The Jackson 5 Powered Up An Eye-Catching Dance on 'Soul Train'

The Jackson 5 on 'Soul Train,' 1974
Photo Credit
2001 Tribune Entertainment

When The Jackson 5 released their eighth album, G.I.T.: Get It Together, in 1973, it charted at a dismal No. 100 on Billboard's album chart - a potential sign that the maturing Motown group's best days were behind them. But tucked away on the end of that record was a track that gave their career a much-needed jolt - and previewed Michael Jackson's status as a future legend of dance.

READ MORE: February 1970: When the Jackson 5 Ruled No. 1 with "I Want You Back"

"Dancing Machine," a funky number co-written and produced by Motown stalwart Hal Davis, was remixed and reissued as a J5 single in 1974, where it sailed to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 - the group's first song in the Top 10 in three years. Though Michael's voice was starting to change, "Dancing Machine" gave listeners the first idea of where his voice was going - still high for a Black man, but not losing an ounce of soul in its maturation.

When it came time to promote the Dancing Machine album, the brothers found themselves on all the usual TV shows to play their new hit. "I was determined to find a dance move that would enhance the song and make it more exciting to perform," Michael later wrote in his memoir Moonwalk. So on Nov. 3, 1974, Soul Train aired one of the most striking renditions of the track, which featured Michael breaking away from the choreographed dance moves of his siblings in the song's bridge to perform a deft combination of glides, spins and locked grooves that resembled the jerky motions of a robot. That, of course, became the dance's name.

READ MORE: The Jacksons Classic Soul 1977 Interview

While Michael didn't invent it - that credit goes to Soul Train dancer Charles Washington - his performance, followed by appearances on The Mike Douglas Show and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, brought the robot into the homes of suburban kids like never before. And it set the stage for decades of groundbreaking dance moves from the future King of Pop.

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(Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)
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