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Song Anniversary: The Jackson 5’s “Dancing Machine”

By 1973, the popularity of the Jackson 5 was on the wane. The group had not scored a top ten pop hit since 1971’s “Sugar Daddy”, or a top ten pop album since 1972’s Lookin’ Through the Windows. Also by that year, the group felt limited by Motown, as the label would not give the group a chance to write and/or produce themselves, despite artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder already making that headway.

But in 1974, the Jackson 5 released the album Dancing Machine, and it brought the brothers back to prominence, thanks to the title track. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 (giving the group their first top ten pop hit in three years), and number one R&B. The song was first recorded in 1973 for the album G.I.T.: Get It Together, but was re-recorded when it became successful earlier in 1974. The song was later nominated for a Grammy in 1975 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

As “Dancing Machine” sat high on the charts, the song also became notable for popularizing the the Robot, which Michael Jackson performed during shows, particularly on an episode of Soul Train. While “Dancing Machine” proved the Jackson 5 could successfully parlay into the sounds of funk and the still-emerging disco, the group still felt limited creatively, and “Dancing Machine” would prove to be their last top ten hit for Motown. In 1975, the brothers (minus Jermaine) left both Motown and the Jackson 5 name behind, and moved to Epic Records as the Jacksons (with Randy taking Jermaine’s spot).

As for “Dancing Machine”, the song continued to be a radio staple, and was sampled from artists including MC Hammer and Q-Tip, and had even made it’s way into Disney and commercials.