The Lowdown Hub

Things Michael Jackson invented, from the iconic moonwalk dance to his Smooth Criminal music video

The King of Pop would have been 63 on August 29 – but did you know he once patented a stunt shoe allowing him to stand at a 45-degree angle?
The 15-minute Thriller MV redefined the promotional tool as a stand-alone art form and helped propel the nascent MTV channel to the forefront of 1980s pop culture

Michael Jackson the inventor? You better believe it. Photo: @michaeljackson/ Instagram

Were he alive today, Michael Jackson would likely be engaged in the final stages of planning an epic birthday bash. This year he would have turned 63.

Michael Jackson performing on stage for

the Dangerous tour in 1992 – he would

have been 63 on August 29. Photo:

Getty Images/TNS

Jackson’s performance talent and musical genius is recognised by the whole world. But besides the decades of legendary music and unforgettable entertainment, many are not aware that the pop superstar was also an incredible inventor, even holding a patent for one of his groundbreaking inventions.

Michael Jackson at Dodger Stadium in Los

Angeles, as part of his Victory tour in 1984.

Photo: AP

So what creations can be credited as being the brainchild of the King of Pop? We take a closer look at three of his most iconic inventions.

A gravity-defying patent

A holographic image of Michael Jackson performs onstage during the 2014 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, in Las Vegas. Photo: Getty Images

n 1988, the world was gifted the now-classic music video to Jackson’s mega hit Smooth Criminal. In the video, Jackson is seen performing a number of iconic moves, but one in particular left audiences astonished, wondering how on earth he did it.

With his crew of backup dancers, Jackson executes a gravity-defying move, leaning some 45 degrees forward without falling over, and then reverting back to his original upright position.

With his crew of backup dancers, Jackson executes a gravity-defying move, leaning some 45 degrees forward without falling over, and then reverting back to his original upright position.

Michael Jackson performs at Madison Square Garden in New York, in September, 2001, the first of two performances in New York as part of his “30th Anniversary Celebration, the Solo Years”. Photo: AFP

The three co-founders of the Anti-Gravity Shoe were awarded the patent for their invention in October 1993. The trick behind the gravity-defying illusion? It’s a gadgety combination of rods rising from the stage floor and the specifically designed shoes, with ankle support and cut-out heels, that glide over the stage rods. This enables the wearer to enjoy a stationary position on stage, giving that incredible 45 degree angular effect.

The magical moves

US pop singer Michael Jackson onstage during his heyday at Munich’s Olympic Stadium, in 1999. Photo: Reuters

If there’s one thing that can be said about the late great Michael Jackson, it’s that he moved like no other. His dancing and iconic footsteps are the definition of legendary, with the acclaimed moonwalk being the quintessential Jackson move.

Michael Jackson performs in Sydney in 1996. Photo: AP Photo

However, Jackson did not technically create the dance himself; the backwards slide can be traced as far back as 1930s America, when jazz musician Cab Calloway was performing a similar slide that he termed “the buzz”.

Even though the move wasn’t the King of Pop’s original brainchild, he does get credit for renaming it “The Moonwalk”. And the dance move has been associated with him ever since – so much so that most people would easily presume it was his invention.

Michael Jackson performs during the Democratic National Committee (DNC) benefit concert, “A Night at the Apollo”, at the world-famous Apollo Theater in New York, in 2002. Photo: AFP

Jackson did the moonwalk for the first time in 1983, performing his hit song Billie Jeanon a TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. Since that breakthrough performance, Jackson moonwalked on virtually every stage he entertained on.

The inspiration for an entire industry

Michael Jackson holds eight Grammy Awards. Photo: AP

Despite Jackson being far from the first musician to release a music video, the artist is often given the honourable distinction of redefining the genre, ultimately legitimising it as more than just a simple promotional tool, but a genuine and lucrative art form in itself.

And it all started with what has been described as “the most famous music video of all time”, Thriller.

The album cover of “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, the bestselling album in history. Photo: Handout

When the 15-minute music video for Jackson’s hit song came out in 1983, nothing like it had been done before.

It had a massive budget, and featured an iconic wardrobe, mesmerising special effects, and impressive choreography and make-up. At the time, it almost felt like a mini-movie rather than a video to go alongside a song.

The video is also responsible for inspiring the Making Of genre of documentaries. Moreover, it was played repeatedly on MTV, solidifying the nascent network’s place as the pop culture juggernaut it would become. The video has consequently even been said to have single-handedly helped tear down pre-existing racial barriers in popular culture, music and entertainment.