Monday, May 21, 2012

The Scottie Pippen of Gary, Indiana

Last week I attended a high school end-of-year choral concert. One of the songs that was performed was "I'll Be There." The kids that performed the song weren't even born when Mariah Carey released her remake of the tune, and obviously weren't around when the original Jackson Five version was released.

My mind wandered back to that original 1970 hit, which was remarkable on so many levels. When some people think of that song, they think of co-author Berry Gordy or lead singer Michael Jackson. The song was a high point in both their careers, scoring major sales for Motown while including Gordy's and Michael's tribute to the Four Tops. (The history of music was obviously very important to both of them.)

But as my mind wandered, I thought about a different story related to the original hit. Because just as Michael Jordan had his Scottie Pippen, Michael Jackson had his vital supporting cast. And no, I'm not talking about guitarist Tito.

When you listen to "I'll Be There," one of the most striking parts is Jermaine Jackson's second lead vocal - a middle eight that serves as a contrast in many ways (voice, key, melody) to his younger brother's portions.

I plead ignorance about much of Jermaine Jackson's musical career - he had other hits with the Jackson Five, more as a solo artist, and still more when he returned to the Jacksons in the 1980s - but if "I'll Be There" had been Jermaine's only contribution to the musical world, it would be a stellar contribution indeed.

All the more so when you consider that Jermaine was still in high school when "I'll Be There" was recorded - the same age as the kids that I heard in a high school cafeteria last week. But Jermaine's vocal is a little more famous. Here's a live performance.

Also see Wikipedia.
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