Whether or not you’re a fan of the Jacksons, it feels as if their music has always been a part of the culture ever since the five brothers burst onto the scene at the beginning of 1970. But feels don’t always tell the entire story. Sometimes you gotta get analytic. I wanted to dig into their Top 40 metrics to understand how and when they made their most significant impact.
During the Me decade, the Jackson 5, later the Jacksons, nabbed nineteen Top 40 hits, four of them reaching #1, while Michael racked up six [two #1s] and Jermaine had one. That’s a total of twenty-six. They would surpass that tally in the following ten years by diversifying their talents into multiple solo careers. For each year of the 80s, there was one or more Jacksons with a radio. Let’s look at the first of the decade, starting with 1980 and 1981.
[Note: Each song is listed with its peak position and number of weeks spent in the Top 40]
Michael Jackson-Rock With You [#1 (4 wks), 19 wks in Top 40]
After the first four Jackson 5 singles went to #1, the group would never hit the top again, while Michael would get there thirteen more times. This was the second #1 from his 1979 career-invigorating Off The Wall LP. Even though it entered the Top 40 during the previous late November, it would reach its zenith on January 19th, 1980, and stay there for a month.
Michael Jackson-Off The Wall [#10, 11 wks]
The title track to Michael’s album was the third straight Top 10 and the second written by Heatwave’s Rod Temperton.
Michael Jackson-She’s Out Of My Life [#10, 11 wks]
This is the fourth and final Top 10 single from Off The Wall. It was written by Tom Bahler. He wrote a Top 10 single for Bobby Sherman called Julie, Do Ya Love Me. It peaked at #5 just as the Jackson 5 debuted on the Hot 100 at #40 with I’ll Be There. Tom will also be a part of the USA for Africa project as an associate producer.
Jermaine Jackson-Let’s Get Serious [#9, 14 wks]
Jermaine’s solo career needed a giant boost at the turn of the decade. Maybe this Stevie Wonder-penned track was the self-motivation he was looking for. It will crack the Pop Top 10, matching the high of his previous hit, Daddy’s Home, at #9. It will also spend six weeks atop the Soul charts.
Jermaine Jackson-You’re Supposed To Keep Your Love For Me [#34, 4 wks]
This sweet little ballad was also written by Stevie Wonder but will stall near the bottom of the Top 40. The Let’s Get Serious album was Jermaine’s most successful and even featured backing vocals by his first wife Hazel, Berry Gordy’s oldest daughter
The Jacksons-Lovely One [#12, 9 wks]
The smoke hadn’t even settled from the Off The Wall fire before the Jacksons were back in the studio recording their follow-up to 1978’s Destiny. Triumph was released in October, and this was their first single, co-written by Michael and Rany. This is my favorite album of theirs, and I find it their most consistent. I think the lack of Top 10 hits could be due to the overexposure of multiple Jacksons or the still rolling Disco backlash. Nevertheless, the family racked up six Top 40 hits, which spent a total of 68 weeks in the Top 40. Not a bad way to start the 1980s.
The Jacksons-Heartbreak Hotel [#22, 8 wks]
1981 was definitely the lightest year of Jackson influence on the charts as their second Triumph 45 would only reach #22. Maybe it was because Elvis’ estate forced them to change the title to This Place Hotel, which sounds stupid. Two more singles, Can You Feel It and Walk Right Now, were released but only reached #77 and #73, respectively.
Jermaine couldn’t capitalize on his serious fortune as his follow-up album, I Like Your Style, tanked, and its lead single, I’m Just Too Shy, reached #60.
The Jacksons embarked on a three-month tour supporting the Triumph LP culminating in a live album released in November.
After the work with his brothers was done for a while, Michael knew he had to up his solo game. So he convened with Quincy Jones once The Dude sessions were finished to work on his next masterpiece.
An aside: Sister Janet had yet to begin her recording career. But after a few years watching her on Good Times, she started showing up on Diff’rent Strokes in late 1980 as Willis’ girlfriend, Charlene.
Next: 1982 will be a big year in the Jackson household, but it will take most of the year before anyone realizes it.