Frankie Lymon sang lead with a Rhythm & Blues Vocal Group called The Teenagers
Michael Jackson sang lead with a teenage Rhythm & Blues Vocal Group called The Jackson Five.
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and the Jackson Five's first hits (“Why Do Fools Fall In Love” and “I Want You Back”) were among their first – and best – recordings.
Frankie Lymon and Michael Jackson were the youngest members of their respective groups, and both stole the spotlight from their otherwise crucial vocal group members. Both began solo careers before they were fifteen.
Of course, the whole writing format used above is based on the American hokum poster classic “Lincoln – Kennedy: Coincidence?” sold nationwide at most vernacular-themed souvenir shops during the '60s and '70s (a culture best captured in the Doug Kirby book Roadside America).
The story of these great child stars do run similar to this kind of manufactured mystery, as Lymon and Jackson set off for more adult-approved versions of what could be expected (and made off of) their talent. Keep in mind that during the '50s, Rock 'n' Roll (a.k.a. Rhythm & Blues) was considered music for kids. In almost no time, it seemed Frankie Lymon was on The Ed Sullivan Show as a solo to shill a cover of the Ella Fitzgerald Swing nugget “Goody Goody,” while Michael Jackson slipped into movie soundtrack singing for the film Ben; the title song would have him serenading a rodent. Later on, of course, Jackson would leave Rhythm & Blues behind for good with a multi-platinum career as a Disco singer, beginning with the silky strings of Off the Wall and it's nightmarish '80s follow-up Thriller.
At the end of the day, both Frankie Lymon and Michael Jackson fell prey to the excesses of drugs and died before their time. Despite their sad, pre-mature passings (Lymon at age 25, Jackson at age 50), both left behind an incredible teenage Rock 'n' Roll legacy. In 1986, Murray Hill Records released the five-record set Frankie Lymon * The Teenagers featuring all the groups' legendary recordings, plus fascinating session out-takes that display key elements of why group harmony clicks to make the early Rock 'n' Roll sound work so well. Strangely enough, Michael Jacksons' best work was captured ten years prior in the Motown three-record set The Jackson Five Anthology (1976). This condenses the harmony singing and Bubble-Soul sound (a.k.a. Rock 'n' Roll) of the Jackson brothers before the planet's demise into the post-Modern moment. Both sets include some of the fine early solo recordings by Frankie Lymon and Michael Jackson, so you can hear these great artists from their beginnings and straight through their prime. Over the hill at 14 might be a harsh way to look at it, but the definitive proof is in the grooves.