Skip to main content

Michael Jackson - the 411


Michael Joseph Jackson, 1958-2009

It has been over 24 hours since the death of Michael Jackson was announced to the world. While much of the mainstream media have focused on the great contributions he made as an entertainer, some of my colleagues in the press have not been altogether accurate in regards to Michael’s musical history, primarily his years with Motown Records. In a way, this writer is not too upset – these folks are reporters and journalists, not musicologists. So, for those who want to know the 411 regarding the early musical history of Michael Joseph Jackson, I have what was reported indicated in quotation marks, followed by the factual stuff. Here we go….

“Michael Jackson made his first records with Motown”
FACT – Michael & his brothers cut the single “Big Boy”/’You Changed” in 1967 for Ben Brown’s Steeltown Records in Indiana, which had a national distribution deal with Atlantic.

“Berry Gordy produced the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Supremes, Temptations…”
FACT – While it was true that he did indeed produce all of the above, the J-5 was actually handled by Bobby Taylor, then the production team known as the Corporation (Gordy, Deke Richards, Fonce Mizell & Freddie Perren) and later on Hal Davis.

“The Jackson 5 cut all of their Motown hits & albums at Hitsville in Detroit”
FACT – Only the debut album (produced by Taylor) minus “I Want You Back” was cut in Detroit with the Funk Brothers. “I Want You Back” as well as all other Motown releases was done in Los Angeles with the Corporation & Hal Davis.

“Michael Jackson’s solo career took off when ‘Off The Wall’ was released”
FACT – Uh, remember “Got To Be There” from 1971? It was MJ’s first solo hit from the album of the same name. He had other solo smashes at Motown – “Rockin’ Robin”, “I Wanna Be Where You Are” and his first #1 solo hit, “Ben”.

“The Jackson family & the Osmonds were bitter rivals”
FACT – Not really. The kids in both families got along pretty well. Both Michael & Donny Osmond related in separate interviews how they used to have pillow fights in their hotel suites. Donny admired Michael’s success and likewise.

“Michael Jackson was disappointed when ‘Off The Wall’ didn’t reach white audiences, which is why ‘Thriller’ sounded so pop”
FACT – Sorry, but folks across the racial/ethnic spectrum bought “Off The Wall” and made it a #3 Pop album in 1979. When the Grammy Award folks nominated the album & “Don’t Stop “Til You Get Enough” in the R&B category and not pop did Michael go ballistic. So, blame this one on NARAS, not the public.

“Sir Paul McCartney was upset when Michael Jackson bought the Lennon/McCartney catalog”
FACT – Yeah, he was pissed off but Sir Paul has only himself to blame for this one. It was McCartney who told Michael that he should buy the publishing of other tunes (Sir Paul didn’t do to badly with Buddy Holly’s catalog). So, Michael bought out Double Diamond Music (which has Gamble & Huff’s “Cowboys To Girls”) and Sly Stone’s Stone Flower Music prior to getting his hands on ATV Music.

I’m keeping this column short this week due to other projects but there will be more in-depth stuff in the days to come. Stay tuned.



  • Marv 5 years ago

    Great article Kevin and thanks for setting the record straight. The only other issue that I heard reported this week was that Suzanne DePasse discovered the Jackson Five which is completely false! It was Bobby Taylor of Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers that discovered them and brought them to Motown.

  • Ms. M 5 years ago

    Thanks for setting some of the record straight Kev. The misinformation and negative spins are mind boggling!!!

  • MAra t 5 years ago

    Hell to the yeah Kevin!

  • Linda Bailey 5 years ago

    You always hit the nail on the head Kev-Go.

  • big murph 5 years ago

    Kev you are the man glad i get your articles also hows everything with you. We still love your station ID'S thanks again. R.I.P Michael Jackson the "KING OF POP"

  • Cindy 5 years ago

    Some folks may think you're nit picking but I'm glad you set the record straight. It's important to give credit where it's due. Nicely done, kiddo!

  • Colette 5 years ago

    ...It is still hard for me to believe that he has passed away.... I truly feel like I grew up with him as agewise, we are contemporaries...(sigh)... Thanks for setting the record straight on the above:-)