The Jackson 5/The Jacksons
The Jackson 5/The Jacksons
The Jackson 5—Michael, Marlon, Tito, Jackie, and Jermaine—were a popular vocal group that achieved a string of Number 1 pop hits in the early 1970s. Signed to Motown Records by Berry Gordy in 1968, the Jackson 5’s popularity eventually waned at Motown, and they left the label after their seven-year contract was up. The group joined the Epic label, a CBS subsidiary, in 1976, changing their name to the Jacksons for legal reasons.
Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the group released several albums and toured extensively. At the same time, Michael Jackson’s solo career was taking off, with two albums produced by Quincy Jones. The Jacksons’ live performances and recording career culminated in the 1984 Victory tour and subsequent album. Following that difficult tour, the group disbanded, and Michael and his brothers were replaced on the record charts by their younger sisters, LaToya and, especially, Janet.
Group originally formed in Gary, IN, c. 1964, when father, Joe Jackson, organized brothers Jackie (born Sigmund Esco Jackson, May 4, 1951), Tito (born Toriano Adaryll Jackson, October 15, 1953), Jermaine (bom Jermaine Lajuane Jackson, December 11, 1954), into a singing group; Marlon (born Marlon David Jackson, March 12, 1957), and Michael (born Michael Joseph Jackson, August 29, 1958) joined soon after and became known as the Jackson 5; won city-wide talent show in Gary, c. 1965; recorded first songs for local record label, Steeltown Records, c. 1966; toured black theatres and nightclubs, 1966-69; signed record contract with Motown Records, 1968; made first national television appearance on ABC-TV’s Hollywood Palace, October, 1969; released first album, 1969; signed with Epic Records, 1975, changed name to the Jacksons; Jermaine remained at Motown and was replaced by Randy (born Steven Randall Jackson, October 29, 1962); Michael began parallel solo career in 1972; group disbanded after 1984 Victory tour.
musician on the side, and he taught his sons about music, later acting as their manager. His wife and matriarch of the Jackson family, Katherine, liked country and western music and that was the first music the young Jacksons were exposed to. Katherine was a Jehovah’s Witness and raised her family in that religion. By all accounts, the Jackson family was very protective and strict with their children, and they led sheltered lives in the working-class neighborhood in which they grew up.
The Jackson 5, as a performing group, began with the three older sons, Tito, Jackie, and Jermaine. Rehearsing under their father’s guidance, they were soon joined by Marlon (playing bongos) and Michael. Very precocious from an early age, Michael quickly became the group’s lead singer. Around 1964 or 1965, the Jackson 5 won Gary’s first city-wide talent show. Around 1966, they recorded seven sides for Gordon Keith’s Steeltown Records, a small label based in Gary. One of the Steeltown singles, “Big Boy,” was a regional success and was picked up by Atco for national distribution.
This moderately successful record gave the Jackson 5 an entree into Chicago nightclubs and the so-called “chitlin’ circuit” of black theaters and nightclubs around the country. The chitlin’ circuit really opened up for the Jackson 5 after they won the amateur talent show at Chicago’s Regal Theater three weeks in a row. With the oldest Jackson, Jackie, about 15 years old and Michael only 8 or 9, the Jackson 5 were touring as the opening act for a string of notable black groups and singers, from the Temptations to Jerry Butler. At the end of 1967, the group was invited to Apollo Amateur Night in New York and were warmly received after coming in first place. Nine-year-old Michael’s singing and dancing stole the show.
Following their success at the Apollo, the Jackson 5 came to the attention of several Motown artists and talent scouts. Both Gladys Knight and Bobby Taylor praised the Jackson 5 to Motown executives after witnessing performances. According to some accounts, it was Diana Ross’s enthusiasm for the group that captured Berry Gordy’s attention and got the Motown president interested in them. When the Jackson 5 auditioned for Motown in 1968, it was videotaped at the label’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio in Detroit for Berry Gordy to view at his offices in Los Angeles. Motown relocated the Jackson family to southern California after signing the group to an open-ended contract. Some of the family stayed with Berry Gordy, others with Diana Ross. By the end of 1970, they had moved into a house in Encino where Michael continued to live with his mother and sisters after the group disbanded.
Motown had relocated its operations from Detroit to Los Angeles in part to take advantage of film and television opportunities. The Jackson 5 made their television debut on October 18, 1969, on ABC’s Hollywood Palace, in an episode hosted by Diana Ross and the Supremes. Motown’s publicity machine had linked the Jackson 5 to the successful Supremes by calling their first album, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5. That same machinery would put the Jackson 5 on numerous television shows in conjunction with their record releases, and by the fall of 1971 the Jackson 5 had a Saturday-morning cartoon series that featured their music.
Four of the group’s first six singles for Motown, “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There,”—all released between late 1969 and mid-1971—went to Number 1 on the pop charts, and the other two, “Mama’s Pearl” and “Never Can Say Goodbye,” reached the Number 2 spot. “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” and “The Love You Save” were written and produced by the Corporation, a team consisting of Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Deke Richards, and Fonzie Mizell. The Jackson 5’s next five singles, released in 1971 and 1972, only reached the Top 20 on the charts, but Michael picked up the slack with his solo releases.
His first on Motown, “Got To Be There,” reached Number 4 and was followed by “Rockin’ Robin,” which went to Number 2. Jermaine also began his solo career in 1972, and his second release, “Daddy’s Home,” reached Number 9. “The Jackson 5 were then a very timely group for black Americans,” Jackson employee Steve Manning told Dave Marsh in Trapped. “It was the time of the Afro and black pride.… The kids identified with them not as stars, but as contemporaries fulfilling their fantasies of stardom.”
The Jacksons were growing up, and in 1972 Tito and Jackie both got married. On December 15, 1973, Jermaine married Hazel Joy Gordy, Berry Gordy’s daughter. The Jackson 5 left Motown in 1975 following a decline in their record sales and their popularity. There was also speculation that the Jacksons wanted to write and produce their own material, or at least select their own producers. At Motown, they were part of a hitmaking system that left them with little control over the material they recorded. In 1974, the low point of their career at Motown, none of their albums cracked the Top 20, including solo albums by Michael and Jermaine.
When the Jacksons signed with Epic in 1975, Motown claimed legal rights to the Jackson 5 name. Several issues were fought in the courts between Motown and the Jacksons, in part because Motown hoped to promote Jermaine as a solo artist. It was a difficult decision for Jermaine to remain with Motown; but although it split him from his family, it left his career in the capable hands of his father-in-law, Berry Gordy. At Epic, the Jacksons replaced Jermaine with Randy, and the group enjoyed more artistic freedom and improved royalty terms.
The Jacksons’ first two albums on Epic, The Jacksons and Goin’ Places, featured songs by other writers and various producers, without notable results. In 1977 Michael went off to act in the film version of The Wiz, where he first met record producer and composer Quincy Jones. In May of 1977, the Jacksons played together for a royal command performance for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee.
The Jacksons regrouped in 1978 to begin their first self-written, self-produced album, Destiny. Standouts from that album include Randy and Michael’s song, “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground),” released in December of 1978. They began their world tour in January of 1979; upon their return, Michael recorded his first Quincy Jones-produced solo album for Epic, Off The Wall. 1980 saw the release of the Jacksons’ fourth Epic album, Triumph, which was followed by a 36-city tour in support of the album that grossed more than $5.5 million. As described by Dave Marsh in Trapped, “The show also incorporated video footage from the album, depicting the Jacksons as enormous unearthly godlings who revived a featureless mass of humans with a golden light radiating from their heads.” A live album resulted from this tour, The Jacksons Live!
Michael began preparing a second solo album, the megahit Thriller, released in December of 1982. It eventually sold over 30 million copies worldwide, with the help of special videos, to become the best-selling album in the history of the record industry. Michael rejoined his brothers for a reunion tour in 1984, for which Jermaine also reunited with the Jacksons. Amid extensive hype and publicity, the Victory tour garnered a lot of negative publicity for the group. Charging $30 a ticket, double the standard concert fee at the time, the Jacksons were criticized for being greedy and uncaring about their biggest supporters, people who could not afford the price of admission. The Jacksons countered charges of greed by donating some of their proceeds to various charities. Ultimately, the Jacksons could not survive the Victory tour as a group, even though the tour was seen by an estimated 2.3 million people and grossed nearly $70 million.
Singles; as the Jackson 5 unless otherwise noted
“Big Boy”/“You’ve Changed,” Steeltown, 1968.
“We Don’t Have To Be Over 21 (To Fall In Love)”/“Jam Session,” Steeltown, c. 1968.
“I Want You Back,” Motown, 1969.
“ABC,” Motown, 1970.
“The Love You Save,” Motown, 1970.
“I’ll Be There,” Motown, 1970.
“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” Motown, 1970.
(As the Ripples & Waves) “Let Me Carry Your School Books”/“I Never Had A Girl,” Steeltown, c. 1971.
“Mama’s Pearl,” Motown, 1971.
“Never Can Say Goodbye,” Motown, 1971.
“Maybe Tomorrow,” Motown, 1971.
“Sugar Daddy,” Motown, 1971.
“Little Bitty Pretty One,” Motown, 1972.
“Lookin’ Through The Windows,” Motown, 1972.
“The Corner Of The Sky,” Motown, 1972.
“Hallelujah Day,” Motown, 1973.
“Get It Together,” Motown, 1973.
“Dancing Machine,” Motown, 1974.
“Whatever You Got, I Want,” Motown, 1974.
“I Am Love,” Motown, 1974.
“Forever Came Today,” Motown, 1975.
Singles; as the Jacksons
“Enjoy Yourself,” Epic, 1976.
“Show You The Way To Go,” Epic, 1977.
“Goin’ Places,” Epic, 1977.
“Different Kind Of Lady,” Epic, 1978.
“Blame It On The Boogie,” Epic, 1978.
“Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground),” Epic, 1979.
“Lovely One,” Epic, 1980.
“Heartbreak Hotel,” Epic, 1980.
“Can You Feel It,” Epic, 1981.
“Walk Right Now,” Epic, 1981.
“State of Shock,” Epic, 1984.
“Torture,” Epic, 1984.
“Body,” Epic, 1984.
“Nothin’ (That Compares 2 U),” Epic, 1989.
“2300 Jackson Street,” Epic, 1989.
LPs; as the Jackson 5
Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5, Motown, 1969.
ABC, Motown, 1970.
Third Album, Motown, 1970.
Christmas Album, Motown, 1970.
Maybe Tomorrow, Motown, 1971.
Goin’ Back To Indiana, Motown, 1971.
Greatest Hits, Motown, 1971.
Lookin’ Through The Windows, Motown, 1972.
Skywriter, Motown, 1973.
Get It Together, Motown, 1973.
Dancing Machine, Motown, 1974.
Moving Violation, Motown, 1975.
Anthology, Motown, 1976.
Joyful Jukebox Music, Motown, 1976.
(CD only) Compact Command Performances: 18 Greatest Hits, Motown, 1984.
LPs; as the Jacksons
The Jacksons, Epic, 1976.
Goin’ Places, Epic, 1977.
Destiny, Epic, 1978.
Triumph, Epic, 1980.
Jacksons Live!, Epic, 1981.
Victory, Epic, 1984.
2300 Jackson Street, Epic, 1989.
Bianco, David, Heat Wave: The Motown Fact Book, Pierian, 1988.
Jackson, Katherine, My Family, The Jacksons, St. Martin’s, 1990.
Marsh, Dave, Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream, Bantam, 1985.
Billboard, September 22, 1984; December 22, 1984.
Essence, December 1990.
People, August 8, 1988.
Rolling Stone, August 16, 1984.
Variety, December 19, 1984.