I Want You Back
The Jackson 5
Writer(s): Berry Gordy/Freddie Perren/Deke Richards/Fonce Mizell (see lyrics here)
Released: October 7, 1969
First Charted: November 15, 1969
Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 GR, 2 HR, 14 RB, 2 UK, 2 CN, 77 AU, 4 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.6 UK, 6.0 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 172.4 video, 716.85 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Rock critic Dave Marsh called this” “the greatest debut single of any act since the fifties, and…certainly the greatest record ever made by a singer who had yet to reach puberty.” MA “I Want You Back” introduced the world to a pre-teen from Indiana named Michael Jackson who became the youngest person ever featured on a Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper. SF He and four of his brothers comprised the Jackson 5, one of Motown’s proudest creations.
The label had undergone changes, such as relocating from Detroit to Los Angeles and losing their star writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Head honcho Berry Gordy was eager to mint a new group as superstars helmed by a new writing team. He assembled a group of writers known simply as “The Corporation,” thus depersonalizing them and keeping them from becoming “too big for their boots.” TB They had written a song called “I Wanna Be Free” TM which was intended for Gladys Knight & the Pips. TB Gordy wasn’t satisfied so “the words were overhauled and the key lowered” TB with the direction that it be reimagined as a song for someone like Frankie Lymon, SF a teen star in the ‘50s best known for “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” The team “chiseled and polished [it] into this starmaking jewel” TM we now know as “I Want You Back.”
It was the first nationally distributed single by the Jackson 5 (they previously released a single in 1968 on a local label in Gary, Indiana) SF and it made the dancing brothers into stars overnight. It became the first of four consecutive #1 songs for the group on both the pop and R&B charts. “It’s an immaculate machine of a song, propelled into orbit by the leaping voice of Michael Jackson,” TM who “yelped his lead vocals with boyish fervor” RS500 while “singing about an emotional experience he could not possibly have had.” TM The song is, after all, “a passionate declaration of regret att a fractured relationship.” TB
“‘I Want You Back’ remains one of hip-hop’s favorite beats, sampled everywhere from Kris Kross’ ‘Jump’ to Jay-Z’s ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.).’” RS500
First posted 4/20/2020; last updated 2/4/2023.