35. Jackson 5 – ‘I’ll Be There’ (1970)

“I’ll reach out my hand to you
I’ll have faith in all you do
Just call my name and I’ll be there”

Written by Berry Gordy/Bob West/Hal Davis/Willie Hutch

Produced by Berry Gordy/Bob West/Hal Davis/Willie Hutch

Taken from the album Third Album

Also released on Greatest Hits, The Jacksons: An American Dream, The Ultimate Collection, Anthology, The Jacksons Story, The Ultimate Collection (Michael Jackson), The Very Best Of The Jacksons, The Essential Michael Jackson, Gold, King Of Pop and The Definitive Collection

US #1, UK #4

Another song which featured earlier on this list in a stunning cover version (by Mariah Carey of course), ‘I’ll Be There’ was the Jackson 5’s fourth number one in a row, and stands as their most beautiful song in their 20-year group career. After three nearly identical singles in ‘I Want You Back’, ‘ABC’ and ‘The Love You Save’, this marked an important turning point and established the group as much more than few-hit-wonders, and very importantly established Michael Jackson as more than a novelty – his voice could compare to the greats of Motown, and he was only twelve.

Michael got all the attention in the Jackson 5, and rightly so, but credit must be given to the gorgeous harmonies in ‘I’ll Be There’, with the brothers backing up the lead for a true group effort. It also features important solo vocals from Jermaine, going back-and-forth on the lyrics with Michael. The Stripped Mixes was mostly a cash-in after Michael’s death, but the mix of ‘I’ll Be There’ was an amazing insight into the sheer skill of the vocal performance. It is an essential companion to the original.

Performed on all of Michael Jackson’s tours and becoming a pop standard, ‘I’ll Be There’ has taken it’s place as a Motown classic. It’s difficult to consider that the Jackson 5 were seen as a boyband much like we saw *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys back in the day – could you imagine any of them even coming close to something as mature or skilled as this? And he was twelve. Seriously. Twelve.


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