In this disco-funk groove, The Jacksons have their eyes on a girl who's playing hard to get and try to get her to loosen up on the dance floor. It was released as the second single from their 13th studio album, Destiny
, following their cover of "Blame It On The Boogie
." The album was truly a family affair, with the brothers writing and producing all of the music for the first time. "Shake Your Body" was written by Michael Jackson and younger brother Randy Jackson, with Michael on lead vocals.
The chorus was possibly inspired by Marvin Gaye's ad-lib in his 1977 single "Got To Give It Up
," although The Jacksons never said for sure. Let's compare lyrics. The Jacksons:Let's dance, let's shout (shout)
Shake your body down to the ground
Gaye:Let's dance, let's shout (shout)
Gettin' funky's what it's all about
The eight-minute track originally started at 20 minutes and was cut down to 3:47 for radio. Bobby Colomby, an executive producer on the album, told Fred Bronson, author of The Jacksons: Legacy, how the song came together: "Greg [Phillinganes, rhythm arranger] worked with Randy and Michael on 'Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)' and cut a 20-minute track of one chord. I couldn't see doing 20 minutes of one chord, so I started adding stuff to make it less boring. I called [horn arranger] Tom Tom 84 because I was a big Earth, Wind & Fire fan. He filled in the holes. We added percussion and really put in the entire kitchen sink. Michael sang the verse, which was dissonant, but when the chorus hit, it was so pleasant. There's so much tension in the melody. It was a nice simple chorus. I knew I had to edit it down because it was long at over 20 minutes. We got it down to eight minutes for the album."
When it came time to edit the track for radio, Colomby sensed 3:47 was the sweet spot for a hit. "I took the album version and at 3:15 I started fading," he explained. "We listened to it and suddenly I was hearing it as a 3:47 record. I looked at the promotion guy and said, 'This is a hit!' The energy of them singing, that's what got people. The fun of it."
Greg Phillinganes hadn't done much arranging before he was brought on to work on the Destiny album. He was a session keyboardist who was discovered as a teenager by Stevie Wonder and debuted on Wonder's 1976 album, Songs In The Key Of Life. Colomby convinced him to try his hand at arranging with The Jacksons, and Phillinganes hit it off with Michael - he was invited to work on The King of Pop's solo albums and became his musical director.
It took a few years for The Jacksons to find their footing after leaving Motown in 1976 and eventually signing with Epic. Although their first post-Motown single, "Enjoy Yourself," landed in the Top 10, their subsequent releases faltered on the charts. After this track earned a Platinum certification for 1 million copies sold, it seemed they had recaptured the success of their glory days, but it was also a catalyst for Michael to pursue his solo career in earnest. He released Off The Wall in 1979 to great acclaim and officially left the family band after the release of their next album, Victory.
Michael Jackson performed this during the first leg of his Bad tour in 1987 and his 30th anniversary concerts at Madison Square Garden in 2001. A remix version was also included on the deluxe edition of his posthumously released remix album, Immortal, in 2011.
Reggae singer Shaggy reworked this as "Dance And Shout
" for his 2000 album, Hot Shot
This was used in the movies This Is 40 (2012), Happy Feet Two (2011), and Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979).