The Jackson 5 gave the world some of the most famous bubblegum pop songs ever written, including “I Want You Back.” Interestingly, the song was intended for other famous Motown artists. It even had a different title.
Videos by American Songwriter
The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’ was originally a very different song.
According to Billboard, The Jackson 5 worked with a group of producers known as The Corporation. The Corporation created a song called “I Wanna Be Free.” The Corporation intended the song for either Gladys Knight & the Pips or Diana Ross. Subsequently, Berry Gordy asked the group to rework the song for The Jackson 5. The new version of “I Wanna Be Free” was called “I Want You Back.”
Gordy felt a song always needed a strong introduction to get listeners’ attention. Jackie Jackson felt the introduction of “I Want You Back” was phenomenal. Even though The Jackson 5 felt the song was perfect, The Corporation kept changing it. They wanted “I Want You Back” to be as good as it could possibly be. In addition, Michael Jackson added ad-libs to the end of the track.
What it was like when different members of The Jackson 5 heard the song on the radio for the first time.
During a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Tito Jackson discussed hearing “I Want You Back” on the radio for the first time. “When they told us it was going to be on the radio, we gathered around,” he said. “Imagine—five guys with afros staring at a transistor. We jumped up and down so much, our neighbors heard and came over.”
Jermaine Jackson had a different memory of hearing “I Want You Back” for the first time. “When I first heard it on the radio, I was driving around in my little Datsun,” Jermaine said. “Right away, I knew it was going to be a hit around the world. It was so exciting I had to pull over. It sounded even better than it did in the studio. And then it went to No. 1.”
The way the world reacted to The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back.’
“I Want You Back” became a massive international hit. The song spent 19 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. It spent one of those weeks at the top of the chart. The Jackson 5 released “I Want You Back” on their debut album, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5. Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 32 weeks.
“I Want You Back” became a hit in the United Kingdom as well. According to The Official Charts Company, the song peaked at No. 2, remaining on the chart for 13 weeks. Meanwhile, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 hit No. 16 and lasted on the chart for four weeks.
The legacy of The Jackson 5
In 2014, Tito told The Guardian that The Jackson 5 continued going strong long after they formed. They now perform under the name The Jacksons. “It feels good that something we started in the early ’60s in Gary, Indiana, should still be going,” Tito said. “You can lose that eye-of-the-tiger feeling, but we haven’t. We always took care of ourselves. We didn’t live like your average entertainers, partying and drinking and drugging. That pays off at this time in your life. But we’re not old men – we’re still able to give great performances.”
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images