Do you remember Ripples & Waves Plus Michael? No, neither does anyone else. One clue to their identity is that they were a family R&B outfit who were shaped by their father, but the bigger hint of who we’re talking about is the town they came from, Gary, Indiana. The “Michael” of that early incarnation shared the same name as his brothers, who would soon become the Jackson 5.
The group actually released an independent single for the local Steeltown single in 1968, before the evolution that would eventually prompt Motown Records to sign them the following March. Berry Gordy, never shy of a little chutzpah, decreed that the public should be told the label’s new quintet had been discovered by Diana Ross. It was a useful device for all concerned, not least because she would soon be embarking on her solo career.
In August 1969, Ross presided over a press conference at which she introduced the Jackson 5 to the media. The line-up featured Michael, then aged just 11, with older brothers Tito, Marlon, Jermaine, and Jackie, the latter a positive veteran at 18 years old.
“I Want You Back,” first written as “I Wanna Be Someone,” became the group’s first single in the October, the composer credit going to The Corporation, a collective featuring Gordy himself. It charted in November, and as it raced up the charts, on December 18, Motown unveiled the album Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5.
Listen to the Best Motown Songs Ever playlist.
The single became a platinum-selling sensation, topping the pop and R&B charts in the new year, and as it did so, the album (produced by Motown artist Bobby Taylor with the aforementioned Corporation) began its own run. It went as high as No.5 in the pop market, but there was no stopping it on the R&B side, where the song stayed at No.1 for nine weeks between February and April 1970.
“I Want You Back” was the only single on the LP, which featured covers of several Jobete copyrights of Motown hits such as “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” “My Cherie Amour,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” and the 1968 Marvin Gaye single “Chained.” There was even a cover of the Disney movie song “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.” The Jackson 5’s era of bubblegum soul had begun.
Buy or stream Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5.