Talk about charging out of the gate: the first nationally distributed single by the Jackson 5 would turn out to be their first of four consecutive No. 1 hits. It’s an immaculate machine of a song, propelled into orbit by the leaping voice of Michael Jackson, a 10-year-old singing about an emotional experience he could not possibly have had. Showbiz is all about that kind of glorious lie, though, and from his very first shout here, what drove Jackson was his unflagging desire to be the greatest entertainer there was.
As was often the case with Motown’s best records, there was some backroom intrigue involved in this song’s creation. The Holland-Dozier-Holland writing-production team had left the label a few years earlier; in its place, Motown boss Berry Gordy assembled a new group, billed simply as “the Corporation.” They tinkered with the song (originally called “I Wanna Be Free”), including its arrangement (featuring a couple of members of the Jazz Crusaders) and Jackson’s performance, until it was chiseled and polished into this starmaking jewel.
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