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I Want You Back

by

The Jackson 5



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was the first Jackson 5 single released by Motown Records. It launched their career and went to #1 in the US, as did their next 3 releases: "ABC," "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There."
Michael Jackson sang lead. He was 11 years old and the youngest of the group. There was one younger Jackson brother named Randy, who replaced Jermaine in the group in 1977.
This was written by a team of Motown writers called The Corporation. The head of the label, Berry Gordy, was one of the writers. They were based in California, unlike most Motown writers who were in the Detroit offices.
Michael Jackson reminded Berry Gordy of Frankie Lymon, another teenage star. Gordy helped write this as if he was writing for Lymon.
The original title was "I Want To Be Free." It was Gordy's idea to change it to "I Want You Back" and make it more of a love song.
This was intended for Gladys Knight & The Pips, and at one point Diana Ross was going to record it, but Berry Gordy decided to change the title and some of the lyrics and use it for his newly-signed group of boys, the Jackson 5. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
Gordy went out of his way to make this a hit. He was very high on The Jackson 5, and felt they were the perfect group to prove that Motown could continue it's success through the '70s. At the time, this was the most expensive Motown single ever recorded.
The then 11-year-old Michael Jackson became the youngest person to be involved in an American #1. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England)
Two popular songs sampled this in 2001: Jay Z used it on "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and it was also used on Lil' Romeo's "My Baby." It was also sampled on the Kris Kross hit "Jump."
The sci-fi Soul singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe covered this as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of her The Electric Lady album. She explained to A.V.Club that she chose this particular tune as it resonated with her. "There are so many amazing Michael Jackson songs from different stages of his career," she said, "and that happened to be one of my favorite stages. It makes people happy, and I love the tone, and musically, it has a lot of places to go for our orchestra. It has a lot of odd instrumentation."

"The version I did does not sound like the Jackson 5 original recording," Monáe continued. "I wanted to interpret it my way and record it differently, while continuing to pay homage to him, but I saw it in a different light. I'm really excited to let you guys hear it because you'll get a chance to hear that song from my perspective. I had a dream about it and how I wanted it to be recorded."
The Jackson 5
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Comments (11):

Dominick, where did you hear that Michael got injections to stop his voice breaking? Please give us the exact evidence, since you seem to believe it.These rumours were never substanciated, and his most comprehensive biographers found no evidence, after the most thorough research. Besides it would have amounted to medical malpractice, as well as grievous bodily harm, assault, and child abuse.Criminal charges would have been brought, believe me. So let us hear the source of your information.
- Heilige Bimbam, London, United Kingdom
It's impossible to NOT move as you listen to this song. I miss Michael. RIP MJ 7/3/09
- Erin, Boston, Massachusetts, MA
Just to answer to Punkanelly's comment, I think this song basicly says that he used to be with a girl, and did not apreciate her very much( he says: "Following the girl
I didn't even want around")
and used to call her ugly and what not. And then when she realised she was being mis-treated she left him. He is now realising how much he misses her when she goes off with another man.
- Talya, Manchester, United Kingdom
In the song, "I'll Be There," he makes a mistake when he sings, "Just look over your shoulders, honey," but they kept it in. The mistake is he was supposed to sing "shoulder" not "shoulders." You can't look over both shoulders at the same time. So maybe the "pretty faces" line was a mistake, too.

Also, the Jackson 5 patterned themselves after Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Lymon was also a child singing sensation. When he reached puberty, his voice got deeper and his career was over. I believe he died in his early 20s from a heroine overdose.

That's the reason Michael Jackson starting getting doctor's injections so his voice wouldn't change as he got older. Now, he's turned into a full-fledged weirdo.
- Dominick, New York, NY
This is for punk, cause those lyrics bothered me for a while as well. What the lyrics means is that the girl in this song is not that pretty, so when she was in a crowd of pretty girls she stood out because she was less attractive. Then another man saw her true beauty.

Considering that this is the single greatest song ever recorded, it bears mentioning.
- Al, New York, NY
Well I viewed the lyrics. I'm 42 years old and to this day I still don't understand what's meant by the line "those pretty faces always made you, stand out in a crowd". It makes no sense. Shouldn't they have written the song to say: Your pretty face it always made you, stand out in a crowd? Doesn't that sound more the they way the writers probably intended it to sound? Did something get confused during the studio recording process. Did Michael sing it the wrong way or did Berry Gordy make one of his last minute in-studio changes? I'd like to know the story behind the writing of that strange line in this song. If there is a story.
- punkanelly, Lake Charles, LA
If a guy ever told me that those pretty faces always made me stand out in a crowd... I think I would have to pass at taking him back. However I do love this song.
- Anne, Dodge City, KS
this was my jazz dance in a recital when i was 6. i love it! its one of my favorite old songs
- Caitlin, Upper Township, NJ
very catchy song classic jackson 5 song
- nathan, from the country of, Canada
check out the Grahm Parker version STUNNING
- Bill, Boston, United States
The music for the song was also used by Rappin 4Tay in the song "Message for your Mind" which featured in the Dangerous Minds soundtrack.
- Taal, Brisbane, Australia
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