Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Jackson 5, The #19 Artist of the Seventies*

Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Michael Jackson formed the Jackson Brothers in 1964 in Gary, Indiana.  Tito, Jermaine, and Jackie sang vocals, while six-year-old Michael played congos, and childhood friends Reynaud Jones and Milford Hite played keyboards and drums, respectively.  Marlon Jackson eventually joined on tambourine.  They refined their act by participating in several gigs and talent shows in the area.  In 1965, the group renamed themselves the Jackson Five Singing Group, later shortened to the Jackson Five.

Johnny Jackson and Ronnie Rancifer replaced Hite and Jones.    After several wins at talent shows, father Joe Jackson booked the group at places such as the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, and the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois.  When the Jackson Five won the talent competition at the Apollo, Gladys Knight sent a tape to Motown Records.  Motown rejected the group, so in 1967, the group signed a recording contract with Steeltown Records.  They released a couple of singles, but neither caught on.

In 1969, the group got a big break as Motown finally saw the light and signed them to a contract.  The Jackson 5 opened for the Supremes, greatly impressing Diana Ross, who would aid in the rise of the Jackson 5. 

The quintet recorded the single "I Want You Back", and promoted it at the Hollywood Palace, with Ross hosting.  The brothers appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, then released their debut album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, with Diana agreeing to use her name for star appeal.

Although Motown refuses to have their sales audited by the RIAA, the best estimate of sales for the album put it at four million.  The album went to #5 on the Album chart.  The single "I Want You Back" hit #1 in 1970 in the United States, #2 in the U.K., and #6 in Ireland.
The album also contains this solid track--"One More Chance".

Hot on the heels of their debut, the Jackson 5 released the album ABC, a #4 album.  They scored again with the title song, #1 in the U.S. and #8 in the U.K.

The album ABC also sold an estimated four million copies.  Later in the year, the group released the single "The Love You Save", another #1 in the United States, and a #7 song in the U.K.

When "I'll Be There" reached #1 in the United States (#4 in the U.K.), it gave the Jackson 5 four consecutive #1 singles to begin their career.  No one in the Rock Era had ever done that.  Not only that, but in one year, the Jackson 5 (the group that Motown was hesitant to sign) had replaced the Supremes as the best-selling act at Motown.

"I'll Be There" earned the group a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus.  The group released The Jackson 5 Christmas Album, which sold three million units.  Two songs have become regular Christmas features--the first is "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

The Jackson 5 also continue to receive considerable airplay for their version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town".

Third Album in 1971 also rose to #4 on the Album chart, and is approaching an estimated five million in sales.  "Mama's Pearl" broke the group's #1 streak, stopping at #2.

Motown was eager to capitalize on the group's success.  They began licensing dozens of products--stickers, posters, coloring books, etc., and they also authorized a Saturday morning cartoon series featuring the Jackson 5. 

In 1971, the group appeared on the Diana Ross television special Diana!.  The brothers starred in their own TV special, Goin' Back to Indiana, later in the year. We feature the title song here.
The group returned to television with The Jackson 5 Show the following year. That brothers also joined Bob Hope on USO-benefit performances to support U.S. military troops stationed overseas.

In 1971, the Jackson 5 released the album Maybe Tomorrow, which has now gone over the three-million mark in the United States alone for best sales estimates. 
 The single, "Never Can Say Goodbye", also landed at #2, and reached #1 on the R&B chart. 

The brothers had achieved seven Top 10 hits in two years, and they released their Greatest Hits album.  It has sold an estimated four million copies in the United States.  The single "Sugar Daddy" was released from the album, and it peaked at #10 overall and #3 on the R&B chart. 

In 1972, the Jackson 5 released the album Lookin' Through the Windows, which is approaching three million in sales in the U.S. alone.  Michael's vocals were age-defying performances, as on the title song. The group continued to enjoy success on the R&B chart, but single releases were mid-charters overall from the album.

The following year, the Jackson 5 released the album Skywriting, which is near two million in the United States, according to the best estimates.  However, the group's singles were peaking lower and lower compared to previous efforts.

The group released the album G.I.T.:  Get It Together later in 1973--it too has gone over one million in sales.  The title song was a #2 R&B smash, even though it peaked at #28 on the Popular chart.

Meanwhile, Michael and Jermaine both released solo efforts, and their careers would take off as the decade progressed.  The Jackson 5 released the album Dancing Machine in 1974, which was a bit of a comeback for them.  The title song peaked at #2, the group's biggest hit since "Never Can Say Goodbye" in 1971, and their first Top 10 song in three years.

"I Am Love" is another fine track from the album.
Dancing Machine has now topped two million in sales in the U.S. alone.  The group released the album Moving Violation in 1975, another million-seller, but again, their singles experienced lackluster sales and airplay.

By 1975, the brothers were growing weary of Motown.  Although the famous label was a music-making factory with all of the songwriting, musicians, and producers contained in-house, the Jackson 5 wanted more creative control of their music.  When Joe Jackson found out that his sons received just 2.8% of royalties from Motown, he signed the group to Epic Records, which offered a royalty rate of 20% per record.

Jermaine decided to stay within the Motown family, so another brother, Randy, replaced him in the Jackson 5.  Motown initially sued the group for breach of contract, but they eventually allowed them to record for Epic, as long as they changed their name.  This the brothers did, becoming known as the Jacksons.  Meanwhile, Motown released the compilation Anthology, which is nearing one million in sales.

In 1976, the Jacksons debuted their weekly television variety series, and released their self-titled album on Epic.  The album went Gold, spawning the big hit "Enjoy Yourself", #6 overall and #2 on the R&B chart.

The follow-up, "Show You The Way To Go", hit #1 in the U.K. and #5 in Ireland.  While one of the biggest Jackson 5 songs in those two countries, the single stalled at #28 in the United States, an underrated song there.

However, the follow-up album, Goin' Places, went nowhere, so Epic agreed to let the group have complete creative control on their next album.  The Jacksons released Destiny in 1978, and scored another  Platinum album.  "Blame It On The Boogie" soared to #4 in Australia and reached #8 in the U.K., and went to #6 on the R&B chart in the U.S.

The follow-up single, "Shake Your Body Down To The Ground", became another big hit--#4 in the U.K., #7 in the United States, and #9 in Ireland.

"Things I Do For You" was a track which helped Michael transition into his solo career. The group continued with one more studio album and a live album from their subsequent tour.  But Michael's solo career soon took off into the stratosphere, and the group split. 

In 1983, Jermaine joined the group on the television special Motown 25:  Yesterday, Today, Forever.  Their appearance was so successful that all six brothers agreed to record another album, Victory, in 1984.  They went on a big Victory Tour around the world.  Michael and Marlon left the group after the tour, but brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Randy released one more album in 1989.

In 1999, the brothers' music was featured on the popular compilation series 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection:  The Best of the Jackson 5.  Estimated sales peg it at over one million in the U.S. 

The Jacksons reunited in 2001, but Michael's death in 2009 put a screeching halt to further plans.  Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon did reunite for a tour in 2012.

In 1980, the Jacksons received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  In 1997, the Jackson 5 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and two years later, the group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.  "ABC" and "I Want You Back" are both included in the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the latter is also a member of the Grammy Hall of Fame. 

The groundbreaking Jackson 5 scored 25 hits in the 70's (8 Top 10's and 4 #1's), and sold 34.5 million albums.  You will note that the album sales are the most we have seen thus far in The Top 100 Artists of the Seventies*.  While it is far from the only factor to consider, it is an essential one. 

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