I Want You Back

Album: Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (1969)
Charted: 2 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • 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 three 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.
  • 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.
  • When this topped the Hot 100, the 11-year-old Michael Jackson became the youngest person to feature in an American #1.
  • 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." In 1992, it was 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."
  • This song appears in the films Now and Then (1995), Drumline (2002), Daddy Day Care (2003) and Friends with Benefits (2011). It also plays under the end credits of the 2014 movie Guardians Of The Galaxy and is included on the soundtrack, which was a #1 hit in America for two weeks.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 14

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 21st 1970, the Jackson 5 performed "I Want You Back" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #4 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and just under a month earlier on January 25th, 1970 it peaked at #1 for one week {See post below}...
    Though they didn't perform it on this 'Bandstand show, their next release, "ABC", would entered the Top 100 fifteen days later on March 8th at position #41.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 14th 1969, the Jackson 5 performed "I Want You Back" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    At the time the song was at #17 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on January 25th, 1970 it peaked at #1 {See next post below}...
    And on January 4th, 1970 it also reached #1 {for 4 weeks} on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    * On the Top 100 it replaced "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" by B.J. Thomas at #1; "Raindrops" had been in the top spot for four weeks.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 18th 1969, the Jackson 5 performed "I Want You Back" on the ABC-TV program 'Hollywood Palace' {it was their U.S. national television debut}...
    Twenty-two days later on November 9th, 1969 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 at position #90; eleven weeks later on January 25th, 1970 it peaked at #1 {for 1 week} and spent 19 weeks on the Top 100...
    As stated above in Fact #1 the quintet's next three releases also reached #1 on the Top 100, and then their next two records both peaked at #2, "Mama's Pearl" for 2 weeks and "Never Can Say Goodbye" for 3 weeks.
  • Heilige Bimbam from London, United KingdomDominick, 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.
  • Erin from Boston, Massachusetts, MaIt's impossible to NOT move as you listen to this song. I miss Michael. RIP MJ 7/3/09
  • Talya from Manchester, United KingdomJust 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.
  • Dominick from New York, NyIn 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.
  • Al from New York, NyThis 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.
  • Punkanelly from Lake Charles, LaWell 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.
  • Anne from Dodge City, KsIf 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.
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, Njthis was my jazz dance in a recital when i was 6. i love it! its one of my favorite old songs
  • Nathan from From The Country Of, Canadavery catchy song classic jackson 5 song
  • Bill from Boston, United Statescheck out the Grahm Parker version STUNNING
  • Taal from Brisbane, AustraliaThe music for the song was also used by Rappin 4Tay in the song "Message for your Mind" which featured in the Dangerous Minds soundtrack.
see more comments

Marc Campbell - "88 Lines About 44 Women"They're Playing My Song

The Nails lead singer Marc Campbell talks about those 44 women he sings about over a stock Casio keyboard track. He's married to one of them now - you might be surprised which.

Adam Duritz of Counting CrowsSongwriter Interviews

"Mr. Jones" took on new meaning when the song about a misguided view of fame made Adam famous.

Goodbye, Hello: Ten Farewell Tour Fake-OutsSong Writing

The 10 biggest "retirement tours" that didn't take.

Daryl HallSongwriter Interviews

Daryl Hall's TV show is a hit, and he's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - only one of these developments excites him.

Jello BiafraSongwriter Interviews

The former Dead Kennedys frontman on the past, present and future of the band, what music makes us "pliant and stupid," and what he learned from Alice Cooper.

Mike Rutherford (Genesis, Mike + The Mechanics)Songwriter Interviews

Mike talks about the "Silent Running" storyline and "Land Of Confusion" in the age of Trump.