The Jacksons

Popular Sheet Music:
Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

The Jacksons Biography

The cover to the Jackson 5
The cover to the Jackson 5's first LP, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, released on Motown Records in 1969.

The Jackson 5 (also spelled The Jackson 5ive, abbreviated as J5, and later known as The Jacksons) were an American popular music act, whose repertoire combined R&B, soul, funk, and later disco. All but two members of the group (early members Johnny Jackson and Ronnie Rancifer) were the male children of Katherine and Joseph Jackson (who served as the boys' manager): Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Michael, and Randy, who replaced Jermaine in 1975. Originally signed to the Motown label before switching to CBS Records in 1975, the Jackson 5 were one of the most popular groups of the era, eventually selling over 100 million records worldwide and becoming the only performers to have their first four singles reach the top of the American charts.



Though eight people were members of the Jackson 5 at one time or another, there were never more than five at any given time because members were replaced for various reasons. They are listed here along with their tenure in the band.

  • Jackie Jackson (1962-1989): The eldest brother, Jackie was a singer and, prior to a musical career, a baseball player. He had a solo career, releasing three albums, and eventually married Enid Jackson, also later having an affair with singer Paula Abdul.
  • Tito Jackson (1962-1989): Another original member, Tito has enjoyed a solo career as a blues musician.
  • Jermaine Jackson (1962-1975; 1984-1989): A singer, Jermaine stayed with the group until the others switched from Motown to CBS Records. He stayed with Motown to pursue a solo career, achieving moderate success.
  • Johnny Jackson (1962-1963): An original member of the Jackson 5, Johnny did not remain with the group for long.
  • Ronnie Rancifer (1962-1963): An original member of the Jackson 5, Ronnie did not remain with the group for long.
  • Marlon Jackson (1963-1989): Joing the year after the band was formed along with Michael, Marlon was sometimes beaten for his failure to live up to his brother's dancing skills. He eventually eloped with a fan, Carol, and, due to friction with his brothers, did not perform on the group's last album. He released one solo LP. Marlon then became a real estate broker and co-owner of Major Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Michael Jackson (1963-1989): During his tenure with the Jackson 5, Michael was clearly the most popular member. He was the only one of the brothers to have a consistent solo career, and has become one of the most famous musicians in the world.
  • Randy Jackson (1975-1989): Randy became a member of the group after Jermaine departed and the group switched to Epic.

Influences and followers

The Jackson 5's sound was influenced by many of the biggest stars of the 1960s, especially including family funk band Sly & the Family Stone, album-oriented soul pioneer Marvin Gaye, doo wop boy band Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and soul shouters like Jackie Wilson, Joe Tex, Stevie Wonder and James Brown 1 ( At the time of their early success, soul and funk stars, especially coming from Motown Records, were among the most popular musicians; Motown had launched the careers of dozens of the decade's biggest stars. Coming after the label's most famous acts, the Jacksons were 'the last big stars to come rolling off (the Motown) assembly line' (Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records). Their influence on later performers has been profound, inspiring a number of performers from diverse fields, including indie rock band Dashboard Confessional 2 (, New Jack Swing group New Edition 3 ( and boy band Hanson 4 ( The Jackson 5 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and have two songs ('ABC' and 'I Want You Back') that are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.


Early career

The Jacksons were a working-class family from Gary, Indiana. Katherine raised the children as Jehovah's Witnesses, and they therefore were not allowed to have many leisure activities. Joe, a steel mill employee who often performed in an R&B band called 'The Falcons' with his brother Luther, was a strict disciplinarian; many of the Jackson children recall being severely beaten by Joe for misbehaving. The children found an outlet in music, with elder brothers Jackie (born 1951), Tito (b. 1953), and Jermaine (b. 1954) borrowing their father's guitar without his pernmission and playing along to the radio. Younger brothers Marlon (b. 1957) and Michael (b. 1958) would be allowed to watch, as long as they didn't tell. Joe eventually discovered that the older three boys were playing his guitar when one of the strings broke 5 (; although he was furious at first, he realized the boys had talent, and began making plans to create a musical act for them.

In 1962, Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine began performing around the Gary area with two neighborhood children, Johnny Jackson and Ronnie Rancifer, in a group called The Ripples and Waves. Joe Jackson served as the manager, at first only part-time, and then eventually quitting his job at the steel mill. Jermaine sang lead and played bass, and Tito played guitar. Johnny and Ronnie were replaced the next year by Marlon and Michael, who was only 5 years old. Already showing talent as a singer and dancer, Michael eventually replaced Jermaine as lead vocalist, and the band was renamed The Ripples and Waves Plus Michael. Joe would later rename the group The Jackson Brothers before finally settling on The Jackson 5.

During this period, the boys toured Indiana extensively, and after winning a major local talent show in 1966 with a rendition of The Temptations' 'My Girl', led by Michael, they began playing professional gigs. In 1967, the Jackson 5 won the Amateur Night competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, impressing Motown Records artist Gladys Knight. Knight recommended the group to Motown chief Berry Gordy, but Gordy, who already had Stevie Wonder on his roster, was hesitant to take on another child act because of the child labor laws and other problems involved. That same year, the Jackson 5 made their first recordings for the Steeltown label in 1967; one of them, 'Big Boy,' became a regional hit.

Joining Motown

For one of their performances in 1968, the Jackson 5 opened for Motown group Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers at Chicago's Regal Theater. Taylor was also very impressed with the boys, and he and Motown executive Suzanne de Passe arranged for the Jackson 5 to audition for Berry Gordy in person that summer. Gordy's initial reluctance disappeared when he finally saw the boys perform, and decide to sign them to Motown.

Motown began negotiations to buy out the Jackson 5's Steeltown contract; in the meantime, Bobby Taylor began producing the group's first recordings at Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. recording studio in Detriot. The early Taylor-produced Jackson 5 records were all covers of both contemporary hits and Motown-standards, including Sly & the Family Stone's 'Stand!' and their famous rendition of The Miracles' 'Who's Lovin' You', written by Smokey Robinson.

In 1969, Gordy moved the entire Jackson family to California, and he and de Passe began the process of grooming them as the label's next big act. Diana Ross formally introduced the Jackson 5 to the public on August 11, 1969, at a Beverly Hills, California club called The Daisy. The Jackson 5's first single, 'I Want You Back,' was written and produced by a collective of Motown songwriters and producers, including Berry Gordy, Alphonso Mizell, Deke Richards, and Freddie Perren, who were collectively known as The Corporation. A week after 'I Want You Back' was released asa single on October 7. the Jackson 5 performed it and Sly & the Family Stone's 'Sing A Simple Song' as part of their television debut on The Hollywood Palace as special guests of Diana Ross & the Supremes. 'I Want You Back' was the only single from the Jackson 5's first album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, which was released in December 1969.


Most of the early Jackson 5 singles were written and produced by The Corporation, who crafted for the Jackson 5 a combination of the 'Motown Sound' and bubblegum pop that they termed 'bubblegum soul'. The Jackson 5 became an instant sensation, with 'I Want You Back' and its 1970 follow-ups 'ABC', 'The Love You Save', and 'I'll Be There' all going to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Other early Top 5 hits included 'Mama's Pearl' and 'Never Can Say Goodbye.' 'Jacksonmania' swept the nation, with thousands of young girls falling in love with the Jackson brothers, especially Jermaine and little Michael. Motown licensed dozens of Jackson 5-related products, and Rankin-Bass produced The Jackson 5ive, a Saturday morning cartoon that debuted on September 11, 1971 and ran for two seasons on ABC.

In 1971, Motown also began a spin-off solo career for Michael, whose first single, 'Got to Be There', was a Top 5 hit. Michael also sung the title track for the 1972 motion picture Ben. His other successful solo singles included 'Rockin' Robin' (1972) and 'I Wanna Be Where You Are' (1973).

Jermaine started a solo career of his own in 1972, and had a Top Ten hit with his single 'Daddy's Home.' The following year, Jermaine married Berry Gordy's daughter Hazel, against the wishes of his father.

After 1972, the Jackson 5's releases were less immensely successful, but they still did very well. Later Top 20 hits included 'Lookin' Through the Windows' (1972) and the disco-styled 'Dancing Machine' (1974).

The move to CBS Records

In 1975, Joe had the group sign with CBS Records, in hopes of getting better royalties and more creative control, angered at Motown's refusal to allow the Jacksons to play their own instruments on record. Motown sued for breach of contract, and although they eventually let the group go, the Jacksons were forced to change their name to The Jacksons because Motown owned the 'Jackson 5' trademark. The Jacksons were also forced to trade Jermaine for youngest Jackson brother Randy, since Jermaine chose to stay with Motown and the Gordys. At first part of CBS's Philadelphia International division, and later moving over to Epic Records, the Jacksons continued releasing popular singles such as 'Enjoy Yourself' and 'Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground).'

Later years and Michael's solo career

In summer 1976, CBS television executive Fred Silverman signed the Jackson family (including Michael, Marlon, Tito, Jackie, Randy, Rebbie, LaToya, and Janet) to appear in their own variety show, to compete with ABC's The Osmonds. The Jacksons debued on June 16, 1976, and ran on CBS until its cancellation the following March. The show was the first variety show hosted by an African-American family.

In 1977, Michael starred alongside Diana Ross in the Motown/Universal Pictures motion picture The Wiz, an adaptation of the Broadway musical based upon L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Quincy Jones was the producer of the film's songs, and he and Michael began work on Michael’s first Epic solo album, Off the Wall, the next year. Off the Wall, released in 1979, sold six million copies and featured four #1 hit singles, causing some speculation about whether Michael would leave the Jacksons.

Michael continued to perform with his brothers, releasing the album Destiny in 1980, which featured the hit song 'Can You Feel It.' Although Destiny was mildly successful, it was nothing compared to Michael's Off the Wall or its follow-up, Thriller, which went on to become the most successful album of all-new material ever.

The Jacksons released the album Victory in 1984, featuring the hit single 'State of Shock' with guest star Mick Jagger, and supported the album with the massively successful Victory tour. The brothers eventually drifted apart, reuniting only once for the album 2300 Jackson St. in 1989. Michael and Jermaine resumed their respective solo careers, with Michael becoming one of the most well-known performers in the world. Marlon unsuccessfully attempted to start a solo career of his own, while Tito, Randy, and Jackie went on to become successful session musicians.

The Jackson 5 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. Two years later, The Jacksons made a reunion appearance on Michael's September 7, 2001 concert at Madison Square Garden, which was later broadcast as a television special on November 13 on CBS.


In 1992, Suzanne de Passe, Jermaine Jackson, and Motown produced The Jacksons: An American Dream, a five-hour television miniseries broadcast based on the history of the Jacksons in two parts on ABC. The three-hour 'Early Years' part of the series was broadcast on November 15, 1992, and covered the story of the Jacksons from their parents courtship in Chicago in the mid-1940s up until the release of the early Motown #1 hits in 1969/1970. 'The Success Years', broadcast on November 18, 1992, covered the years from the 'Jacksonmainia' years of the early-1970s until 1984 the Victory tour.

Among the actors featured in the miniseries were Angela Bassett as Katherine Jackson, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs as Joseph Jackson, Billy Dee Williams as Berry Gordy, Vanessa L. Williams as Suzanne de Passe, Bumper Robinson as teenage Jackie, Jason Weaver as pre-teenage Michael, and Terrence Dashon Howard as adult Jackie. The first part of the miniseires was the highest-rated program broadcast during the week of November 10 - November 17 6 (, and the miniseries was later rebroadcast on VH1 and released to VHS and DVD.

See also

The three girls of the Jackson family, although never members of the group, also enjoyed musical careers of their own:



The Jackson 5

(all Motown releases)
  • 1969: 'I Want You Back' (US #1)
  • 1970: 'ABC' (US #1)
  • 1970: 'The Love You Save' (US #1)
  • 1970: 'I'll Be There' (US #1)
  • 1971: 'Never Can Say Goodbye' (US #2)
  • 1971: 'Mama's Pearl' (US #2)
  • 1971: 'Maybe Tomorrow' (US #20)
  • 1971: 'Sugar Daddy' (US #10)
  • 1972: 'Little Bitty Pretty One' (US #13)
  • 1972: 'Lookin' Through the Windows' (US #16)
  • 1972: 'Corner of the Sky' (US #18)
  • 1973: 'Hallelujah Day' (US #28)
  • 1973: 'Get It Together' (US #28)
  • 1974: 'Dancing Machine' (US #2)
  • 1974: 'Whatever You Got, I Want' (US #38)
  • 1974: 'I Am Love' (US #15)

The Jacksons

(all CBS releases)
  • 1976: 'Enjoy Yourself' (US #6)
  • 1977: 'Show You the Way to Go' (US #28)
  • 1979: 'Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)' (US #7)
  • 1980: 'Lovely One' (US #12)
  • 1981: 'Heartbreak Hotel' (AKA 'This Place Hotel') (US #22)
  • 1984: 'State of Shock' (featuring Mick Jagger) (US #3)
  • 1984: 'Torture' (US #17)
  • 1988: 'I Want You Back Remix' (UK #8)


The Jackson 5

(all Motown releases)
  • 1969: Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5
  • 1970: ABC
  • 1970: Third Album
  • 1970: Christmas Album
  • 1971: Maybe Tomorrow
  • 1971: Goin' Back to Indiana
  • 1972: Lookin' Through the Windows
  • 1973: Skywriter
  • 1973: The Jackson 5 Live (Japan only, issued in US by Motown in 2004)
  • 1974: Dancing Machine
  • 1975: Moving Violation
  • 1976: Joyful Jukebox Music

The Jacksons

(all CBS releases)
  • 1977: The Jacksons
  • 1977: Goin' Places
  • 1978: Destiny
  • 1980: Triumph
  • 1981: The Jacksons Live!
  • 1984: Victory
  • 1989: 2300 Jackson St.


  • Bierbaum, Tom (Nov. 18, 1992). Week's Nielsen win easy as ABC ( Variety.
  • Cadman, Chris and Craig Halstead. Michael Jackson the Early Years. Author's Online. ISBN 0755200640
  • Manning, Steve. The Jacksons. Indianapolis. Bobbs-Merrill. 1976.
  • Posner, Gerald (2002). Motown : Music, Money, Sex, and Power. New York: Random House. ISBN 037-550062-6.
  • Transcript ( of interview with Jermaine Jackson. Larry King Live. November 30, 2003.

External links

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