The Jackson 5

  • Pop and R&B band formed in 1965 from Gary Indiana. The five members were the Jackson brothers – Jackie (vocals, percussion), Tito (vocals, guitars, synthesizer), Jermaine (lead vocals, bass guitar), Marlon (vocals, percussion) and Michael (lead vocals, conga).
  • The Jackson family patriarch, Joe Jackson, organized singing rehearsals for Jackie, Tito and Jermaine in the early 60s. By 1964, Marlon and 5 year old Michael joined their brothers. Initially, they were called The Jackson Brothers, and as Michael took on a more important role in vocals, their name changed to The Jackson 5. They entered talent competitions, winning their first in 1966. In the summer of 1967, they won talent competitions in Chicago and New York City. After rejections from several record labels (including Motown), they were signed to a label in their hometown in November 1967.
  • They recorded their debut single, Big Boy, with 9 year old Michael handling lead vocals. It was released in January 1968, selling 10,000 copies. In March that year, they had their first professional live performance, opening for Etta James at the Apollo Theater in NYC. That summer, they opened for Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, and Taylor was so impressed (particularly with Michael) that he arranged for a audition at Motown headquarters. The group signed with Motown in July.
  • Their debut album was delayed while Motown negotiated with the group’s previous record label. By March 1969, they were free to work with Motown. In September, they released their first Motown single, I Want You Back, and in December their debut album Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 was released (the label had been promoting the group as being discovered by Ross – even though they weren’t). The album topped the R&B album chart, and reached #5 on the Hot 100. I Want You Back topped the Hot 100, and suddenly, The Jackson 5 was one of the most popular acts in the U.S.
  • Two studio albums were released in 1970 – ABC and Third Album. Three singles from these records topped the Hot 100 – ABC, The Love You Save and I’ll Be There, and another song, Mama’s Pearl, reached #2. The Jackson 5 was the first recording act to have their first 4 charting singles top the Hot 100. 1971’s Maybe Tomorrow album and a Greatest Hits album that year continued their string of hit singles, with Never Can Say Goodbye and Sugar Daddy both charting in the top 10.
  • Motown’s marketing machine kicked in, and dozens of Jackson 5 products were launched, as well as a Saturday morning cartoon series. They appeared in numerous television variety shows and they starred in 2 of their own television specials. They also toured with Bob Hope’s USO benefit shows to support the troops in Vietnam.
  • In 1971, Motown launched a solo career for Michael Jackson, and soon after, Jermaine began a solo career. Both continued to perform with their brothers, and in 1972, Looking Through the Windows was released. The title track, along with Little Bitty Pretty One, reached the top 20, but their music was losing its popularity. Albums released in 1973 were less successful. They rebounded in 1974 with their disco hit Dancing Machine, which peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart.
  • Tired of the poor royalties that came with their Motown contract, they signed a new contract with Epic Records. A name change was required, and they became The Jacksons. Jermaine remained with Motown, and he was replaced by his brother Randy. In late 1976, the self titled album The Jacksons was released. The single Enjoy Yourself found them back in the top 10.
  • The Jacksons released 3 albums from 1978 to 1984, all of which were certified platinum. Five singles reached the top 5 of the R&B chart, and Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), written by Michael and Randy, peaked at #7 on the Hot 100. In 1984, their Victory album was the only album by The Jacksons that included Jermaine. The single State of Shock (featuring Mick Jagger) was their final to chart in the top 10 – it reached #3 on the Hot 100.
  • Their final album, 2300 Jackson Street, was released in 1989. It was their only album without Michael or Marlon (though they were part of the vocals in the title track – it was the first song recorded for the album and they left after it was recorded). In September 2001, all 6 Jackson brothers reunited for 2 concerts at Madison Square Garden. After Michael’s death in 2009, the surviving brothers recorded backing vocals for the song This Is It, which Michael had recorded prior to his death. It was the final recording by The Jacksons as a group. The final concert tour by The Jacksons was in 2012-2013 – participating were Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon.
  • The Jackson 5 was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 (Randy was excluded). Three of their songs were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame – I’ll Be There, I Want You Back and ABC. As Motown moved from the 60s to the 70s, it was the Jackson 5 that defined the sound of Motown. Obviously, Michael was the centerpiece of the group. But the brothers were integral to their overall success, and it’s impressive that they remained relevant with their music released over a 15 year period. Here’s ABC – Michael is so cute, don’t you think?

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