Joseph and Katherine Jackson raised 9 children on a steel worker's salary in 1960s' Gary, Indiana. The Jackson children grew up in a notoriously strict setting; their mother, a Jehovah's Witness, insisted on a devout and pious upbringing while their father drove them with his severe work ethic.
Joe Jackson had dreamed of being a musician all his life. As a young man, he joined an R&B band as a guitar player and, shortly thereafter, discovered that he couldn't buy groceries with his dream. He put his guitar away and went to the steel mill to provide for his family. But when his oldest sons found his guitar, it became clear that they possessed talent. The dreams Joe Jackson had once abandoned might, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, pan out after all.
Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine began practicing on a regular basis with their father as their manager and coach. Before taking their act on the road, Joe Jackson enlisted two close cousins to fill the group to five. Two of the younger Jackson brothers, Marlon and little Michael, soon proved to be talented as well. The cousins were excused from duty and Michael Jackson was pushed to the front lines at age 5.
Michael's adorable grin, incredible dance moves, and energetic voice combined to make him one of the most charismatic entertainers around. Father Joe tasted real success; he began driving the boys harder than ever to rehearse, practice, and give it their all. Many of the Jacksons admit that their father used corporal punishment when they made mistakes during rehearsals. Little did they know just how close stardom really was.
Innocently enough, the Jacksons were touring local talent shows and playing state fairs to small but enthusiastic audiences. In 1967 they played the infamous Apollo Theater in Harlem, where they won the weekly amateur competition. Celebrities in the music business, like Gladys Knight and Bobby Taylor, were blown away at the boys' talent. Before long, word spread to Motown about this fabulous Afro-Von Trapp family and their sweet lead singer, Michael.
In 1968, less than a year after their victory at the Apollo, the Jackson Five was invited to audition for Berry Gordy, the head of Motown. They were signed and soon the entire Jackson family was relocating to L.A. By December of 1969, the Jackson Five had released their first album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson Five.
Catchy songs like "I Want You Back," "A B C," and "I'll Be There" made the Jackson Five household names. Their style was upbeat, spunky and definitely soulful. Michael's voice and the boys' choreography made their performances not only memorable, but enjoyable. Whatever Joseph and Katherine had done was working--the boys were terrific! By 1970 the group had produced 3 chart-busting albums and were already developing a cartoon for the ABC television network.
Success didn't come without a price. As anyone with a pulse knows, child stars eventually grow older and, when they do, their teenage years are rarely kind. Couple that with the ugly side effects of fame and fortune, and it's easy to understand where the Jackson Five went wrong. You've seen a Behind the Music special--I'm sure you certainly don't need me to tell you about artistic differences and stale image and fickle fans and backbiting.
But I will.
The older Jackson boys weren't boys anymore and spent a great deal of time fooling around with other Motown artists and groupies, exploring new-found freedoms, and slowly moving beyond Joseph's control. The fans had grown tired of the Jackson Five, who had been flooding the market for so many years. Their image hadn't changed since its inception: here we have five adolescent-to-adult males trying to play at being children. When the boys didn't look bored they seemed uncomfortable, going through motions that no longer fit. The music scene itself had been changing slowly to a disco format and, while the band released its share of disco and dance records, they found the transition awkward.
Then there's the songs: all great, but all written by in house songwriters. Joseph, as their manager, had begun to fight for more artistic freedom so that the Jacksons might be able to write their own music. Each of these situations could have been easily resolved, had the Jackson Five (plus one manager) been united in their efforts. But Jermaine had other priorities and, after a hurried courtship with Berry Gordy's daughter, Hazel, he was put in a rather awkward predicament. His family, alias "Rock," pressured him to fight for their rights while his father-in-law, also known as "Hard Place," pressured him to stand by Motown Records. Poor Jermaine, stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Enter the lawyers and, with them, the backbiting! The Jackson Five was no longer, since a principal member of the group was remaining with Motown while the rest of the group had signed to Epic's label. Motown owned the name "the Jackson Five," so the four remaining Jacksons officially added the youngest Jackson, Randy, to once again be five. Meet "The Jacksons!"
Epic Records gave The Jacksons what they wanted: self-written, self-produced music that ultimately bombed. Eventually Michael left his brothers to pursue a solo career. We all know how that turned out. The 1980s and 90s brought the Jackson family occasional success; there was a thin string of Top Tens, reunion concerts, and made-for-tv movies that left the world feeling somewhat nostalgic but mostly perplexed. In 1997 the Jackson Five was introduced to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2001 Motown Records released a 30th anniversary anthology of their music.
A Non-exhaustive Discography
The Jackson Five
1968 Big Boy' (Big Boy and You've Changed)
1969 Diana Ross Presents the Jackson Five* (Born to Love You, My Cherie Amour, Standing in the Shadows of Love, I Want You Back, Chained, Stand, You've Changed, I'm Losing You (I Know), Can You Remember, Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah, Who's Lovin' You, Nobody)
1970 A B C* (The Love You Save, One More Chance, A B C, 2-4-6-8, (Come 'Round Here) I'm The One You Need, Don't Know Why I Love You, Never Had A Dream Come True, True Love Can Be Beautiful, La La (Means I Love You), I'll Bet You, I Found That Girl, The Young Folks)
1970 The Third Album*(Darling Dear, The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage, Mama's Pearl, Reach In, I'll Be There, Ready Or Not (Here I Come), How Funky Is Your Chicken, Goin' Back To Indiana, Can I See You In The Morning, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Oh Happy Day)
1970 Christmas Album*(Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, The Christmas Song, Up On The House Top, Frosty The Snowman, The Little Drummer Boy, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Christmas Won't Be The Same This Year, Give Love On Christmas Day, Someday At Christmas, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus)
1971 Maybe Tomorrow* (Petals, It's Great To Be Here, Blue Skies, (We've Got), I Will Find A Way, My Little Baby, Honey Chile, Maybe Tomorrow, Sixteen Candles, The Wall, She's Good, Never Can Say Goodbye)
1972 Lookin' Through The Windows*(Ain't Nothing But The Real Thing, Lookin' Through The Windows, Don't Let Your Baby Catch You, To Know, Doctor My Eyes, Little Bitty Pretty One, E-Ne-Me-Ne-Mi-Ne-Moe, (The Choice Is Yours To Pull), If I Have To Move A Mountain, Don't Want To See Tomorrow, Children Of The Light, I Can Only Give You Love)
1973  Skywriter*(Skywriter, Hallelujah Day, The Boogie Man, Touch, Corner Of The Sky, I Can't Quit Your Love, Uppermost, World Of Sunshine, Ooh, I'd Love To Be With You, You Made Me What I Am)
1973   Get It Together*(Get It Together, Don't Say Goodbye Again, Reflections, Hum Along And Dance, Mama I Gotta, Brand New Thing (Don't Say No), It's Too Late To Change The Time, You Need Love Like I Do (Don't You), Dancing Machine)
1974 Dancing Machine*(I Am Love, Whatever You Got, I Want, She's A Rhythm Child, Dancing Machine, The Life Of The Party, What You Don't Know, If I Don't Love You This Way, It All Begins And Ends With Love, The Mirrors Of The Mind)
1975 Moving Violation*(Forever Came Today, Moving Violation, (You Were Made) Especially For Me, Honey Love, Body Language (Do The Love Dance), All I Do Is Think Of You, Breezy, Call Of The Wild,Time Explosion)
1976 Joyful Jukebox Music*(Joyful Jukebox Music, Window Shopping, You're My Best Friend, My Love, Love Is The Thing You Need, The Eternal Light, Pride And Joy, Through Thick And Thin, We're Here To Entertain You, Make Tonight All Mine, You're Gonna Change Your Style)
1976 The Jacksons^ (Enjoy Yourself, Think Happy, Good Times, Keep On Dancing, Blues Away, Show You The Way To Go, Living Together, Strength Of One Man, Dreamer, Style Of Lyfe)
1977 Goin' Places^ (Music's Takin' Over, Goin' Places, Different Kind Of Lady, Even Though You're Gone, Jump For Joy, Heaven Knows I Love You, Girl, Man Of War, Do What You Wanna, Find Me A Girl)
1978 Destiny^ (Blame It On The Boogie, Push Me Away, Things I Do For You, Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground), Destiny, Bless His Soul, All Night Dancin', That's What You Get (For Being Polite))
1979 Boogie^ (Love's Gone Bad, I Ain't Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore, I Was Made To Love Her, One Day I'll Marry You, Oh I've Been Blessed, Penny Arcade, Just Because I Love You)
1980 Triumph~(Can You Feel It, Lovely One, Your Ways, Everybody, This Place Hotel, Time Waits For No One, Walk Right Now, Give It Up, Wondering Who)
1984 Victory~(Torture, Wait, One More Chance, Be Not Always, State Of Shock, We Can Change The World, The Hurt, Body)
1989 2300 Jackson St.~(Art Of Madness, Nothin (that compares 2 U), Maria, Private Affair, 2300 Jackson St., Harley, She, Alright With Me, Play With Up, Midnight Rendezvous, If You'd Only Believe)
Thanks be to Rolling Stone, motowndiscography.com, rockhall.com, and Yahoo! music.