On this day in music history: March 16, 1971 – “Never Can Say Goodbye” by The Jackson 5 is released. Written by Clifton Davis, it is the sixth single release for the superstar family vocal group. With the Jackson 5’s career in full swing having scored two consecutive chart toppers, and about to land their third by the Summer of 1970, Motown continues to search for top notch material for the group to record. Producer Hal Davis finds “Never Can Say Goodbye” when he overhears songwriter Clifton Davis (no relation), auditioning the song for potential music publishers. Davis likes the song and offers to record it immediately. It is recorded in June 1970 at Hitsville West in Los Angeles, CA, with the producer quickly assembling the musicians for the session which include David T. Walker, Art Wright (guitars), Joe Sample (keyboards), Bob West (bass), and Gene Pello (drums). The song is shelved for several months by Motown’s A&R department who feels the song is “too mature” for the young group. One day, a frustrated Davis is overheard by Berry Gordy blasting the song in his office. Gordy quickly sanctions its release upon hearing it. “Never Can Say Goodbye” spends three weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B singles chart, and three weeks at number two on the Hot 100 in May of 1971.
On this day in music history: March 11, 1969 – The Jackson 5 officially sign with Motown Records. Having begun negotiations several months before, the label buys the group out of their contract with local Gary, IN label Steeltown Records. Shortly afterward, the Jacksons move from Gary, Indiana to Los Angeles, California, to start intensive rehearsals and enter the studio to begin recording with producer Bobby Taylor, the man who brought them to Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.’s attention. By the Summer of 1969, the group begin recording sessions, mostly cutting cover material until Gordy replaces Taylor with The Corporation (Deke Richards, Freddie Perren, Fonce Mizell, and Gordy himself), who are responsible for many of The Jackson 5’s hits. Within less than a year, the group have landed the first of four consecutive chart topping singles on the pop and R&B singles charts.
On this day in music history: January 10, 1970 – “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 4 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 1 week on January 31, 1970. Written and produced by The Corporation, it is the first of four consecutive chart topping singles for the five brothers from Gary, IN. The track is recorded at The Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA in August 1969, and features Wilton Felder (bass), David T. Walker, Louie Shelton, and Don Peake (guitars), Gene Pello (drums), Joe Sample & Freddie Perren (keyboards) and Sandra Crouch (tambourine). After the records’ release in October of 1969, the group begin the task of promoting their debut single for Motown. Their first nationally televised appearance being on The Hollywood Palace" variety series the same month. Their second live television performance on The Ed Sullivan Show on December 14, 1969, plays a vital role in giving the record the final push needed to send it on its way to the top of the R&B and pop singles charts. In time, “I Want You Back” is regarded as a landmark release in the history of Motown, and one of the greatest pop singles of all time. Its enduring popularity and influence is further confirmed when it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999, The Jackson 5’s first record to receive that honor. “I Want You Back” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: January 7, 1971 – “Mama’s Pearl” by The Jackson 5 is released. Written and produced by The Corporation, it is the fifth consecutive top five single for the five brothers from Gary, IN. Issued as the second single from their third LP “Third Album”, “Pearl” is originally intended to be the follow up to the Jackson 5’s third number one hit “The Love You Save”, but is initially passed over in favor of “I’ll Be There”. Written mostly by Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell of The Corporation, in its first draft the song has a much different concept. Originally titled “Guess Who’s Making Whoopie (With Your Girlfriend)”, some of the original lyrics include a refrain stating “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine”. Chief Corporation songwriter Deke Richards, knowing that it won’t work with The Jackson 5’s wholesome image, works with his songwriting partners to come up with an entirely new title and lyrics. Re-titled “Mama’s Pearl”, the songs’ narrative is about a boy who knows a girl he likes is mutually attracted to him, but is too shy to reveal her true feelings. He urges her to come out of her shell and become his girlfriend. Label chief Berry Gordy approves of the revamped song, and producers head for the studio to cut it. The track is recorded at Motown’s Hitsville West Studio in Los Angeles in July of 1970. Before it is released as a single, the group re-record the lead and background vocals, improving upon the first version released on the album. “Mama’s Pearl” peaks at #2 on both the Billboard R&B and Hot 100 on February 27, 1971. Ironically, it is held off the top of the pop charts by The Osmonds “One Bad Apple”, a song written for the Jacksons but is rejected by Motown as being “too juvenile”. A stereo mix of “Pearl” with the re-recorded vocals first appears on The Jackson 5’s “Greatest Hits” album released in December of 1971 as well as their 1976 “Anthology” compilation. This version also makes its CD debut on the “Jackson 5 Anthology” in 1986, and is included on “The Jacksons Story” compilation in 2004. The song is also featured in an episode of the group’s Saturday morning cartoon series “The Jackson 5ive”. The episode titled “A Rare Pearl” (originally airing on January 15, 1972) centers around the Jacksons pursuit of a beautiful flight attendant named Jacqueline Pearl, after meeting her on an airplane. To thwart the brothers, she has her football jock older brother pose as her mother to scare them into leaving her alone, after following her home. The rejected original version “Guess Who’s Making Whoopie” later surfaces on the compilation “Come And Get It: Rare Pearls” in 2012. The single’s B-side “Darling Dear”, another track from “Third Album”, featuring a virtuoso performance by Funk Brothers bassist James Jamerson, also becomes a favorite of Jackson 5 fans.
On this day in music history: December 20, 1971 – “Greatest Hits” by The Jackson 5 is released. Produced by The Corporation, Hal Davis and Bobby Taylor, it is recorded at The Sound Factory, Hitsville USA West Studios in Hollywood, CA and Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from July 1969 – October 1971. The eleven song LP is the first hits compilation of the groups’ work released on Motown Records from 1969 to 1971. It also features the newly recorded track “Sugar Daddy” (#3 R&B, #10 Pop) which becomes another million selling single for the superstar family group. Original LP pressings also contain a stereo mix of the single “Mama’s Pearl” featuring the re-recorded vocals used for the mono single version. However, at some point, this version is replaced by the original LP version from the “Third Album” on later re-pressings. The LP’s cover art features a portrait of the Jacksons with initial pressings featuring embossing on the portrait’s frame and is perforated so that it can be punched out of the cover and framed. “Greatest Hits” is also issued as a quadraphonic stereo LP in 1975 (in Japan only), featuring noticeably different mixes of the tracks. Highly sought after by collectors, copies of this very rare version can sell for up to $500 today. The compilation goes in and out of print over the years as more comprehensive collections of the groups’ hits are issued in its place. It is remastered and reissued on CD one final time in 1998 before being deleted again in the mid 2000’s. “Greatest Hits” peaks at number two on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twelve on the Top 200, selling over four million copies in the US alone.
On this day in music history: December 18, 1969 – “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5”, the debut album by The Jackson 5 is released. Produced by Bobby Taylor and The Corporation, it is recorded at The Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA and Motown Studio A and Studio B in Detroit, MI from May – August, and October 1969. The album’s title suggests that the group was discovered by Ross, when in truth they had been initially been brought to Motown Records attention by Bobby Taylor and Gladys Knight. Though Ross had presented them in their first national television appearance. After The Jackson 5 are officially signed to Motown in March of 1969, Taylor is the first to take the group into the studio and begin recording them. Initially, he has them recording covers of songs from the Motown catalog like “Who’s Lovin’ You?” and “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” to more recent material like versions of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Stand!” and The Delfonics’ “Can You Remember”. Feeling that the group needs some “original” material, Berry Gordy creates “The Corporation”, a team of songwriters and producers headed up by Deke Richards, including Freddie Perren, and Fonce Mizell. While Richards, Perren and Mizell do the majority of the writing, arranging and production work, Gordy himself acts as the fourth member of the team, acting as a sounding board, contributing lyrics and song concepts. Issued the week of The Jackson 5’s first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, the album is major success. It spins off their debut smash “I Want You Back” (#1 R&B and Pop) and go on to sell over five million copies worldwide. Some early pressings of the LP, including the original UK release feature the track “Nobody” with alternate vocals. First released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued numerous times over the years, most recently in 2016. Out of print on vinyl since 1989, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2009. “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5” spends nine weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number five on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1969 – The Jackson 5 make their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on the CBS television network. The family group perform three songs including the A and B-sides of their debut single “I Want You Back”, “Who’s Lovin’ You” and “Stand”, all included on their debut album “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5” released on December 18, 1969. With an estimated audience of more than 50,000,000, the studio audience and viewers at home owed by their polished and electrifying set, the J5 make a major impression, with Sullivan praising the young Motown stars. The normally staid host makes the statement “the little fella in front is incredible", of the then eleven year old Michael Jackson. The performance has an immediate impact, with The Jackson 5 becoming the talk of the town and receiving widespread media coverage. “I Want You Back” which had been steadily climbing the charts since debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles in mid November, is given a virtual rocket boost two weeks after Sullivan show appearance. The week of December 27, 1969, the single leaps from #17 to #8 on the Hot 100, and holds at #2 on the R&B chart before finally unseating label mates Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together” on January 10, 1970, settling in for a four week stay at the top. Three weeks later on January 31, 1970, the single tops the Hot 100, and shifting more than two million copies in the US alone.
On this day in music history: October 18, 1969 – The Jackson 5 make their national television debut on the variety show “The Hollywood Palace” on the ABC television network. The show is hosted that week by Diana Ross and Sammy Davis, Jr.. The group perform four songs including their debut single “I Want You Back”, “Sing A Simple Song”, and “Can You Remember”. The performance is also recreated in the television mini series “The Jacksons: An American Dream” in 1992.
On this day in music history: October 15, 1970 – “Jackson 5 Christmas Album”, the fourth album by The Jackson 5 is released. Produced by The Corporation, it is recorded at The Sound Factory and Hitsville USA West Studios in Hollywood, CA from July – September 1970. The groups first and only holiday album, it is The Jackson 5’s fourth full length LP release of the year, issued only five weeks after “Third Album”. The collection quickly becomes a perennial favorite during the Christmas holiday season with their versions of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” becoming two of the most requested Christmas songs played on radio. The album tops the annual Christmas albums chart published by Billboard Magazine in 1970, but not on the main Top 200 or R&B album charts due to Billboard’s then policy of not including seasonal holiday albums or singles on their main charts. The album returns to the top again in 1972, charting a total of six times over the years. Originally released on CD in the mid 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2001 under the title “The Best Of The Jackson 5 – 20th Century Masters The Christmas Collection”, with the previously unreleased “Little Christmas Tree” added as a bonus track. The “Jackson 5 Christmas Album” spends four weeks at number one on the Billboard Christmas Albums chart, going Platinum in the US, and selling over three and a half million copies worldwide.
On this day in music history: October 10, 1970 – “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5 hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 6 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 5 weeks on October 17, 1970. Written by Bob West, Willie Hutch, Hal Davis and Berry Gordy, Jr., it is the most successful single for the family vocal group from Gary, IN. In the Spring of 1970, while searching for more material for The Jackson 5 to record, producer Hal Davis receives a song from his friend musician Bob West titled “I’ll Be There”. The song is initially rejected by Motown’s A&R department, when they feel the song isn’t right for the young group. Davis disagrees, and re-write parts of the song with West and songwriter Willie Hutch. Davis plays the revised version of the song for Berry Gordy, Jr. who likes it immediately, making some additional suggestions and contributing some lyrics to the composition. Recorded at Motown’s Hitsville West Studios in June of 1970, “I’ll Be There” features Art Wright (guitar), Jimmy Bond (bass), James Gadson or Gene Pello (drums), and Joe Sample (keyboards) playing on the basic track. It is chosen as the fourth Jackson 5 single over the song “Mama’s Pearl” (which is revamped and issued as the follow up in January of 1971). After releasing three uptempo singles in a row, the shift in musical direction proves to be a brilliant move. Released on August 28, 1970, “I’ll Be There” is an immediate smash, taking only four and five weeks respectively to reach the top of the pop and R&B singles charts. The Jackson 5 becomes the first group in history to have their first four singles go to number one on both the Pop and R&B singles charts. “I’ll Be There” sells over four million copies in the US alone, becoming Motown Records biggest selling single until 1981 when it is surpassed by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love”.