"I Want You Back" is a 1969 song, and the debut major-label single for The Jackson 5 which became a number-one hit for the band and the Motown label in early 1970. The song, along with a b-side cover of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "Who's Lovin' You", was the only single from the first Jackson 5 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. "I Want You Back" was ranked 121st on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
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 preteen, Michael Jackson.
The single was a notable first in many respects: it was the first Jackson 5 single to be released on Motown, the first of four Jackson 5 number-ones released in a row (the others being "ABC", "The Love You Save", and "I'll Be There"), and the first song written and produced by The Corporation, a team comprising Motown chief Berry Gordy,Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, and Deke Richards.
"I Want You Back" was also the first Jackson 5 song recorded in Los Angeles, California; the quintet had previously been recording Bobby Taylor-produced covers, including "Who's Lovin' You", the B-side to "I Want You Back", at Hitsville U.S.A. in Detroit, Michigan.
Although Gladys Knight and Bobby Taylor of the Vancouvers had been the ones to bring the Jackson brothers to Motown, Motown credited Ross with discovering them, not only to help promote the Jackson 5, but also to help ease Ross' transition into a solo career., a career begun soon after the Jackson 5 became a success.
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), 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".
After leaving the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson performed the song as part of his "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 (the song also had been scheduled to be performed during the "Jackson 5 Medley" portion of Michael Jackson's This Is It concerts, which never occurred due to his death). The last time the song was performed live was during the Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special, which was also the first time the Jackson 5 had performed together since 1984.
In 2006, Pitchfork Media named it the second best song of the 1960s, adding that the chorus contains "possibly the best chord progression in pop music history." A June 2009 article by The Daily Telegraph called it "arguably the greatest pop record of all time".
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- Lead vocals by Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Jackie Jackson
- Background vocals by Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Tito Jackson, Jackie Jackson and Marlon Jackson
- Written, produced and arranged by The Corporation
- Keyboards by Freddie Perren
- Piano by Joe Sample
- Guitar by David T. Walker, Louis Shelton and Don Peake
- Bass guitar by Wilton Felder
- Drums by Gene Pello
- Tambourine by Sandra Crouch