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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."
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