Jackson 5 | Music Artists & Bands A to Z

Jackson 5

August 31, 2017


The Jackson 5 rose from humble beginnings in Gary, Indiana. The original members were the three eldest sons of a steelworks crane driver (and ex-guitarist for the Falcons) Joe Jackson: Jackie (Sigmund Esco Jackson), Tito (Toriano Adaryll Jackson), and Jermaine (Jermaine La Juane Jackson), along with two cousins, although they were replaced by the two youngest Jackson boys, Marlon and Michael in 1965. The brothers had started their informal music education by sneaking off with their father's guitar and when Joe Jackson discovered this fact, he bought them their own instruments. As the boys continued to improve, Joe devoted himself to moulding them into a well-rehearsed group that covered Motown and other soul/R&B hits of the day. When Michael was 8, the group won a major talent contest with their rendition of the Temptations' "My Girl". By now, Joe had gone part time at the mill and was managing the band full time, as they were already traveling hundreds of miles to perform. Joe booked them for their first professional gigs at a local night club, Mr. Lucky's. The owner of the only recording studio in Gary, Keith Gordon, had came to see the boys practice at home and agreed to give them a chance. In winter of 1967, in a studio in Chicago, a simple R&B number called "Big Boy" was recorded and released on the Steeltown label. It was a minor hit on the local Gary charts. It was followed by one more release on the label in 1968, "Some Girls Want Me For Their Love".


The Jackson 5 wound up at Motown through the importuning of Bobby Taylor, a performer and producer who caught their act at Chicago's Regal nightclub. They were a road-tested act even then, having for years worked the "chitlin' circuit" of Black nightclubs as far east as Washington D.C. At Motown, Berry Gordy took a hands-on interest in the Jackson 5, bought the group out of their Steeltown contract and moved them out to Hollywood, where the rest of the family followed them. Much of the band's early repertoire was written, rehearsed and recorded in California under Gordy's tutelage. They were matched with The Corporation, a Motown production team groomed to replace the recently departed Holland-Dozier-Holland. When it came time to introduce the Jackson 5 to the world, Diana Ross did the honors at a Beverly Hills Club, which gave many the false impression that she has something to do with discovering the group.


In January 1970, their first release, "I Want You Back" reached #1 on the Billboard Pop and R&B charts. Its follow-up, "ABC", unseated The Beatles' "Let It Be" from the top position that April. Their youthful, soulful sound was dubbed Bubblegum Soul by some members of the press. By the Summer of 1970, the Jackson 5 were headlining 20,000-seat venues, and Jacksonmania was in full swing. "I'll Be There", their fourth #1 single in a row and biggest hit, remained on top for five weeks in the Fall of 1970. They conquered television as well as radio, appearing regularly on The Ed Sullivan Show in the early '70s and on their own CBS summer variety show in 1976. An animated Saturday morning cartoon show based on the musical adventures of The Jackson 5 enhanced their appeal with younger fans. It was during 1971 that Michael Jackson started his parallel solo career. His albums "Got To Be There", "Ben", and "Music And Me" produced such hits as "Got To Be There" (#4), "Rockin' Robin" (#2) "Ben" (#1) and many others. Jermaine started his solo career in 1972 and produced two Top Ten hits: "Daddy's Home" in 1973 and "Let's Get Serious" in 1980. Jackie also tried out a solo career in 1973 when he released "Jackie Jackson", but the album did not make the charts and no more were released.


In December 1973, the Jackson family and the Gordy family became one when Jermaine married Hazel Gordy (Berry Gordy's daughter). They tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Smokey Robinson performed "From This Time And Place", a song which he had written for the occasion. But the happy union caused Jermaine some headaches in 1975 when the Jackson 5 decided to leave Motown and he left the group to stay with the label.

Citing the fact that they only received 2.7% royalties and were not allowed to record their own material, the Jackson brothers had decided that they needed to change record companies. Even though they were later sued for breach of contract, they signed with Epic Records under the name "The Jacksons" (because Motown owned the rights to the name Jackson 5) and underwent some line-up changes. Michael had signed a solo contract with Epic, and he was replaced by his younger brother Randy (Stephen Randall Jackson). Temporary additions to the group also included the sisters LaToya and Rebbie (Maureen Jackson). The family went on to record many successful records, even receiving a Grammy Nomination in 1980 for the album "Triumph".


Meanwhile, Motown capitalized on his commercial status by re-issuing a recording from the mid-'70s, "One Day In Your Life", which duly topped the UK charts. Michael continued to tour and record with The Jacksons after his solo success, while media speculation grew about his private life. He was increasingly portrayed as a figure trapped in an eternal childhood, surrounded by toys and pet animals, and insulated from the traumas of the real world. This image was consolidated when he was chosen to narrate an album based on the 1982 fantasy film ET - The Extra Terrestrial. The record was quickly withdrawn because of legal complications, but still won Jackson another Grammy award.


In 1982, "Thriller", Michael's second album with Quincy Jones, was released, and went on to become one of the most commercially successful albums of all time. It also produced a run of hit singles, each accompanied by a promotional video that widened the scope of the genre. "The Girl Is Mine", a duet with Paul McCartney, began the sequence in relatively subdued style. It reached #1 in the USA and UK, but merely set the scene for "Billie Jean", an effortless mix of Disco and Pop that spawned a series of answer records from other artists. The accompanying video was equally spectacular, portraying Jackson as a master of dance. Its successor, "Beat It", established another precedent with its determinedly Rock flavored guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen, making it the first Black record to receive rotation air play on the MTV video station. The "Thriller" album and singles won Jackson a further seven Grammies and amidst this run of hits, Jackson slotted in "Say Say Say", a second chart-topping duet with Paul McCartney.


He accepted the largest individual sponsorship deal in history from Pepsi-Cola in 1983. The following year, his involvement in the Jacksons' Victory Tour sparked the greatest demand for concert tickets in the history of popular music. Michael Jackson had by now become an almost mythical figure, and like most myths he attracted hyperbole. A group of Jehovah's Witnesses announced that he was the Messiah. He was said to be taking drugs to change his skin color to White. It was claimed that he had undergone extensive plastic surgery to alter his appearance; and photographs were published that suggested he slept in a special chamber to prevent himself ageing. More prosaically, Jackson began 1985 by co-writing and performing on the USA For Africa benefit single "We Are The World", another international #1. He then spent $47.5 million in purchasing the ATV Music company, who controlled the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, thus effectively sabotaging his musical relationship with his old friend.


Michael's next albums were deemed disappointing after the phenomenal success of "Thriller". In musical terms, the album "Bad" certainly broke no fresh ground, and represented only a cosmetic advance over his two earlier albums with Quincy Jones. Unabashed, Jackson continued to work in large scale. He undertook a lengthy world concert tour to promote "Bad", utilizing stunning visual effects to capture the atmosphere of his videos. At the same time, he published his autobiography, Moonwalker, which offered little personal or artistic insight. Neither did the alarmingly expensive feature film that accompanied it.


The long-awaited "Dangerous" arrived at the end of 1991 and justifiably scaled the charts. This was a gutsy Techno-Pop album, with Teddy Riley contributing to a number of tracks. Although the customarily sweet Pop was sharpened to a hard point, it still displayed the unmistakable Jackson sound. By maintaining a leisurely working schedule, Jackson had guaranteed that every new project was accompanied by frenzied public anticipation. As a result, the lead-off single "Black Or White" became a huge transatlantic #1, topping the U.S. charts for seven weeks.


Until 1992, his refusal to undergo probing interviews had allowed the media to portray him as a fantasy figure, a hypochondriac who lived a twilight existence cut off from the rest of humanity. He attempted to dispel this image, and succeeded to a degree, with a carefully rehearsed interview with U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey in 1992. The televised program was shown all over world, during which viewers saw his personal fun fair in his back garden, and watched as Jackson spoke of his domineering father. Just when things were looking up, the unthinkable happened in 1993. Allegations of sexual abuse were made by one of Jackson's young friends and the media had a field day. Jackson's home was raided by police while he was on tour in the Far East and the artist, clearly disturbed, canceled a number of performances due to dehydration. No charges were laid, and things began to calm down until November 1993, when Jackson left the USA and went into hiding. Additionally, he confessed to being addicted to pain killers and was seeking treatment. After this admission, Jackson's long-time sponsors Pepsi-Cola decided to pull out of their contract with the now damaged career of the world's most popular superstar. The media were handed more fodder when he married Lisa Marie Presley on May 26th, 1994, perhaps in an attempt to rebuild his image. The marriage collapsed nineteen months later, giving further rise to allegations that it was merely a set-up.


Michael did, however, enhance his reputation with a new album called "HIStory - Past, Present and Future, Book 1". One half of the double set chronicled his past hits, but there was the equivalent of a new album forming the second half. Lyrically, the new material was strong, and Jackson very cleverly gave himself a forum to respond to his critics. Although not breaking any new ground musically, the sound was refreshingly varied and, as ever, highly polished. The downside of this return was a sickening display of self-aggrandizement at the 1996 BRIT AWARDS. Controversy surrounded Jarvis Cocker (of Pulp), who invaded the stage in protest while Jackson, dressed in Messiah-white, was surrounded by, among others, worshipping children and a rabbi.


Another marriage was in the cards for Michael Jackson. In November 1996, he announced that his friend Deborah Rowe (an assistant to his dermatologist) was carrying his child. The couple denied all tabloid reports that Jackson was merely renting Rowe's womb and that she was artificially inseminated. As proof of their love, Jackson and Rowe were married in Australia not long after the pregnancy became public knowledge. Three months later, Rowe gave birth to Prince Michael Jackson, Jr. A second child, daughter Paris Michael Katherine was born in the Spring of 1998. Michael and Debbie divorced in October 1999, but the couple mutually agreed remain friends.


Jackson's album, "Blood On The Dance Floor - HIStory in the Mix", was a collection of remixes and new material that spawned further hit singles. It appeared that, despite the allegations of child abuse and the constant media attacks, Jackson's fans remained loyal to The King of Pop. Michael was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame on March 19, 2001, along with Aerosmith, Solomon Burke, The Flamingos, Queen, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, and Ritchie Valens. On Friday, September 8, 2001, at New York's Madison Square Garden, Michael joined his brothers, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon, Randy and Jackie for reunion that featured a medley of Jackson 5 classics that included, "ABC", "I"ll Be There", "The Love You Save" and "I Want You Back". A who's who of Michael's pals and big-name celebs showed up to see it for themselves, including 'N Sync, Macaulay Culkin, Natalie Cole, Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, Aaron Carter, Nelly, Donald Trump, Teddy Riley, J