Jermaine Jackson

Jermaine Jackson

    For the period, 1970-74, there was no Soul group - in fact no musical act in the world - that was bigger than the Jackson 5. The five brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael Jackson were household names among people of every age and race, and set the stage for dozens of child and teenage groups that would later emerge (though none would ever match the intense popularity the Jackson 5 enjoyed).

    Amid the rough steeltown of Gary, Indiana, the Jackson 5 was a dream of guitarist Joe Jackson, the patriarch of a family of photogenic, extremely talented children. Realizing the talent resident in his five boys, he became a tough taskmaster, working on their musicianship, their singing and their dancing with the goal of creating a tight, soul singing group in the mold of the Temptations, but composed of a group of teen and pre-teen brothers. By 1966 the Jackson boys were winning local competitions and by the next year, when Michael was only 9 years old, they won at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, bringing them their first attention outside of the Midwest. Over the course of the next year word about the boys from Gary spread, and in 1969 Motown artist Bobby Taylor saw them perform and soon they were summoned to Detroit by Motown leader Berry Gordy, Jr., who signed them almost immediately.

    Gordy soon had the Jackson Five touring with Diana Ross and working with the new Motown songwriting team The Corporation (whose member, Freddie Perren, would later write for Tavares, Peaches and Herb and Gloria Gaynor, among others). The J5's first single, "I Want You Back," was a monster, and began a string of four straight number one Pop and Soul singles for the group from their first two albums, including "ABC," "The Love You Save," and the ballad "I'll Be There" (one of the biggest songs of 1970). At a stressful time of national concern about Vietnam and changes in society, the fresh exuberance of Michael Jackson's incredible young voice, the slick dance moves of the handsome siblings and The Corporation's extremely infectious compositions simply took the U.S. and world by storm, and the new decade's first supergroup was born.

    The group's exposure reached a peak in 1971, when the "Jackson Five" cartoon hit the Saturday morning airwaves, and over the period 1970-73 the J5 released an amazing nine studio albums and toured tirelessly (accompanied in 1971 by a virtually unknown new soul/funk group known as the Commodores). Despite objections by Joe Jackson, Gordy was determined to push Michael as a solo artist, and soon he and Jermaine had solo albums, with Michael scoring major hits with "Got to Be There," the ballad "Ben" and the upbeat cover of "Rockin Robin." Jermaine had his own smash, with a cover of Shep and The Limelights’ “Daddy’s Home.” A combination of the passing of time, Gordy's distraction into the world of movies (rather than music), group fatigue and adolescent voice changes led to a decline in the J5's popularity in the mid-70s, though they scored a major hit with 1974's "Dancing Machine."

    Frustrated, in 1976 the group departed Motown for Epic Records, leaving Jermaine (who was married to Berry Gordy's daughter Hazel) behind for a moderately successful solo career and replacing him with talented younger brother Randy. Jermaine’s solo career on Motown had some highlights, including the Stevie Wonder-penned smash “Let’s Get Serious,” but it was his later move to Arista Records that gave him his greatest success. “Take Good Care of My Heart,” a duet with a then-unknown Whitney Houston was a winner, and his brother Michael joined him on the #1 smash “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming.” He also scored with “Do What You Do” and “Dynamite.”

    Jermaine was in and out of the family group, then called the Jacksons, during the 80s, including on the legendary Motown 25 performance and the somewhat ill-fated 1984 Victory album and tour.

    The act then disbanded for good, reuniting onstage only for a pretty good performance at a Michael Jackson tribute television special in 2003.  The six brothers were planning another reunion for 2010, but Michael's tragic death ended those plans. Since Michael’s death, however, Jermaine has joined brothers Jackie, Marlon and Tito in regular tours around the world, singing the past hits of the Jackson 5 and Jacksons.

    Jermaine also continues recording sporadically, and had a minor hit with the excellent ballad “Summertime Feeling,” in 2015.