I Want You Back
|"I Want You Back"|
Germany vinyl single
|Single by The Jackson 5|
|from the album Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5|
|B-side||"Who's Lovin' You"|
|Released||October 7, 1969 (US)|
|Recorded||July - September, 1969|
|Studio||The Sound Factory, West Hollywood|
|The Jackson 5 singles chronology|
"I Want You Back" is the first national single by the Jackson 5. It was released by Motown on October 7, 1969, and became the first number-one hit for the band on January 31, 1970. It was performed on the band's first television appearances, on October 18, 1969 on Diana Ross's The Hollywood Palace and on their milestone performance on December 14, 1969 on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The song, along with a B-side remake of "Who's Lovin' You" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, was the only single to be released from the Jackson 5's first album, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. It went to number one on the Soul singles chart for four weeks and held the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for the week ending January 31, 1970.
Originally considered for Gladys Knight & the Pips and later for Diana Ross, as "I Wanna Be Free", "I Want You Back" explores the theme of a lover who decides that he was too hasty in dropping his partner. An unusual aspect about "I Want You Back" was that its main lead vocal was performed by a tween, Michael Jackson.
"I Want You Back" was released on October 7, 1969 and was the first Jackson 5 single to be released by Motown and the first song written and produced by The Corporation, a team comprising Motown chief Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonso Mizell, and Deke Richards. It also is the first of four Jackson 5 number-ones released in a row (the others being "ABC" – 1970, "The Love You Save" – 1970, and "I'll Be There" – 1970) and the first Jackson 5 song recorded in Los Angeles, California; the quintet had previously been recording Bobby Taylor-produced remakes of other artists' hits, including "Who's Lovin' You", the B-side to "I Want You Back", at Hitsville U.S.A. in Detroit, Michigan. From late 1969 and on, nearly all of the Jackson 5's recordings were done in Los Angeles when the majority of recordings for other artists on the label were done in Detroit.
Although Gladys Knight had been the first to mention the Jacksons to Berry Gordy, and Bobby Taylor brought the Jackson brothers to Motown, Motown credited Diana Ross with discovering them. This was done not only to help promote the Jackson 5, but also to help ease Ross' transition into a solo career, which she began in 1970 soon after the Jackson 5 became a success.
The Jackson 5 performed "I Want You Back" during all of their world tours, either as a full song or as a part of the Jackson 5 Medley in concerts (which also included "ABC" and "Mama's Pearl", later on switched with "The Love You Save" in 1973). During their second-ever television appearance (in an episode of The Hollywood Palace hosted by Diana Ross & the Supremes), the Jackson 5 performed "I Want You Back" along with Sly & the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song", The Delfonics' "Can You Remember", and James Brown's "There Was a Time". They also performed the song on American Bandstand and the Andy Williams Show.
Michael Jackson performed the song as part of the "Jackson 5 Medley" (which also included the songs "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There") during all of his world tours - the Bad World Tour, the Dangerous World Tour and the HIStory World Tour. The song was to be performed at Jackson's This Is It comeback concerts in London, which were cancelled due to his death. The song was performed live at the Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special in 2001, in which Jackson reunited with his brothers on stage for the first time since 1984.
Reception and legacy
"I Want You Back" ranks number 121 on Rolling Stone's list of the '500 Greatest Songs of All Time'. It also ranks ninth on Rolling Stone's list of the '100 Greatest Pop Songs since 1963'. In 2020, it was ranked number 2 on Rolling Stone's list of 'The 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time'.
In 2006, Pitchfork named it the second best song of the 1960s, adding that the chorus contains "possibly the best chord progression in pop music history". A June 2009 article by The Daily Telegraph called it "arguably the greatest pop record of all time". Digital Spy called the song "one of the most enduring pop singles of the sixties".
"I Want You Back" has long been considered one of the most sampled songs in all of hip hop music. The song has been sampled over 60 times since its release by artists including Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G. and Justin Bieber. The song is also considered to have one of the greatest chord progressions in pop music.
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- Michael Jackson – lead vocals
- Tito Jackson – vocals, backing vocals
- Jackie Jackson – vocals, backing vocals
- Jermaine Jackson – vocals, backing vocals
- Marlon Jackson – vocals, backing vocals
- Keith Washington – backing vocals
- Ludie Washington – backing vocals
- Fonce Mizell – piano
- Freddie Perren – piano
- Ronnie Rancifer – piano, keyboards
- Louis Shelton – guitar
- David T. Walker – rhythm guitar
- Wilton Felder – bass guitar
- Don Peake – guitar
- Johnny Jackson – drums
- Gene Pello – drums
- Clarence McDonald – keyboards
- Joe Sample – piano
- Sandra Crouch – percussion
|Canada (RPM) ||2|
|New Zealand (Listener) ||12|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||2|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||1|
|U.S. Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles||1|
|U.S. Cash Box||1|
|UK Singles Chart||43|
|US Billboard Hot 100||28|
|US Cash Box||31|
|Denmark (IFPI Denmark)||Gold||45,000|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||600,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
Graham Parker version
|"I Want You Back (Alive)"|
|Single by Graham Parker|
|Graham Parker singles chronology|
British new wave musician Graham Parker covered the song with his backing band the Rumour as "I Want You Back (Alive)". Intended to be a B-side of "Mercury Poisoning", the song became the single's A-side in some regions due to the controversial nature of the lyrics to "Mercury Poisoning". Parker recalled of the song's recording, "We recorded it on a mobile in a rehearsal room while rehearsing for [Squeezing Out] Sparks, in a real grungy place in London. I thought it was very musical - now it sounds like World War III is going on in there."
Parker explained of the idea to cover the song, "I think with 'I Want You Back,' I probably just heard it on Radio 1 one day and thought it would be a cool idea to try it. Uninteresting, I know, but that's usually the way these things work."
Parker's version of the song features a more aggressive vocal that was described by a critic as sounding "as if he was repossessing a car". Parker later met Jackson and told him that he had covered his song. Parker recalled the experience:
I think he had got a platinum album for Off the Wall, and they had a party in a bank in Beverly Hills. It was the weirdest thing. I did say to him, "Hey, Michael, I did 'I Want You Back.'" He said [imitates Michael Jackson's voice], "Ooh, ahh" in a little high, sweet voice. And he looked at me like "What is this person saying to me?" It sort of went right through him. He wasn't enigmatic, he was just sort of dumb, you know [laughs]. No, he was enigmatic, actually. That's it, he was enigmatic. If somebody said, "Hey Graham, I did your song," I'd say, "Oh really, that's great, what song?" You know, I'd sort of come down to human terms. Jackson was sort of Dylanesque in his answer, really.
The live version appeared on the Live Sparks live album, alongside "Mercury Poisoning" and the songs from Squeezing Out Sparks. The song was also the B-side to some versions of the "Local Girls" and "Protection" singles. Parker said of his decision not to include it on a proper album, "It was done on a whim, as these things often are ... and certainly would not have fitted on anything I was doing then (this would be around the time of Sparks and you'd have to be nuts to think a frivolous, fun tine like that would be appropriate for that album)."
|US (Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100)||3|
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- "British single certifications – The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type I Want You Back in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- "American single certifications – The Jackson Five – I Want You Back". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH.
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- Overview of "I Want You Back", featuring picture sleeves from all over the world
- List of cover versions of "I Want You Back" at SecondHandSongs.com