I Want You Back

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

"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"
ReleasedOctober 7, 1969 (US)[1]
RecordedJuly-September, 1969
StudioThe Sound Factory, West Hollywood
M 1157
Producer(s)The Corporation
The Jackson 5 singles chronology
"Big Boy"
"I Want You Back"

"I Want You Back" is the first national single by the Jackson 5.[3] It was released by Motown on October 7, 1969, and became the first number-one hit for the band on January 31, 1970.[4] 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.[4]

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.[5]

"I Want You Back" was ranked 121st on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[6]


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[7] and was the first Jackson 5 single to be released by Motown[8] and the first song written and produced by The Corporation, a team comprising Motown chief Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonso Mizell, and Deke Richards.[6] 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,[8] Motown credited Diana Ross with discovering them.[8] This was done not only to help promote the Jackson 5, but also to help ease Ross' transition into a solo career,[8] which she began in 1970 soon after the Jackson 5 became a success.[8]

Live performances[edit]

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),[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] The song was to be performed at Jackson's This Is It comeback concerts in London, which were cancelled due to his death.[citation needed] 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.[12]

Reception and legacy[edit]

The song has sold six million copies worldwide.[13] In 1999, "I Want You Back" was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[14]

"I Want You Back" ranks number 121 on Rolling Stone's list of the '500 Greatest Songs of All Time'.[6] It also ranks ninth on Rolling Stone's list of the '100 Greatest Pop Songs since 1963'.[13] In 2020, it was ranked number 2 on Rolling Stone's list of 'The 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time'.[15]

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".[16] A June 2009 article by The Daily Telegraph called it "arguably the greatest pop record of all time".[17] Digital Spy called the song "one of the most enduring pop singles of the sixties".[18]

According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 47th most celebrated song in popular music history, and the 2nd best song of 1969.[19]

The single has been awarded Silver certification on August 22, 2014 by the British Phonographic Industry Association.[20]

"I Want You Back" has long been considered one of the most sampled songs in all of hip hop music.[21] The song has been sampled over 60 times since its release[citation needed] by artists including Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G. and Justin Bieber.[22] The song is also considered to have one of the greatest chord progressions in pop music.[21]



Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1969–1970) Peak
Australia 77
Canada (RPM) [25] 2
Ireland 6
New Zealand (Listener) [26] 12
UK Singles (OCC)[27] 2
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[17] 1
U.S. Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles 1
U.S. Cash Box[28] 1
Chart (2009) Peak
Australia 53
France[29] 26
Ireland 34
Sweden [30] 47
UK Singles Chart 43

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1970) Rank
Canada[31] 30
UK[32] 32
US Billboard Hot 100[33] 28
US Cash Box[34] 31


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[35] Gold 45,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[36] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[37] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Graham Parker version[edit]

"I Want You Back (Alive)"
Single by Graham Parker
B-side"Mercury Poisoning"
ReleasedAugust 1979
Songwriter(s)Graham Parker
Producer(s)Jack Nitzsche
Graham Parker singles chronology
"Local Girls"
"I Want You Back (Alive)"

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."[38]

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."[39]

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".[38] 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.[40]

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.[41] 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)."[42]


Chart (1979) Peak
Australia (Go-Set) 46
US (Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100) 3


  1. ^ "History 1969". Thejacksons.com. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
  2. ^ ASCAP entry for song Archived 2011-05-30 at the Wayback Machine ASCAP, accessed 28 May 2011
  3. ^ A Guide To Michael Jackson's Albums, Sha'Linda Jeanine, "first national single"
  4. ^ a b David V. Moskowitz (November 10, 2015). The 100 Greatest Bands of All Time: A Guide to the Legends Who Rocked the World [2 volumes]: A Guide to the Legends Who Rocked the World. ABC-CLIO. pp. 325–. ISBN 978-1-4408-0340-6.
  5. ^ Neely, Tim (2000). Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records 1950-1975 2nd Ed. Iola, WI: Krause. ISBN 0-87341-934-0.
  6. ^ a b c "I Want You Back". Rolling Stone. 7 April 2011. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-11-19. Retrieved 2015-10-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ a b c d e George, Nelson (2007). Where Did Our Love Go? The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. pp. 159–60, 183–188. ISBN 978-0-252-07498-1.
  9. ^ "Jackson 5 | On TV!". Jackson5abc.com. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  10. ^ "Jackson 5 | On TV!". Jackson5abc.com. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  11. ^ "Michael Jackson Average Setlists of tour: Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special". Setlist.fm. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  12. ^ "Pop Review : A Cautious Return To His Throne with Air Kisses for Loyal Subjects". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  13. ^ a b Masley, Ed. "Boy bands throughout history". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved June 30, 2009.
  14. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". GRAMMY.org. Archived from the original on 2015-07-07. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  15. ^ "The 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time". Rolling Stones. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  16. ^ Ricardson, Mark (August 18, 2006). "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved June 30, 2009.
  17. ^ a b Brown, Helen (June 26, 2009). "Michael Jackson and Motown: the boy behind the marketing". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 30, 2009.
  18. ^ Levine, Nick (July 7, 2009). "Michael Jackson's Top 20 Singles: Part One". Digital Spy. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  19. ^ "I Want You Back ranked 47th most celebrated song". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. Retrieved July 18, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ a b "History of the Jackson 5 song I Want You Back". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
  22. ^ "Samples of I Want You Back by The Jackson 5 on WhoSampled". WhoSampled. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lecocq, Richard; Allard, Francois (2018). Michael Jackson All The Songs. London: Cassell. ISBN 9781788400572.
  24. ^ a b c d e f "I Want You Back". AllMusic. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-10-03. Retrieved 2016-07-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  27. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  28. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 1/24/70". 11 February 2016.
  29. ^ "Download French Single Top 50". France. lescharts. Archived from the original on 2011-08-16. Retrieved 2009-12-31.
  30. ^ Steffen Hung. "The Jackson 5 - I Want You Back". swedishcharts.com. Archived from the original on March 25, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  31. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca. 17 July 2013.
  32. ^ "Top 100 1970 - UK Music Charts". Uk-charts.top-source.info. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  33. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1970/Top 100 Songs of 1970". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  34. ^ "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1970". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 2016-07-07.
  35. ^ "Danish single certifications – The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back". IFPI Denmark. Scroll through the page-list below until year 2018 to obtain certification.
  36. ^ "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.
  37. ^ "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. 
  38. ^ a b "PASSION IS NO ORDINARY WORD: THE GRAHAM PARKER ANTHOLOGY, 1993". homepages.uni-regensburg.de. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  39. ^ "GP Answers Your Questions: Part 7". www.grahamparker.net. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  40. ^ "Graham Parker Is No Ordinary Dude, by John M. Borack". homepages.uni-regensburg.de. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  41. ^ "Record Review: Graham Parker – I Want You Back [Alive]". Post-Punk Monk. 6 February 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  42. ^ Parker, Graham. "GP Answers Your Questions: Part 21". www.grahamparker.net. Retrieved 24 June 2020.

External links[edit]