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
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
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
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!
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
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
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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