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Music / The Jackson 5

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From left to right, top to bottom: Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon, Michael, Tito and Randy, the Sixth Ranger.
"Don't blame it on the sunshine,
Don't blame it on the moonlight,
Don't blame it on good times,
Blame it on the boogie."
"Blame It On The Boogie"

The Jackson Five (called The Jacksons beginning in the mid-1970s) were a Soul/Pop band from Gary, Indiana who were very popular from the late 1960s until the early 1980s.

After gaining a following in the northern Indiana/Chicagoland area, including a regional hit with "Big Boy" in 1968, they signed with Motown Records. Motown honcho Berry Gordy immediately put them to work with the writing/production team he called The Corporation (Freddie Perren, Fonce Mizell, Deke Richards and Gordy himself), establishing a style that mixed the gritty dance rhythms of Sly and the Family Stone with catchy and cheery pop. Their Motown debut "I Want You Back" quickly shot up the charts and hit #1 at the start of 1970. This launched a whole string of Top 10 hits ("ABC", "The Love You Save", "I'll Be There", "Dancing Machine", "Enjoy Yourself", "Shake Your Body Down To The Ground", "Blame It On The Boogie", "Torture" and "Can You Feel It?"), making them the most commercially successful black act of their era. They were also featured in a cartoon series (The Jackson 5ive), a variety show and numerous stage performances. After they moved to another label in the mid 1970s, they were forced to change their name to The Jacksons, because Motown had copyrighted their original band name. Still, everybody on Earth kept referring to them as The Jackson Five.

They even gained an Rival in the form of The Osmonds, an all-white family group who adopted a similar Soul-influenced style (their breakthrough hit "One Bad Apple" had been written for the Jacksons). One band member was clearly the star of the group: child singer Michael Jackson of whom we all know would break out to have an even more successful solo career, but that's a different story...


The Jackson Five

  • Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (1969)
  • ABC (1970)
  • Third Album (1970)
  • Jackson 5 Christmas Album (1970)
  • Maybe Tomorrow (1971)
  • Lookin' Through the Windows (1972)
  • Skywriter (1973)
  • G.I.T.: Get It Together (1973)
  • Dancing Machine (1974)
  • Moving Violation (1975)

The Jacksons

  • The Jacksons (1976)
  • Goin' Places (1977)
  • Destiny (1978)
  • Triumph (1980)
  • Victory (1984)
  • 2300 Jackson Street (1989)

Tropes associated with The Jackson Five are:

  • Abusive Parents: Joseph Jackson, who was also the group's manager, not only worked them all like dogs but forbade them from calling him "Dad" to deliberately distance himself from them emotionally. Little Michael suffered the most as the clear choice for lead singer, especially once it became clear that he was the most popular member, and was frequently beaten when he wouldn't comply with his father's demands.
  • A Day in the Limelight: In this basketball skit, Jackie was quite focused on and eventually saved the day.
    • Everyone made some kind of solo effort, but the only brother besides Michael to get any traction was Jermaine.
    • The 1984 song "Body" features Marlon as the lead singer who rarely ever got any solo parts up to this point
  • Aerith and Bob: You have rather fancy-sounding name like Sigmund Esco, Toriano Adaryll, Jermaine La Juane next to a more "average" name like Marlon David, Michael Joseph and Steven Randall. No wonder Jackie and Tito go by nicknames.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Michael was sometimes called Mike by his brothers, and he himself sometimes called Jermaine "'Maine".
  • Alphabet Song: This catchy commercial for Post Alpha-Bits cereal features them covering the Alphabet song while playing in a park — one that happens to be outfitted with oversized cereal letters.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Marlon had a twin called Brandon who died shortly after birth. It was said by Joseph that Marlon was very sad when he understood that he lost his twin, and was only cheered up afterwards when Michael came later.
  • Animated Adaptation: A Band Toon TV series was made about them.
  • Band of Relatives: All of the band members were brothers.
  • Berserk Button: Michael wouldn't be very happy when his brothers mentioned getting married, as he feared they wouldn't be as close as before.
  • Big Brother Bully: Subverted most of the time, as they were and and still are very close, but when Jackie or Tito wanted to make their brothers real mad, they would call Jermaine "Big Head", Marlon "Liver Lips" and Michael "Big Nose". Needless to say, the three boys weren't amused.
  • Big Brother Instinct: In his book "You Are Not Alone", Jermaine mentioned to have this the most for Michael.
    Caring for one another was instilled in all of us, but I felt protective of him from day one. Maybe it was because all I heard being shouted was "Where's Michael?"... "Is Michael okay?"... "Is Michael changed?".
    • The fact that he wrote a whole book about Michael after his death to honor him, to help people understand his little brother better, should really say something. In fact, all the four older brothers - Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon - are very fond of Michael.
    • Michael also had this for Randy and Janet.
  • Big Brother Worship: In his book "Moonwalk", Michael wrote that he felt this toward Jermaine.
    I was most fascinated when watching Jermaine because he was the singer at the time and he was a big brother to me - Marlon was too close to me in age for that. It was Jermaine who would walk me to kindergarten and whose clothes would be handed down to me. When he did something, I tried to imitate him.
  • Big Eater: Marlon. In "Brotherly Fun", Jermaine asked him "What do you like the best when we were on the road, Marlon?", and he replied "Well, I like to... eat!"
  • The Big Guy: Both Tito and Jermaine, the former for being noticeably bulkier than his brothers, and the latter for being the tallest of them even after everyone hit puberty.
  • Biopic: A four hour miniseries about the brothers' rise to fame aired on ABC in 1992 under the name The Jacksons: An American Dream. Jermaine served as a producer, while the other brothers helped cast the actors for the movie.
  • Bus Crash: Michael declined to rejoin his brothers for their planned reunion tours in 2009. His death later that year ended all possibilities of his rejoining them.
  • Break Up Song: "Who's Lovin' You?", where the protagonist wonders who is loving his former girlfriend now. The Jackson 5 rendition is actually a Smokey Robinson cover.
  • Christmas Songs: Jackson 5 Christmas Album is full of these. Ironically, the Jacksons were Jehovah's Witnesses and didn't actually celebrate Christmas. Evenso, it's considered one of the greatest Christmas albums ever produced. Many critics, both contemporarily and retrospectively, hailed it for making the listener feel like it's the most wonderful time of the year instead of merely telling you that it is.
  • Concept Video: "Can You Feel It", from Triumph, received an epic music video that would serve as a precursor for the cinematic production Michael would bring to bear on several of his solo songs.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: All their songs were incredibly catchy and can still fill the dance floor with people. Every stage performance or music video starring the band showed them dancing along in unison. "Dancing Machine", "Blame It On The Boogie", and "Shake Your Body Down To The Ground" refer to dancing directly.
  • Dancing Royalty: "Dancing Machine" is about being captivated by a woman's dancing. Interestingly, the lyrics describe her in mechanical terms, implying that her dancing is so good that she could've been a robot, but not in an Uncanny Valley way.
  • Disco: From the mid-1970s on, they moved in this direction.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Averted. Despite being seen singing together on very special occasions, the three sisters Rebbie, Janet, and La Toya never mirrored their brothers' efforts and did their thing on their own, with Janet becoming a big name in her own right, simultaneously to Michael. However they do qualify for another trope, see below.
  • Doo-wop: Their backing vocals generally mixed the Call-and-Response Song and this style. As solo artists in their Motown days, Michael ("Rockin' Robin") and Jermaine ("Daddy's Home") both had hits with a Cover Version of a Doo-wop classic.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: It's sometimes strange to hear young Michael sing so happy and cheerfully, when you compare it to his more angry, paranoid singing and dancing from Thriller on.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Jackie (which can be short for Jacqueline).
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: "I Want You Back"
  • Homesickness Hymn: "Goin' Back To Indiana" is sung from the perspective of someone who has struck out to find his fortune, and finds the glamorous life empty because his "baby" isn't with him. So he's goin' back to Indiana where his girl and his other beloved Indiana institutions are (including Roosevelt High School, the actual Gary school that the older Jacksons had attended, and where they won their first talent contest).
  • I Am the Band: Michael was clearly the star.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Subverted, as the members still look good but were downright handsome in their earlier years.
  • The Leader: There seemed to be none, but as Jackie is the oldest brother, many people assumed that he was the leader.
  • Letters 2 Numbers: The band named spelled the "f" in the word "five" as "5ive".
    • There's also a Japanese 12" EP consisting of four previous singles, called "Best 4 You".
  • List Song: "ABC" lists several things Michael would teach a little girl.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "I Want You Back" is ridiculously upbeat, and employs what's been called "the happiest chord progression ever", all to support a lyric in which the narrator has a Green-Eyed Epiphany about The One That Got Away and has a Heel Realization about how much he screwed up the relationship, lamenting that "now it's much too late for me to take a second look."
    • Most of the above also goes for "The Love You Save", in which the narrator subjects his girlfriend to Slut-Shaming.
  • Malaproper: Michael uses several odd pronunciations throughout "I'll Be There"—"You and I must make a pack, we must bring solvation back", "I'll be there to proteck you" and the infamous "just look over your shoulders, honey!"
  • Momma's Boy: When asked "Who is the mommy's boy of this group?", all brothers pointed at Jermaine. He replied in embarrassment: "Well, Michael was too!"
  • Mr. Fanservice: The boys all grew into their looks by the time the mid-80s rolled around, evolving from a precocious group of brothers to six really attractive young men.
  • Nice Guy: All of them.
  • The Not-Remix: The single version of "Wait" has a bass guitar line added (replacing the synth bass of the original) and additional synth stabs in the song. It has never been released on CD.
  • Older Than They Look: Michael always remained the youngest-looking of the group - he even managed to look younger than Randy - even in his fifties. The surviving brothers also qualify, as they are all in their 60s or 70s as of the 2020s and look a decade younger.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Sigmund, Toriano and Steven are always referred to by their nicknames: Jackie, Tito, and Randy, respectively. Likewise, Maureen is always reffered to by her own nickname: Rebbie.
  • Pep-Talk Song: "ABC", "Enjoy Yourself",...
  • The Power of Love: "The Love You'll Save".
  • The Power of Rock: "Blame It On The Boogie"
    I just can't, I just can't, I just can't control my feet.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • At first, Jermaine from the 1976 - 1981 period, for staying in Motown while the others moved to Epic Records.
    • From 1984, Michael and Marlon also left.
    • Currently, Michael for obvious reasons, and Randy because of his heart issues.
  • Record Producer: Their early Motown records were written, arranged and produced by a group of Motown staffers credited only as "The Corporation™". Berry Gordy did not want any more "backroom superstars" like Holland-Dozier-Holland, who had become famous as Motown producers in the mid-1960s before leaving in an acrimonious royalties dispute in 1967, so he, Alphonso Mizell, Freddie Perren and Deke Richards (and Perren's wife Christine Yarian later on) were collectively credited under that name, even in the songwriting credits (though some later reissues credited the songwriters individually). The Corporation disbanded when Hal Davis took over as producer in 1972.
  • The Rival: The Osmonds.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Michael was already hesitant to return for the Victory tour (his mother had to convince him), and the in-fighting amongst his brothers didn't soften his view. During the final show at Dodgers Stadium, Michael announced onstage it would be his final performance with the group. The brothers and their father, Joe, had hoped to take the Victory tour across Europe, but Michael had quite firmly had enough.
  • Shout-Out: Naughty By Nature sampled "ABC" for their hit single "O.P.P." During their final performance together, Randy gave a shout-out by mashing up the chorus when the brothers sang "ABC" together, to Michael's clear annoyance.
  • Sixth Ranger: Randy, who at first only played the bongos and did not officially perform with the group despite doing interviews and skits with them. After Jermaine decided to stay at Motown, Randy officially took his spot in the group.
  • Spelling Song: "The Love You Save".
    S is for "Save it"
    T is for "Take it slow"
    O is for "Oh, no!"
    P is for "Please, please, don't go!"
  • Strong Family Resemblance: One look and you can tell they were all brothers. Special mention goes to Tito who looks the most similar to their father, and Jermaine, who is pretty much a combination of Jackie and Tito. Michael and Marlon were also mistaken for twins when they were younger.
  • Teen Idol: The Jackson Five were teenagers admired by a very young audience of mostly teenagers.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: Their three sisters are actually a very good example of this with Rebbie as the Mother (oldest child of the whole family and ended up leaving showbusiness to be a homemaker), La Toya as the Seductress (the only one to have posed for Playboy) and Janet as the Child (youngest child of the whole family and renowned for her sassiness as a little girl).
  • Token Mini-Moe: Michael for being the youngest in their early years. As he hit puberty later, Randy became this instead, along with Janet.
  • The Un Favourite: Marlon appears to have been this to Joe Jackson. Despite having a great singing voice and being called the best dancer by his brothers (that includes Mr Moonwalk Michael), he never got any solo parts when their father was in complete control of their performances, only in their later years when Joe was a little less involved. Even skits that gave Tito, Jackie and/or Jermaine solo parts often left out Marlon or gave him only a very tiny part compared to the others. There's a skit where Randy sings more than him, despite not even being officially in the band yet. In some early appearances, it seems like Jackie or Tito are deliberately placed in front of him. Adding to all that, Michael stated in an interview that Marlon was beaten the most when they were kids.
  • Vocal Dissonance: You would expect the oldest brother Jackie to have the deepest voice, but his voice is actually the most high-pitched. In fact, the Jacksons are known for their high, soft voices, with Tito being the only notable exception.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: When they changed label in the 1970s it turned out that their old label owned the rights to the name The Jackson Five. So they became The Jacksons instead.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Michael was the only band member to have a highly successful solo career.
  • Younger Than They Look: Jackie and Tito looked a bit too mature for someone in their early twenties in 1970.

Alternative Title(s): The Jacksons