Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5
Every musical icon has their career beginnings. Elvis was a truck driver who started out at Sun Records. The Beatles played in rundown clubs in Hamburg, Germany. Michael Jackson started out with his four older brothers in their family band, the Jackson 5.
The Jackson 5 consisted of Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael. They were put together by their father, Joe Jackson, in 1964 in Gary, Indiana. After winning several talent competitions, including at the legendary Apollo theater, and being forced to play a strip clubs for the money, the Jackson 5 auditioned and signed with Barry Gordy’s Motown in 1969. They opened up for The Supremes in August 1969, right before Diana Ross left the group to go solo. In December of 1969, they released their debut album, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5, with their first and only single from that album, “I Want You Back”. The album reached number 5 on the Billboard’s Pop Album Chart and number 1 on the R&B/Black Albums Chart, where it spent nine weeks.
“I Want You Back” set the tone for the immense popularity to come for the Jackson 5. The song became a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 within weeks of the album’s release and eventually sold five million copies worldwide. It also spent 4 weeks at number one on the Soul singles chart. It was the first of 5 consecutive number ones hits they released. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song #121 on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and on their list of the “100 Greatest Pop Songs since 1963“ it was ranked #9. In 2006, Pitchfork Media named it the second best song of the 1960s, saying that the chorus contains “possibly the best chord progression in pop music history.” The Daily Telegraph called it “arguably the greatest pop record of all time”.
While Michael, Jackie, and Jermaine sing the lead vocals, it’s Michael’s voice, in his prepubescence, that stands out the most. The song is about someone who left their partner and realized they made a mistake and want them back. Having recorded the song at only the age of 10, Michael would have no personal experience about the matter, and yet he sings as if he has experienced love and heartache in all its forms. The funky and ahead-of-its-time beat of the song is highly catchy and pure perfect pop. It’s upbeat, groovy, and fun. The chord progression in the second half of the song proves that this isn’t just some teeny-bopper act and that the band means business. The beat of this song has been heavily sampled and remixed by hip-hop artists, even up to this era, with Jay-Z using it in his hit song “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).
“I Want You Back” is a song that truly will live on forever.