Legends of the Apollo

For more than 75 years, some of the world’s greatest entertainers have performed at the famous Harlem theater

James Brown recorded three live performances at the Apollo Theater, in 1962, 1967 and 1971. (Courtesy Smtihsonian Books)


Michael Jackson and Jackson Five
(Maura McCarthy)
In 1967, nine-year-old Michael Jackson debuted at the Apollo Theater as the youngest member and lead singer of the band of brothers soon to become known as the Jackson Five. Before long, Motown Records signed the group and four consecutive hits followed. But it was as a solo artist that Michael Jackson would become the biggest crossover star to take the stage at the Apollo. “Michael collapsed and coalesced the large idea of what it meant to be an entertainer into an eclectic bundle,” says Ramsey. “He knew the history of old movies, he understood the history of dance.” Indeed, Jackson, whose 1982 release “Thriller” remains the best-selling album in history, is equally remembered for his mesmerizing dance moves. “The integration of dance and the visual dimension was as important as the music,” says Maultsby. “Michael made music videos that were mini-movies. He created dances and costumes and used props and groups of people behind him to produce theatrical effects,” she says. “He put on musicals.”

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