My sister Leslie, who’s a little younger than I, had each of the first four non-Christmas LPs of the Jackson Five (or Jackson 5ive, as Motown sometimes cutely designated the group). I wanted to write them off as a silly piece of “bubblegum soul”. The problem with that was twofold:
1) I rather liked many of the songs, and
2) I discovered that my vocal range was quite compatible with Jermaine, who had the second lead on many of the songs (Tito sang low harmonies, Jackie high harmonies, and Marlon somewhere in the middle)
Oh, there was a third thing:
3) that preteen Michael was pretty darn good
The first album had I Want You Back [LISTEN], a #1 hit in 1970, but also Who’s Lovin’ You [LISTEN], a cover of a Smokey Robinson song that, when I listened to it, I thought, “How old IS this guy?” He was an old soul.
The second album included both ABC [LISTEN], the title song, and The Love You Save [LISTEN], both of which went to #1 for two weeks in 1970. The imaginatively titled Third Album contained I’ll Be There [LISTEN], #1 for FIVE weeks in 1970. I was always a sucker for Maybe Tomorrow [LISTEN], the title song from the fourth album, which only went to #20 in 1971. They had other hits, most notably Dancing Machine [LISTEN], #2 in 1974.
I won’t necessarily admit to having watched their animated series, which is now available on DVD.
When the group moved from Motown to Columbia/Epic, Jermaine stayed at Motown, largely because he was married to Motown boss Berry Gordy’s daughter Hazel for a time. Little brother Randy replaced him as the group became The Jacksons. Their first hit was Enjoy Yourself [LISTEN], #6 in 1977.
Michael, who had done some solo work even with Motown, had some subsequent massive albums on his own, with Off the Wall, and Thriller. But the brothers, including Jermaine, got together for the 1984 Victory album and tour. Michael, of course, went on with his own career arc.
The group never broke up officially, but they haven’t recorded an album since 1989, though Tito, Jackie, Jermaine, and Marlon did appear in some bizarre reality show back in 2009, which ended up including their reactions to brother Michael’s death.