Thursday, June 25, 2009
I Want You Back
It's hard to overstate what the Jackson 5 meant to Motown when they signed with the label in 1969. The Four Tops, the Supremes, the Miracles, all were getting long in the tooth, and had one Top Ten hit left among them after 1970 (the Tops' "Ain't No Woman [Like the One I've Got]" from 1973). Holland-Dozier-Holland had long since left. Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were both itching to create their own music, free from the Motown corporate constraints.
So when the Jackson 5 came along, everyone instinctively knew that this was the next generation of Motown stars. Diana Ross was installed as their official patron, and a writing-producing team called the Corporation was created to shepherd their music. The Corporation was a group of four gentlemen, one of them Motown founder Berry Gordy, who had long since left behind his hands-on in-studio duties. He had co-written "Reet Petite" and "Lonely Teardrops" for Jackie Wilson and "Money" for Barrett Strong, but that seemed like a long time ago, and one could be forgiven for wondering if Gordy still had his chops.
Till the Jackson 5 took over the world. Their first single, "I Want You Back," went to Number One in January 1970. Their next single, "ABC," also went to Number One. Their next single, "The Love You Save," also went to Number One. The one after that, "I'll Be There," also went to Number One. That brings us to 1971. The Jackson 5 were so good, and so popular, that MGM had a bunch of Mormons from Utah do a note-for-note imitation of the Jackson 5, and that went to Number One, too.
At the end of 1970, Michael Jackson was eleven years old, and if he had never done another thing in the world of music, he'd still be a legend. Say, say say what you want about his personal life, but those Jackson 5 records sound as fresh and exciting today as they ever did, as any pop records ever did. All the little birdies down on Jaybird Street loved to hear the robin going tweet, tweet, tweet.