I'll Be There

Album: The Third Album (1970)
Charted: 4 1


  • In this song, a man tells his former lover that he will always be there for her, and that even if she finds someone new, she can always go back to him. This statement of unconditional fealty makes it one of the more touching and romantic songs of the era, sweetened by the innocence of Michael Jackson's voice - he was just 11 years old when he recorded it.
  • Michael Jackson is on the lead vocal, with his brother Jermaine coming in on the bridge ("I'll be there to comfort you..."). This was typical division of vocal labor in the group - their voices provided a nice contrast.
  • Backed by the Motown machine and the prodigious talents of Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5 went to #1 on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts with their first four singles, starting with "I Want You Back" in 1969. Two more uptempo songs came next: "ABC" and "The Love You Save," followed by "I'll Be There," their first hit ballad.

    The group never landed another #1 on the Hot 100, but stayed on the charts throughout the '70s (they became "The Jacksons" in 1976). Michael Jackson had his first #1 as a solo artist with "Ben" in 1972, then reached new heights with his albums Off The Wall (1979) and Thriller (1982).
  • Four different writers, each with a very different role, are credited as composers on this song. The first rendition was written by Bob West, an associate of Hal Davis, who set up the Motown office in Los Angeles. Davis teaked the song, then had another songwriter, Willie Hutch, work on re-writing the lyrics. Davis pitched it to Motown boss Berry Gordy, who made his own changes and took a songwriting credit.

    Gordy also co-wrote the first three Jackson 5 hits, but with the team of Freddie Perren, Fonce Mizell and Deke Richards, which he called "The Corporation." All of these early Jackson 5 songs were recorded in Los Angeles using session musicians from the area.
  • Mariah Carey remade this in 1992. It was originally a last-minute addition to her MTV Unplugged setlist after she had been informed that most acts on the show commonly perform at least one cover.

    Carey's version was performed as a romantic duet, with her singing Michael Jackson's lines and an uncredited Trey Lorenz, who had provided background vocals on her Emotions album, performing Jermaine Jackson's part.

    Carey's label received numerous requests to release "I'll Be There" as a single after the MTV Unplugged special was aired. They did so and it went on to top the Hot 100 and several other charts including the ones in Canada, The Netherlands and New Zealand. The song also peaked at #2 in the UK.
  • At one point, Michael hollers, "Just look over your shoulders, honey." He had been instructed by Berry Gordy to sing "just look over your shoulder" (as an allusion to what Levi Stubbs had said in The Four Tops' "Reach Out I'll Be There"), but the fluffed line was allowed to remain in the final mix. To look over both shoulders at the same time would require an act of contortion.
  • In 1975 Gloria Gaynor recorded a disco cover of this entitled "Reach Out, I'll Be There," which peaked at #14 in the UK and #60 in the US.

Comments: 16

  • Jane from Jinan, ChinaLittle Michael was already soooooo amazing ! Child prodigy. His angelic voice infused with the deep emotion is just incredibly touching. R. I. P Michael....Thank you for all you have brought!
  • Garrett from New York, NyThis is a really cool song. Micheal Jackson was one of the greatest singers and performers of all time. Chris Rene a contestant on The X Factor did a cover of this song and I think it would have done Micheal Jackson very proud to have been there to hear it.
  • Rick from Belfast, MeMichael Jackson was soooooo good when he was young.....this song proves it!
  • Lacey from Chicago, Ilone of the greatest songs in music history.
  • Chloe from Carlow, Irelandsorry derek - london ... 'Just look over your shoulder honey' wasnt a mistake ! The Jackson 5 weren't even the first to do it ! The Four Tops sang the line on 'Reach Out (I'll Be There)' and that was in 1966. 'I'll Be There' by the Jackson 5 wasn't released until 1971. They hadn't even been signed to Motown when the Four Tops released their single.
  • Tricia from Rockville Centre, NyI love this song...you will always have a relationship in your past lovelife that will swing back and forth...and this song describes it to the letter. I love the line "You and I must make a pact...we must bring salvation back...where there is love...I'll Be There". It will always represent that true love that will always be with you no matter what...whether they are in your life or not. THe line "Just look over your shoulder" means...that persons spirit represents the love that you feel within. I love the way the Jackson 5 performed it....but I will always remember Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz carrying the high notes...and even more the spirit of Michael Jackson as they sang in at his memorial services 07/08/09. RIP Michael Jackson!
  • Maddie from Scarborough, United KingdomR.I.P Michael Jackson. You are a ledgend! Goodbye to the king of pop.
  • Kayla from St. Paul, MnR.I.P Micheal Jackson. This song was great i really loved it and of course still do. Goodbye Micheal Jackson.
  • John from Nashville, TnCo-writer Willie Hutch later scored two blaxploitation classic films ("The Mack" and "Foxy Brown").
  • Kenneth from Cleveland, Oh The original J5 version of this song is flawless.I don't care for the re-makes,and I like Mariah Carey.
  • Derek from London, United KingdomAlso, towards the end Michael sings "Look over your shoulders honey", and apparently it was a mistake but then the Temptations did it on "Reach Out"
  • Derek from London, United KingdomThe New Kids wrecked it....... I STILL HATE THEM!!!
  • Talya from Manchester, United KingdomI agree with Al, this song is original and other artists shouldn't sing it and say they wrote it!
    This song always makes me cry, I love it.
  • Al from New York, Nythe hell with Mariah Carey, New Kids on the Block, and that punk band previously mentioned...thjere is only ONE version of this song...ONE!!!
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrThe greatest version of this song is done by a band called "Me First and the Gimme Gimmes". They do almost nothing but cover songs in a more fast-paced punk type style and it's awesome. I highly recommend them.
  • Krie from Ft. Drum, NyAlso once covered by the infamously popular boy band New Kids On The Block at a concert.
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