Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Jackson 5, The

The Jackson 5 was one of the youngest Motown groups to reach superstardom. Brothers Michael, Jackie, Tito, Marlon and Jermaine were all born in Gary, Indiana. After their father realized they could succeed as performers, he drove them to different venues in Chicago and New York where they won an amateur talent competition at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. There they met Gladys Knight. 

After producing a track called “Big Boy,” out of the Gary-based Steeltown Records, and being championed by Bobby Taylor of the Vancouvers and Diana Ross, the group finally got to audition for Motown in July 1968. Michael was nine, Marion, 11, Jermaine 14, Tito 15 and Jackie 17. Berry Gordy signed the brothers on March 11, 1969 and flew them to Los Angeles.

In 1969, the group opened for Diana Ross and released their first single “I Want You Back.” It was a number one pop and R&B hit along with their next two singles, “ABC” and “The Love You Save.” The Jackson 5 continued to have successes and was the first group to have their first four singles go to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100. 

Because of their popularity, networks like ABC began to make money by producing Jackson 5 dolls and starting a Jackson 5 cartoon show. Michael and Jermaine were encouraged by Gordy to go solo while staying in the Jackson 5. They both did well, but Michael’s success was greater than his older brother’s with songs like “Got to Be There” and “Ben.” Like all things, the Jackson 5 craze died down and their last big hit was 1974’s “Dancing Machine.”

In 1975 the Jackson 5 announced they were breaking their contract with Motown to sign with Epic Records, which they did on March 10, 1976. Jermaine however, who had married Berry Gordy’s daughter Hazel, decided to leave the Jackson 5 and stay with Motown. The youngest Jackson, Randy, joined the group. As Motown held the rights to the name “Jackson 5,” the brothers continued as “The Jacksons.” In 1978 they released an album, Destiny, which was almost entirely self-written. The album’s success encouraged Michael to continue his solo career which became a huge success later with his album Thriller.

2300 Jackson Street was the last record made by the four remaining Jacksons (Marlon also left the group) in 1989. In 2001 the six brothers performed at Madison Square Garden honoring Michael’s 30-year career.

The Jackson 5 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.