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The Jackson 5 Years

Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, on a late summer night on August 29, 1958; the seventh of nine children. Father Joe Jackson was born in Arkansas. In 1949 Joe married Katherine Scruse, whose people are from Alabama.

Joe Jackson had his own band, "The Falcons", they would practice after work in the living room of their house in Gary.
Joe soon discovered the talent of his sons and founded the family band "The Jacksons". They would later become "The Jackson 5". Little Michael always watched his brothers rehearse - when he was about 5 years old he joined the group and became the lead singer of The Jackson 5.

Michael's first public appearance was at a school program in the first grade in 1963 [Garnett Elementary School in Gary]. Wearing black pants and a white shirt, he sang "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" from The Sound of Music. The reaction was overwhelming. Michael: "When I finished that song, the reaction in the auditorium overwhelmed me. The applause was thunderous and people were smiling; some of them were standing. My teachers were crying and I just couldn't believe it. I had made them all happy. It was such a great feeling. I felt a little confused too, because I didn't think I had done anything special. I was just singing the way I sang at home every night. When you're performing, you don't realize what you sound like or how you're coming across. You just open your mouth and sing."

Soon Joe was grooming the band for talent contests. Michael: "We'd perform for him and he'd critique us. If you messed up, you got hit, sometimes with a belt, sometimes with a switch. My father was real strict with us - real strict." At the age of 6, Michael and the Jackson 5 started collecting trophies with their act at various talent shows or amateur nights.

A local record studio, Steeltown, owned by Mr Keith, gave the Jackson 5 their first chance - the single "Big Boy" was released in 1968. They even got radio play in Gary and became a big deal in their neighborhood.

In winter 1968, they finally reached what they were so hard working for. Motown Records took them under contract.
Berry Gordy, owner of Motown Records, promised: "Your first record will be number one, your second record will be a number one, and so will your third record. Three number one records in a row. You'll hit the charts just as Diana Ross and the Supremes did." All the big Motown stars had emigrated to California along with Berry Gordy after he moved from Detroit - and so did the Jackson family. Suzanne de Passe was having a great effect on their lives. She worked for Motown, and it was she who trained them religiously once they moved to Los Angeles. She also became a manager for the Jackson 5.

Freddy Perrin, Bobby Taylor and Deke Richards, who, along with Hal Davis and "Fonce" Mizell, were part of the team that wrote and produced their first singles. Together these guys were called "The Corporation".

When "I Want You Back" was released in November 1969, it sold 2 million copies in 6 weeks and went to number one. Their next single, "ABC", came out in March 1970 and sold 2 million records in 3 weeks. When their third single, "The Love You Save", went to number one in June of 1970, Berry's promise came true.

The Jackson 5's first major TV show was "The Hollywood Palace", a big Saturday night show, hosted by Diana Ross. They performed "I Want You Back" live. However, the Jackson 5 made their very first TV appearance on the "1969 Miss Black America Pageant" show, performing "It's Your Thing" in August of 1969.

"I'll Be There" was their real breakthrough song. Michael: "It was the one that said, 'We're here to stay.' " It was number one for 5 weeks! The Jackson 5 became the first group ever to have 4 number one hits in a row!

The crazy days of the big Jackson 5 tours started with a big arena tour in the fall of 1970. When "Never Can Say Goodbye" was a big hit in 1971, they played 45 cities that summer, followed by 50 more cities later that year. They traveled with a tutor called Rose Fine who made sure they did their lessons.

Michael: "My appearance began to really change when I was about 14... I became subconsciously scarred by this experience with my skin. I got very shy and became embarrassed to meet people because my complexion was so bad. It really seemed that the more I looked in the mirror, the worse the pimples got. My appearance began to depress me... Eventually, things changed. I started feeling differently about my condition. I've learned to change how I think and learned to feel better about myself. Most important, I changed my diet. That was the key."

In the fall of 1971 Michael's first solo record "Got To Be There" came out. The same year, The Jackson 5's Saturday morning cartoon show started appearing over network televison. Michael's first real involvement with films came when he sang the title song for the movie "Ben" in 1972. The song went to number one and is still a favorite of Michael. At only 13 years of age, Michael won a Golden Globe Award for his performance and later even got his first Academy Award nomination.

By the time "Ben" came out, they knew that they were going to go around the world. In 1972 they began their first overseas tour with a visit to England.

Michael: "We had three years of hits behind us when we toured Europe that first time, so there was enough to please both the kids who followed our music and the Queen of England, whom we met at a Royal Command Performance.
England was our jumping-off, and it was different from any place we'd been before, but the farther we traveled, the more exotic the world looked. We saw the great museums of Paris and the beautiful mountains of Switzerland. Europe was an education in the roots of Western culture and, in a way, a preparation for visiting Eastern countries that were more spiritual..."

Australia and New Zealand, their next stops, were English-speaking, but they met people who were still living in tribes in the outback. Michael: "They greeted us as brothers even though they didn't speak our language. If I'd ever needed proof that all men could be brothers, I certainly had it during that tour."

The Jackson 5 released "Dancing Machine" - following the new "disco music" trend. Michael: "When it came out in 1974, I was determined to find a dance move that would enhance the song and make it more exciting to perform - and, I hoped, more exciting to watch. So when we sang 'Dancing Machine' on 'Soul Train', I did a street-style dance move called Robot. That performance was a lesson to me in the power of television. Overnight, 'Dancing Machine' rose to the top of the charts, and within a few days it seemed that every kid in the United States was doing the Robot. I had never seen anything like it."

Their problems with Motown began around 1974, when The Jackson 5 told Motown in no uncertain terms that they wanted to write and produce their own songs as they didn't like the way their music sounded at the time. Motown not only refused to grant their requests, they told them it was taboo to even mention that they wanted to do their own music. Michael: "I really got discouraged and began to seriously dislike all the material Motown was feeding us... When I feel that something is not right, I have to speak up. I know most people don't think of me as tough or strong-willed, but that's just because they don't know me. Eventually my brothers and I reached a point with Motown where we were miserable but no one was saying anything. My father didn't say anything. So it was up to me to arrange a meeting with Berry Gordy and talk to him. I was the one who had to say that we - The Jackson 5 - were going to leave Motown. I went over to see him, face to face, and it was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. If I had been the only one of us who was unhappy, I might have kept my mouth shut, but there had been so much talk at home about how unhappy we ALL were that I went in and talked to him and hold him how we felt. I told him I was unhappy... I knew it was time for change, so we followed our instincts, and we won when we decided to try for a fresh start with another label."

On May 28, 1975 they signed a contract with Epic Records [CBS], taking effect on March 1976. Jermaine, now Berry's son-in-law, decided to stay with Motown as his situation was more complicated than the others.

When he left the group, Marlon had a chance to take Jermaine's place. Randy officially took Michael's former place as bongo player and the baby of the band.

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Jackson 5 Era
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