Compiled by Shamma M. Raghib
The Jackson Five 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 - the following year.
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 small hit in the local Gary charts. The album 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. 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 Five (Berry Gordy decided on the slight change of name) 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 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."
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," "Rockin' Robin," "Ben," and many others. Jermaine started his solo career in 1972 and produced two top 10 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.
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 Five) 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. Jackson continued to tour and record with the Jacksons after this 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.
(More about Michael Jackson to be continued next week)