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"I Want You Back"
The Jackson Five
Motown 1157
January 1970
Billboard: #1    Lyrics Icon Videos Icon

The Jackson 5our weeks after Diana Ross and the Supremes had their twelfth and final number one single, the Jackson Five ushered in a new decade with their first number one, "I Want You Back." The five young brothers were the symbol of a new era at Motown.

'Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5' - The Jackson 5
"I Want You Back" was Gary, Indiana R&B quintet The Jackson 5's first of 16 Billboard Top 40 singles from 1970-75, and their first of four consecutive No. 1 singles. It was the only single issued from the siblings' first LP, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5, which first charted on Jan. 17, 1970, spent 32 weeks on the Hot 200 album chart, and rose to No. 5.
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"I Want You Back" was not written specifically for the Jackson Five. Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell had just moved to California and were introduced to Motown by Deke Richards. The three collaborators were sitting in Richards' well-furnished apartment one day. Deke was playing the guitar, accompanied by Fonce on bass and Freddie on piano, and they started playing a riff for a song they called "I Wanna Be Free."

They thought it would be a perfect song for Gladys Knight and the Pips to record. Perren, Mizell and Richards were asked to be on standby while producer Hal Davis was recording; if he didn't use up his three hour recording time, they could have the rest of the session to record their track.

Davis only needed an hour-and-a-half, so the three writers went to the Sound Factory studio on Selma Avenue in Hollywood and produced their instrumental track. Fifteen minutes into the session they knew they had something special.

Deke suggested they ask Berry Gordy to record it with Diana Ross. When they approached Gordy, he listened to the track and came up with a different idea. He told them he had just signed five kids from Gary, Indiana, and suggested rewriting the words to "I Want You Back" for them.

Joe and Katherine Jackson raised their nine children in Gary. They had married when Joe was 16. He dreamed of being a professional musician, and when his children were very young, he and his two brothers had an R&B group called the Falcons. Gary was a steel mill town, and when the Falcons didn't bring in enough money to support a family, Joe went to work as a crane operator at a steel plant.

One night, Joe came home and discovered his second oldest son, Toriano Adaryll Jackson (Tito), had been fooling around with the guitar he played in the Falcons. After giving Tito a whipping, Joe wanted to know how well his son could play. Rather well, as it turned out. When his brothers joined in by singing, Tito suggested they form a family act and turn professional.

The three eldest brothers formed a trio. Sigmund Esco (Jackie), Jermaine LaJuane and Tito were joined later by Marlon David and Michael Joe. Youngest brother Randy would one day fill in for Jermaine, and sisters Maureen (Rebbie) and LaToya and Janet would concentrate on their careers later. A woman in their neighborhood suggested the name Jackson Five, and the family bought as many instruments as they could afford. When they had no money left to buy drums or a piano, they recruited cousins Johnny Jackson and Ronnie Rancifer, who already owned those instruments.

Michael was just five years old when the group played their first professional gig at a Gary nightclub. They were only paid eight dollars, but the coins and bills tossed to the stage totalled over $100. They travelled in their Volkswagen van to neighboring cities, including Chicago, where they were often the opening act at the Regal Club for Motown superstars like the Temptations, the Miracles, and Gladys Knight and the Pips.

"I Want You Back" was the only single released from their first album. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 on November 15, 1969, at number 90. On January 31, 1970, the song began a four-week run at the top.

- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.

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