time this episode aired in most areas on October 5, 1974, the Jackson 5’s latest album Dancing Machine had been released. Interestingly enough, during those recording sessions, the Jackson 5 did “doo doo wop” background vocals on Stevie Wonder’s number one soul and pop hit “You Haven’t Done Nothin,” which was a message to the then scandal-plagued President Richard Nixon. It was learned that Don Cornelius could not afford the new performance fee Motown was asking to have all five brothers appear on his program.
Most of the songs on this album were recorded during the sessions for the Get it Together album, with the exception of their outstanding track “I Am Love,” which was supposed to be the concept for the new album, but Motown rejected the concept, and threw that track along with “Dancing Machine” and other previously unreleased tunes to fill up the album.
Don noted that the album was inspired by the success of the single “Dancing Machine,” which Michael said sold 4 million, but that the group’s biggest selling single was “I’ll Be There.” Don also asked about the group’s performance in Las Vegas, and Michael replied that the group always wanted to play Vegas (however, the group wasn’t initially happy about doing Vegas when their father Joseph Jackson made arrangements for them to perform there). Michael answered that the movie was scheduled to start shooting in November with tentative stars Bill Cosby and Cicely Tyson (he had incorrectly said Liza Minnelli, prompting him and the Soul Train Gang to laugh). On the subject of school, Michael told Don he attended a private school with other celebrity child stars such as Danny Bonaduce from the by-then defunct TV program The Partridge Family. Danny recalled in his book and on the nineties program An Evening With Clint Holmes that when he went to school that Monday and saw Michael, he screamed, “Jackson, I’m gonna kick your butt!”  He then said all of a sudden, Michael’s brothers appeared from out of nowhere and when he saw what a big guy Tito was, he backed down. When Don told Michael that he had the looks for being an actor, Michael shrugged off the remark (Don, like many other people, had no idea the agony Michael was going through at this time battling acne). While fairly successful on the soul album charts at number 10, it peaked no higher than 101 on the pop album charts. Before Michael performed during a solo spot, Don Cornelius asked him about his work on his new motion picture The Wiz. Nevertheless, Michael came to not only receive several awards, but to also present an award to Eddie Murphy for that year’s Heritage Award for career achievement. Aside from being an anniversary special, it inducted several R&B music stars into the program’s hall of fame, including Michael Jackson, Barry White, Diana Ross, Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston, Al Green and others (notoriously missing were the Godfather of Soul James Brown and Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin).
Michael did a truly incredible performance of his song “Dangerous” along with his new number one hit “You Are Not Alone.” During the number, a teenage girl came out of the audience and went on to stage to hug Michael, but that was pre-planned before the ceremony.
Artists from his label that performed on the show were his nephews’ group 3T, his sister Rebbie Jackson, Tatyana Ali, a kid hip-hop duo called Quo consisting of Wade Robson and DeWayne Turrentine, Men of Vizion (who recorded the Jacksons’ hit “Show You the Way to Go”) and Brownstone. Throughout its rich history which spanned decades on the air, Soul Train featured performances by the most recognized names in R&B, soul, and hip-hop. The event is the first evening program for the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s “Rhythm and Blues: Tell It Like It Is” and will celebrate Soul Train’s cultural and historic impact on music and dance. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites performers and visitors in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. He began his singing career when he was only twelve years old, singing on local radio shows.
He eventually became known through his performances on Philadelphia’s underground music circuit.
After his discharge, he joined the new record label Dawn Records and had a brief stint as a member of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. Jones” comes appearances on television, and Billy made several appearances on all of the major television shows. Jones,” the Soul Train Gang screamed and yelled.  He received a thunderous ovation afterwards and shouts of “Right on!” from the enthusiastic dancers when he finished his performance.
Jones” was an influence on the music of a new artist in 1973 named Barry White as well as other artists. Billy replied that he was, due to the fact that he had a chance to write some songs for the album, including “Let the Dollar Circulate.” Don asked who wrote the controversial tune on the album “Let’s Make A Baby,” to which Billy answered Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Some critics at the time thought the song was promoting fornication and out-of-wedlock children, but that wasn’t the case at all. He opened with his performance of “Word Sure Gets Around,” a sweet ballad about the spreading of relationship rumors from his current album, Let ‘Em In.
He mentioned that the title track and another track from the album, “Without You,” were dedicated to her. His version is even superior to the Beatles’ original version, interspersed with inspirational audio quotes from Louis Farrakhan, Malcolm X, Dick Gregory and Dr. Jones” was such a huge hit that it seemed to many that its mega success overshadowed him as an artist.
To create this unparalleled tribute to the show, Questlove, the brilliant frontman for the Roots, has pored through more than 1,100 episodes of the show and been given exclusive access to its archives to present hundreds of never-before-seen photographs and the riveting, unfiltered story of how Don Cornelius revolutionized black entertainment. You will learn how all-star performers such as Ike and Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Whitney Houston, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, LL Cool J, Lenny Kravitz, the Beastie Boys, and Mariah Carey, to name a few, got their start, and get an up-close look at the show’s most memorable dancers, and the moves and fashion they popularized.

It was beloved by generations of youth, like Questlove, who eagerly awaited every episode, and young music lovers are still discovering it today. One of the Soul Train Gang dance moves Michael would watch with intense fascination was the Robot. He took note of this for future television performances, notably his legendary Motown 25 performance when he worked with the director for every shot and angle of that performance so the television audience would get the full effect.
Although it was not a new step, since kids had been doing this dance in inner-city neighborhoods since the late sixties and early seventies, a big star like Michael Jackson enhanced this move when he did it on Soul Train and helped to make it popular in the mainstream.  “It seemed like every kid in the United States was doing the Robot,” Michael recalled in his Moonwalk autobiography. She remembered that they “were kind of stiff at first,” but that they eventually were able to do the move more fluidly.
Indeed, his classic Soul Train performance of the Robot illustrated that the future King of Pop was an iconic master of dance long before he moonwalked into the orbit of superstardom.
He is featured in the new Soul Train documentary Show Me Your Soul and is also featured in the new book Love, Peace & Soul by Ericka Blount Danois which is available at bookstores and on Amazon. He also made an appearance on Soul Train once all by himself when his brothers were not present.
So when viewers watching Soul Train that day saw that Michael Jackson was going to be a guest, many assumed he was going to be doing songs from a new solo album, presumably the solo album that was being produced by Stevie Wonder, a story that was printed in various magazines. So since Michael did most of the lead vocals on the new album, as with previous albums, it was decided that he would come on Soul Train by himself to promote three of its tracks which featured his lead vocals. This is rare to see since this was one of the only times Michael ever took questions from an audience on a television show.  The gang asked many interesting questions, such as one by a dancer who asked Michael if he thought that the Jackson 5 influenced a lot of the other young groups.
Joseph Jackson had a huge press party a few months earlier to make the announcement about the movie.
It was rumored that the powers-that-be at Motown were angry that the group’s smash Las Vegas act and them writing and producing songs for their dad’s new record label as well as doing a movie were moves controlled by their dad and not Motown.  So somehow the album’s sales were not accurately reported for the soul album chart, causing it not to appear on the chart at all, which was Motown’s way of telling the group who was ultimately in control of their recording career.
Don asked if Danny was a good kid and Michael half-heartedly replied, “Yeah, I guess you can say that.” “That’s not what you told me before,” Don countered. This was one of the motivating factors which led Joseph to search for a new record label, one which would promote his sons better as well as give them the opportunity to write and produce their own material, which Motown would not allow.
This was where Elizabeth bestowed him with the title “King of Pop, Rock & Soul” (Michael’s former PR person Bob Jones claimed that he coined the term “King of Pop” at Michael’s urging and it was placed on banners at arenas during Michael’s Bad tour throughout 1988).
The show’s legacy also includes an important cross-cultural influence on American music, fashion and dance trends.
Currently, during the pre-building phase, the museum is producing publications, hosting public programs and assembling collections. It was from listening to his family’s collection of 78 rpm records that he began developing a vocal style that would combine jazz, R&B and pop. Since he visited us last, his album 360 Degrees of Billy Paul has been released on Philadelphia International and contains such tunes as “Let’s Stay Together,” “Me & Mrs. Jones,” failed to chart, but the second single, “Thanks For Saving My Life,” a heartwarming mid-tempo  tune, made it to number nine on the soul charts and 37 on the pop charts.
During Billy’s interview with Don, he mentioned that he had returned from a European tour with The O’Jays and The Intruders, stating that the response was great and very receptive. The mere title of that song brought laughter among Billy, Don and the Soul Train Gang due to its suggestive title. It’s taken more than forty years for the awesome legacy of Soul Train to be celebrated in a proper way, and this book does just that. Any solo performance or appearance by Michael on Soul Train, as on any program he performed with or without his brothers, had all of his fans watching with bated interest and excitement. Michael more than happily answered, “Yeah, that is true.” He added that after his group came on the scene, the Osmonds and other groups followed. Don asked Michael if he would come back to Soul Train despite the fact that he was a big movie star. When Michael came out to receive his award amidst a standing ovation, Eddie humorously adjusted the microphone for Michael, a funny dig at Michael for asking him to adjust the microphone stand at the American Music Awards three months earlier. Following the panel discussion will be a dance lesson from Proctor and Urban Artistry dancers. It is presenting exhibitions at other museums across the country and at its own gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
He eventually went solo and recorded his first album, Feeling Good at the Cadillac Club, produced by Gamble & Huff on the Gamble label.
It sold well over one million copies and made Billy Paul a superstar and earned him a Grammy Award. Jones” was indeed such a popular record that Don could not resist bringing him back to his show during the height of the song’s massive popularity. As he performed, the entire set was dark to set the right proper mood and atmosphere with the exception of a spotlight on Billy, who wore a white suit and black hat.
He spoke of the concerts he had done recently with MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother), chiefly his concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall which was very successful. Jones,” “Am I Black Enough For You,” was deemed militant by pop radio stations and it had been said that his music was blackballed thereafter (a similar fate happened to Curtis Mayfield’s music on pop radio after the mega success of the Super Fly movie soundtrack).
To quote part of the title of the hit album that put Billy on the map, he recorded 360 degrees worth of dynamic music in the genres of soul, jazz and pop that is worthy of wider recognition. Michael then performed the dreamy, moody ballad “Push Me Away,” the second track off the group’s Destiny album. Michael laughed and replied, “Definitely!” Alas, this was Michael’s swan song appearance on Soul Train. In 1988, he received awards for the Best Soul Single Male for “Bad” and Best R&B Album of the Year for his album Bad. Although he couldn’t dance due to his injury, his energy was still high as he did a lot of hand and neck movements with the audience repeatedly chanted, “Go Michael! This unforgettable track garnered widespread airplay on many radio stations, got played on a lot of turntables, in bar jukeboxes and in blue light in the basement parties.
Coming from a jazz background it was one of the greatest things to happen for any singer because of the fact I took an interest at heart but learned to build on it. Also, the onslaught of disco music hurt both the sales and airplay of R&B artists like Billy Paul and others in the mid- to late seventies. His third album, Going East, was released on Gamble & Huff’s newly formed Philadelphia International Records label.
When I say that I just didn’t want to be labeled as a jazz singer but like my new album, the one that ‘Me & Mrs. Hats would ultimately become Billy’s trademark as he wore a purple vinyl apple cap on this appearance.
His appearance on the show was part of a strategy to boost sales of his Dangerous album by making several TV appearances, most notably his half-time performance on the Super Bowl and his interview with Oprah Winfrey, which was watched by 90 million people around the world. This album and Ebony Woman made some headway as the record-buying public became familiar with Billy and his trademark, distinctive singing voice.
Jones” and dismissed him as a one-hit wonder, which is a shame because his body of work is excellent.

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