People the world over have marveled at the artistic genius, brilliance and excellence of young Black performers from the Nicholas Brothers to Sammy Davis Jr., to Frankie Lymon to Little Stevie Wonder. The Jackson 5 were a continuation of this great legacy.
The five brothers from Gary, Ind.—Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael, would once again show the world what it was like to be young, gifted and Black.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the Jackson 5 exploded on the scene, knocking the music world back on its heels. Under the vision, guidance and direction of their father and manager Joseph Walter Jackson and Motown Founder and Chairman Berry Gordy Jr., the brothers would emerge, becoming one of the greatest recording acts of all time.
The Jackson 5 were the first group in music history to have four singles released back to back on their flight to No. 1 on billboards top 100, with each single selling over a million copies. The singles were: “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There.” This was unprecedented and a clear indication that the Motown hit machine had not lost its steam but was moving full speed ahead with its new-found music sensation.
The Jackson 5 would introduce a new sound that music critics would reference as “bubblegum soul,” indicating that the music was soulful, youthful with pop cross-over appeal, a genre performed by and for kids. But their popularity did not end with kids; it washed over the barriers of age to practically all adults.
Featuring their cool Afros, Apple caps, handsome smiles and youthful enthusiasm, Motown would launch a marketing campaign for the Jackson 5 that would generate mass appeal in radio, magazines and television media. These included the Miss Black America beauty pageant, The Hollywood Palace with Diana Ross and Sammy Davis Jr., the Ed Sullivan Show, special guest appearance on the Diana Ross special, and an ABC telecast special of their own entitled, “Going Back to Indiana” concert.
This concert was also released as their first live album.
The Jackson 5 would also have their own animated cartoon series on Saturday mornings as part of the ABC fall lineup under the production of animators Rankin and Bass. They would also have an alphabet cereal commercial, promoting the cereal as part of a balanced breakfast.
The Jackson 5 would perform to sold-out concerts with record-breaking attendance nationally and internationally, including Africa, Asia and Europe. The excitement of Jacksonmania was worldwide. The Jackson 5 would be featured on the covers of Rolling Stone magazine at a time when Rolling Stone didn’t usually cover kid acts. They would also make the covers of Life and, of course, Ebony. Their popularity with Black youth played a major role in launching the Black teen publication Right On, along with the Black teen dance telecast “Soul Train” hosted by Don Cornelius.
The success and popularity of the Jackson 5 laid the foundation for other young groups such as The Sylvers, DeBarge, New Edition, B2K and Destiny’s Child, just to name a few.
The Jackson 5 would have a seven-year run at Motown, from 1969 to 1976. Due to creative differences, the group would leave Motown, signing with the Epic label. The move to Epic would mark the next chapter in this family’s musical dynasty with a few major changes.
Brother Jermaine, then married to Gordy’s daughter Hazel, would continue to stay on at Motown as a solo artist, and because the Motown label had reserved the rights to the name, logo and trademark Jackson 5, the group simply became the Jacksons, making their transition from child stars to adult entertainers. With the move to Epic, their younger brother Randy would be added to the group as a full-time member.
Michael, being the most driven of them all, would record the biggest selling album of all time, “Thriller.” The album was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records, making Michael the most successful and celebrated entertainer in the world. Today, his global fan base refers to him as the King of Pop.
In 1997, the Jackson 5 would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, becoming the youngest group to have this honor bestowed upon them by the industry and their peers.
The Jackson 5 was a music phenomenon.
They were a unique group that emerged at a unique time in American history. Their legacy of music, song and dance will continue to interest, intrigue and inspire people the world over for generations to come.
Yes, the five brothers from Gary, Ind., did quite well.