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The Jackson 5

The Jackson 5

The Jackson 5 (later known as The Jacksons), were an American popular music family group. Formed in Gary, Indiana in 1964, its founding members were Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael Jackson. Originally known as The Jackson Brothers, they changed their name to The Jackson Five a year after forming.Professionally active from 1968 until 1989, the Jackson 5 became one of the most successful recording groups of the 1970s decade, becoming the first act to have their first four singles - "I Want You Back", "ABC", "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There" - reach number-one on the Billboard Hot 100. After performing on the talent show and chitlin' circuits, the band signed their first recording deal with the local Steeltown record label at the end of 1967, releasing a couple of records before signing with Motown in 1969.In 1975, the group left Motown and signed with Epic Records, with Randy Jackson replacing Jermaine, releasing five records between 1976 and 1981, including the hit albums, Destiny and Triumph, and the hit singles "Enjoy Yourself", "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" and "Can You Feel It". In 1983, Jermaine reunited with his brothers and they released the Victory album. Following their 1984 Victory tour, both Michael Jackson and Marlon Jackson left and the remaining quartet released the poorly received 1989 album, 2300 Jackson Street. Following its release, they were dropped from Epic Records.Inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999, the Jacksons reunited in 2001 on Michael's 30th anniversary television special. Following Michael's death in 2009, the four eldest of the brothers embarked on their Unity Tour in 2012.Early yearsBorn and raised in Gary, Indiana, the Jacksons' musical interest came in the form of their father, Joe, a former musician who worked as an overhead crane operator at the Inland Steel Company in East Chicago, just outside of Gary. During overtime hours Joe spent at work, their mother, Katherine, allowed them to play his guitar, which Tito played constantly. In 1964, ten-year-old Tito was confronted by his father after a string on his guitar broke. Threatening to punish him, he ordered his son to play and was astonished by Tito's talents, later buying him his own guitar.Later that same year, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine started their own group, with their father naming them The Jackson Brothers. The group originally included six-year-old Michael playing bongos and neighborhood kids Reynaud Jones and Milford Hite playing keyboards and drums respectively. Marlon later joined on Katherine's request, playing tambourine. Within a year, Michael Jackson emerged as a singer and dancer in the group. In 1965, Evelyn LaHaie, a local talent agent, suggested to Joe that the group should be renamed The Jackson Five prior to them performing at her Tiny Tots Jamboree in Gary that August on Michael's seventh birthday.The following year, the group won a talent show at Gary's Roosevelt High School. Milford Hite and Reynaud Jones were replaced by Johnny Jackson and Ronnie Rancifer. The Jacksons began performing on the chitlin' circuit, landing spots on venues such as The Regal Theater and The Apollo, also performing at strip clubs to earn extra income. Following their Apollo win on August 13, 1967, the Jacksons' demo tape was sent to Motown headquarters after Gladys Knight requested them to be signed. However, due to child labor laws at the time and other issues, Motown refused to hear the tape sending it back to the Jacksons' address.

Early success

In November 1967, the Jackson Five signed with Gordon Keith's Steeltown label in Gary. Their first single, "Big Boy" aka "I'm A Big Boy Now", was released on January 30, 1968 and became a regional hit. This was followed by a second single, "We Don't Have to Be Over 21". Among those that visited the Jackson Five during this early period included Jackie Wilson, Sam & Dave, Smokey Robinson and James Brown. Now a professional act, the Jackson Five became opening acts for a number of professional soul and R&B musical acts.During a three week stint at the Regal Theater, they opened for Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. Like Knight before him, Bobby Taylor took an interest in the group and took them to Detroit to convince Motown to sign them. Staying at Taylor's Detroit apartment that month, he rehearsed the boys to help them get ready for their July 23 audition. The following day, the group entered Motown's headquarters with their audition videotaped. Upon seeing the performance, Gordy requested that the group to be signed. Negotiations to join Motown began later that year, ending in March 1969. The Jackson 5 recorded their early Motown material at Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. recording studio, produced by Bobby Taylor. In July 1969, Gordy moved the group to Los Angeles with Suzanne de Passe and Gordy taking the roles as mentors for the group, grooming them to be the label's next star attraction.To market the boys better to a wider audience, Motown's public relations team altered parts of their story, shortening Michael's age to nine years old, claiming Johnny Jackson and Ronnie Rancifer was their cousins and claiming Diana Ross had discovered the group performing in Gary for the city's mayor Richard G. Hatcher. Motown later labeled their first album, released in December 1969, as Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. After Ross formally introduced the group at The Daisy club that August, they performed at the Miss Black America Pageant in New York. On October 7, the group's first single, "I Want You Back", was issued, followed by a live performance at The Hollywood Palace on October 10 of the year. Later that December, with "I Want You Back" climbing the charts, the group performed on the Ed Sullivan Show.


In January of 1970, "I Want You Back" hit number-one on the Billboard Hot 100. Shortly afterwards, Motown issued the second single, "ABC", which became their second number-one hit, followed by "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There", later that year, making them the first recording act in history to have their first four mainstream singles to hit number-one on the Hot 100. All four singles became hits overseas as well. The Jackson 5 went on their first major tour in May 1970. Sometimes the group would have to halt performances due to raucous responses from female audiences, who sometimes mobbed the quintet. Within a year of their debut, the Jackson 5 had become the new marketing focus on Motown, replacing the Supremes as the top group of the label.Capitalizing on their youth-oriented appeal, Motown licensed dozens of Jackson 5 related juvenile products, including the famous J5 heart logo that appeared on Johnny Jackson's drum set, and many of the group's album covers, stickers, sewable patches, posters, and coloring books. In 1971, a new teen magazine aimed at African American youth, Right On! began publication, focusing heavily on the group, with at least one member featured on the cover of every issue published between January 1972 and April 1974. Animation producers Rankin/Bass produced The Jackson 5ive, a Saturday morning cartoon that debuted in September 1971, running for two seasons. Motown also booked the group on variety shows, producing two specials on the group including Goin' Back to Indiana and The Jackson 5 Show.During this period, the Jackson 5 produced more hits including "Mama's Pearl", "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "Sugar Daddy". In late 1971, to increase demand on Jackson 5 related product, Motown launched Michael Jackson's solo career, releasing the song, "Got to Be There" that November, followed by "I Wanna Be Where You Are" and "Rockin' Robin". Eventually Michael scored a number-one hit on the pop charts with the ballad, "Ben", in 1972. Jermaine Jackson's solo career was launched shortly after Michael's, including "That's How Love Goes" and "Daddy's Home", though his success wasn't as big as Michael's. In 1973, Motown issued Jackie Jackson's solo album, which was released to little fanfare. During the 1970s Vietnam War era, the group frequently joined U.S. comedian Bob Hope on USO (United Service Organizations) domestic tours, to support the military troops.

Leaving Motown

By 1973, the Jackson 5 were struggling on the charts despite their continued success as live performers. Partially due to their growing age, the group no longer fit the "bubblegum soul" style of their early years. Transitioning into the disco period of the mid-1970s, they achieved their biggest hit in nearly three years with "Dancing Machine", released in 1974. Despite this success, Jackson 5 recordings continued to decline in sales and Michael Jackson's subsequent solo works also failed to chart successfully during that period. In 1973, wanting to bring back control of his sons, Joe Jackson convinced the group to become a headlining act at casinos and resorts in Las Vegas, performing a nightclub act that included all members of the Jackson family.By 1975, Joe Jackson was negotiating with CBS Records to sign the group to the label despite one year left over on their Motown contract. During the middle of negotiations, relations between Jermaine and the other brothers had strained, especially after Jermaine had married Berry Gordy's daughter Hazel in December of 1973. When Joe Jackson demanded Jermaine sign the CBS contract after the rest of his brother signed, he refused. Due to CBS offering a royalty rate of 20% per record versus the 2.8% rate received at Motown, Joe Jackson accepted the deal. Accusing the group and Joe Jackson of breach of contract, Motown sued the band. Though they eventually allowed them to record for Epic, the group had to leave behind their original moniker, as when they signed their Motown contract in March of 1969, they had given up the rights to their name to Motown. Joe Jackson was still fighting to have the name returned to the family until Michael Jackson convinced him to stop the legal entanglements around 1980. Berry Gordy would later comment that the Jackson 5 were "the last big stars to come rolling off the [Motown\] assembly line." The group changed their name to simply The Jacksons. With Jermaine gone, their youngest brother, Randy, replaced him. In summer 1976, while working on their first album for CBS and its Epic Records division, the Jacksons' self-titled variety show aired on CBS for two seasons, ending in 1977.

The Jacksons CBS/Epic Records

First assigned to Epic and Philadelphia International Records, the Jacksons released their self-titled 1976 album, which included the hits, "Enjoy Yourself" and "Show You the Way to Go". Though that album went gold, it was far from the success the group had enjoyed while at Motown. Their 1977 follow-up, Goin' Places, failed to be as successful, which helped to drop the group from the Philadelphia International roster, renegotiating their contract with Epic and agreeing to give the group full creative control over their own recordings, something that had been denied during their Motown tenure.They responded to the new contract by releasing the self-produced album, Destiny, which included their biggest-selling Epic single, "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)", which was written by Michael and Randy. Following their accompanying world tour, Michael Jackson released his first Epic solo debut, Off the Wall, which became a huge success. In 1980, the Jacksons released the Triumph album, which like Destiny, sold over a million copies, followed by another successful tour. Following the release of Michael's 1982 album, Thriller, rumors spread that Michael was going to leave the group, especially after Thriller became the best-selling album of all time.In March of 1983, two years after their last performance and nearly eight years after their last performance with Jermaine, the Jackson 5 reunited for a performance on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, with Randy joining them before the end of "The Love You Save". After performing "I'll Be There", Michael stayed on the stage and performed "Billie Jean" where he debuted the moonwalk. Jackson's popularity inspired his brothers to spark a full-fledged reunion and a new album, announcing the album and tour in October 1983. In June 1984, they released their Victory album, which sold over two million copies, boosted mainly by their upcoming tour, and which featured the top five track, "State of Shock", which was a duet between Michael and Mick Jagger. The Victory Tour was launched the following month but was plagued by ticket controversy, the shakeup of management and friction between the brothers. Michael later announced onstage he was leaving his brothers during their final performance of the tour that December. Marlon followed his lead a year later. In 1989, the Jacksons released their final album, 2300 Jackson Street, which was poorly received in both sales and critical acclaim.

Later years

In September 2001, The Jacksons reunited to perform at a concert special at Madison Square Garden to celebrate 30 years of Michael Jackson's career as a solo artist. The concerts were filmed and the footage was shown in the special, Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special, which aired on CBS in November 2001 as a two-hour television special. The on-stage performance was for the first time since the Victory tour seventeen years prior. A CD compilation of hits from the CBS/Epic years, The Essential Jacksons, was released in 2004, as was a separate compilation assembled by Universal/Hip-O, The Jacksons Story.Beginning in early 2009, the four oldest brothers (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon) filmed a reality television show, documenting their attempts to get the family band back together. In December 2009, the show debuted on the A&E Network under the title The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty. Michael Jackson's attempted comeback and his sudden death happened in the middle of the project. Those events dominated the reality TV show, even though he was never seen on-camera (except in old music videos).In June 2009, following the death of brother Michael, the surviving Jacksons recorded background vocals for a previously unreleased song, "This Is It" (the theme for the movie of the same name), which had originally been a demo. The radio-only single was released in October of that same year. The song did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100, but charted at number nineteen on Billboards Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks. "This Is It" returned The Jacksons to the chart for the first time since 1970, when, billed as the Jackson 5, the group marked its sole previous entry, "I'll Be There", which went on to peak on the chart at number twenty-four. The surviving members of the Jacksons were in talks of planning a reunion concert tour (which was to be served as a tribute to Michael) for 2010, and were in talks in working on their first new studio album in over 20 years. However, neither plan was put into action.In September 2010, Jermaine Jackson held his own "tribute" concert to Michael in Las Vegas. While his brothers and sister Janet attended, none of them joined their brother onstage. As of August 2011, the future of the Jacksons remains uncertain as Jackie Jackson released a solo single to iTunes and both Jermaine and Tito Jackson were planning new solo studio albums, which haven't been released yet. Marlon Jackson retired from the music business in 1989. Randy Jackson hasn't been active in music since the disbanding of Randy & the Gypsys in 1991. In August 2011, there appeared to be a discord between the brothers concerning a tribute concert dedicated to Michael. While Jackie, Tito and Marlon were present alongside mother Katherine and sister La Toya for a tribute concert in Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium for a press conference concerning the tour, a couple days after the press conference, both Randy and Jermaine issued a statement denouncing the tribute tour as the date of it occurring around the same time of Conrad Murray's manslaughter trial in relation to Michael's death. In April 2012, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon announced that they would reunite for several US concerts for their Unity Tour. 38 dates were announced, however, 11 shows in the United States were cancelled. The tour started at Casino Rama in Rama, Canada on June 20 and ended on December 9 in Osaka, Japan.


The singing efforts of the brothers led to the group's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. Two of the band's recordings ("ABC" and "I Want You Back") are among The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll", with the latter track also included in the Grammy Hall of Fame. On September 8, 2008, The Jacksons were honored as BMI Icons at the annual BMI Urban Awards.In 1992, Suzanne de Passe and Jermaine Jackson worked with Motown to produce The Jacksons: An American Dream, a five-hour television miniseries broadcast based on the history of The Jackson family in a two-part special on American Broadcast Company. The script began with Katherine and Joseph Jackson's first meeting in the mid-1940s and ended with the Victory Tour in 1984.The Jackson 5 was influenced by The Temptations, Supremes, Stevie Wonder, James Brown & The Famous Flames, Little Richard, Ray Charles, The Cadillacs, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and Berry Gordy. In turn, they served as the inspiration for several generations of boy bands, including New Edition, Menudo, New Kids on the Block, N*SYNC, the Jonas Brothers, Backstreet Boys, and many more. The rise of the Jackson 5 in the 1960s and 1970s coincided with the rise of a very similar band of brothers, the Osmond Brothers. Some considered the Osmonds, who were white, an imitation of the Jacksons. However, the Osmonds actually started a few years before the Jacksons, and were considered an inspiration to them. Joseph Jackson was impressed by the Osmond Brothers' early TV appearances and instructed his own sons to study them closely. Eventually, the members of the two families became friends. Jay Osmond recalled in a June 2009 blog posting that "Michael had a unique sense of humor about him, and told us he was so tired of watching The Osmonds on The Andy Williams Show. He explained this was something their father had them do, and Michael joked he became really tired of it!"

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