One of the first boy bands, the Jackson 5 consisted of brothers from Gary, Indiana: Jackie (born Sigmund), Tito (born Toriano), Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael Jackson. Though their youth and energetic sound made them seem like “bubblegum pop,” the boys played instruments, had vocal talent and practiced choreography. Their father, Joe Jackson, a steel worker, saw talent in his sons when he caught them playing with his old guitar. Before settling on the name “Jackson 5,” they tried other names like “Ripples & Waves Plus Michael” and “The Jackson Brothers.”
In 1966, they won a local competition with a cover of the Temptations’ “My Girl.” A year later, they won the amateur night talent show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, this time catching the attention of singer Gladys Knight. With help from Knight, Bobby Taylor, and Diana Ross, Motown signed the group in 1968. In August 1969, they opened for Diana Ross at the L.A. Forum. A month later, their first TV appearance was singing “It’s Your Thing” at the Miss Black America Pageant. They were also featured in the September 1969 issue of Soul Magazine. On October 7, 1969, their first single “I Want You Back” was released and immediately went to number one on Pop and R&B charts. On December 18, 1969, their first album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, was released as part of a calculated PR attempt to use her reputation to sell the young band.
The Jackson 5 were the first act to have their first four singles (“I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There”) reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Overall, the group had seventeen Top 40 singles. In 1972, Michael began his solo career but remained with the band until his success with Thriller in 1982.
In 1976, after struggling to maintain their success, the brothers, except for Jermaine, left Motown for Epic Records and added younger brother Randy. Motown legally retained “Jackson 5,” so the brothers renamed themselves “The Jacksons.” They released six albums: The Jacksons (1976); Going Places (1977); Destiny (1978); Triumph (1980); Victory (1983); and 2300 Jackson St. (1989). The final album was the first to include all the Jackson siblings, except LaToya, though it failed to sell, and they were dropped from Epic. In 1983, on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, the brothers performed together; Michael sang “Billie Jean” from his solo album Thriller and unveiled the “moonwalk.”
In 1980, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. “ABC” and “I Want You Back” were listed on Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 2004 “500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll,” and the latter was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 2001, the Jackson 5 gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York for their thirtieth anniversary to celebrate solo and group successes. On September 8, 2008, they were honored as BMI icons at the annual Broadcast Music Inc. Urban Awards. Tragically, on June 25, 2009, while the brothers were reunited for The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty, which debuted in December, Michael passed away. The surviving Jacksons recorded for the song “This is It,” named after Michael’s cancelled tour and played in the documentary-concert film released posthumously. The band has never officially broken up, and the brothers, except for Randy, went on The Unity Tour from June 2012 to July 2013.