Never Can Say Goodbye

Album: Maybe Tomorrow (1971)
Charted: 33 2

Songfacts®:

  • This was written by Clifton Davis, who was the star of a US TV show called That's My Mama. He also starred in the TV series Amen and the movies Crooklyn and Any Given Sunday.

    Davis was working on the song at Motown Records' offices in Los Angeles in a room adjacent the office of Hal Davis, a producer at the label. According to Hal, when he heard it, he asked Clifton for the song and recorded the track that night with a group of session musicians that were regulars on Jackson 5 tracks. The group tracked their vocals two days later.
  • This song is about one of those unhealthy relationships that never seems to work out, but also won't end because something always pulls them back together. Jackson 5 frontman Michael Jackson was just 12 years old at the time, but had a talent for putting the requisite emotion into anything he sang. Motown Records had some concerns about the song being too adult for the group, but Hal Davis, who produced the track, had some sway in the office and convinced them to release it as a single. His instincts were right: the song climbed to #2 on the Hot 100 and also gave them their fifth #1 R&B hit.
  • Five different artists have charted with this song in the US. In 1971, Isaac Hayes took it to #22; Gloria Gaynor had her first Top 40 hit when her 1974 cover went to #9 US and #2 UK - she hit big with "I Will Survive" four years later. In 1975, the duo Napoli & Glasson (Jeanne Napoli and Barbara Glasson) released a French version called "Il Est Toujours Temps Pour Partir" that went to #106. In 1987, a British duo called The Communards took it to #4 UK and #51 US.

Comments: 11

  • Seanvplayer from Sonora, Ca.I always preferred the Issac Hayes version. I just appreciate the more mature voice singing about a bad relationship. The version put forth by the Jackson 5 had the great studio group they called "the Funk Brothers", so the Issac Hayes version hasn't got quite the same energy in it, but it still benefits by a more quietly soulful approach. Hearing Michael Jackson sing it puts it in early middle school at best. The theme of this song doesn't do as well as a schoolyard drama.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 28th 1974, Gloria Gaynor performed "Never Can Say Goodbye" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Two months earlier on October 27th it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on January 19th, 1975 it peaked at #9 (for 1 week) and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    Her version reached #2 in the United Kingdom and #34 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    (Note: In 1971 the three weeks the Jackson 5's version was at #2, the #1 record for those 3 weeks was "Joy To The World" by Three Dog Night).
  • Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationTaken from Original Rolling Stone Review [July 22, 1971]: "Yet "Never Can Say Goodbye" was a great 45 and stands as the strongest, most satisfying cut on the album. The hushed, harmonizing chorus work, bright flute and triangle/bell accents, steady drumming — everything heightens the young-boy tension in Michael's lead, giving him a subtle background to play against and making his "ooo"-squeals at the end all the more delicious. Nothing else quite comes up to this tightly controlled blend of energies[...]."
  • Linc from Beaumont, TxI think it's nothing short of a miracle that the Jackson made it - they came onto the scene singing Doo-Woop when it was begining to be outdated.
  • Kristin from Bessemer, AlThe Jackson Five's first singles ARE considered "Soul Bubblegum" because it had a danceable beat, lyrics about young love and preteen kids could just enjoy the music.
  • Breeze from Riverside, CaThis is one of those songs that transcends time. It was a classic then and is classic today. This song relates to by-gone childhood that is most endearing....
  • Elbert from Dallas, TxBeing a composer/musician myself, it should be difficult to pick a "favorite" song; but not for me> This is easily my favorite recorded cut of all time. My Very first "real" concert was seeing the Jackson 5 in 1972. A year later I won my senior high talent show playing the song instrumentally. It later became "our" song (my wife of 26 years & I). Easily the best and smoothest(that flute thread throughout is absolutely haunting!)of all the mega-hits the boys released--and young "black" Michael (lol was a much more accomplished singer than what we have now. His breathing seems to be so much better. Think about it.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnThe Jackson Five made an outstanding hit of a song that was more mellow than hits like I Want You Back and ABC. Gloria Gaynor's version would qualify as an early disco hit prior to the emergence of Donna Summer.
  • Frank from Westminster, ScAbsolutely, Kenneth! Those kids could sing, and, for my money, this was the best song they ever did. Unfortunately, at the same time, bubblegum nothingballs like the Osmonds, featuring that vile little creep Donny, came crawling out of the woodwork. When I hear him screeching on "One Bad Apple", I want to do something violent and disturbing.
  • Kenneth from Cleveland, OhThe experts called the Jackson 5 music bubblegum.Truth is they made some great songs that are flat out classics.
  • Keith from Canberra, AustraliaOne of my favourite tracks is "Communards-Never Can Say Goodbye (ext) 7:48 min" - just how they turned a Jackson 5 track into a complex and compeling work of art is a great accomplishment that defies belief.
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