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I’ll Be There ( The Jackson 5 Cover ) 10.03.09

I remember this song on the radio (CKLW! The Motor City!) when I was 5.

It’s been on the radio, or on someone’s stereo or cd/mp3 player, or piped over the PA in any shopping mall, or in the elevator, or on a soundtrack to a movie, or as incidental music on television ever since. It’s been sung by so many over the years… the song has been a continuous presence throughout my life.

I loved The Jackson 5. I loved their four number one hits, all coming one right after another, all kicking ass from the moment the songs started, blasting out of the transistor speakers and putting a smile on my face. Everytime. Michael Jackson had that ability to bring love to a room with song. I loved the cartoon too though. It was fun. So was the Osmonds cartoon. So was the Beatles cartoon. I’m getting off topic here.

The song I’ll Be There was constructed by a team of four people, written specifically for the Jackson 5, and according to what I read, the aim was to write another career-sustaining hit song, but they were aiming for a ballad this time, with a direct, strong, and smart lyric, written from the heart to be sung from the heart.

The writers were Motown founder Berry Gordy, along with Bob West, Hal Davis, and Willie Hutch.

The lyrics are sophisticated yet deceptively simple. My favourite line is “I’ll be there to protect you, with an unselfish love that respects you.” It’s such an honest and heartfelt sentiment, and It’s amazing to think that a young boy of 11 would have had the soul to tackle such a lyric. In some respects though, what it is saying is so universal, perhaps the lyric can be approached by a singer of any age, as long as he or she is old enough to understand the capacity to love and nurture. In MJ’s delivery, you hear someone who quickly mastered the art of delivering a song with impeccible phrasing, timing, and soul. At 11!

I’m not going to go into how much and how hard I’ve been mourning the loss of Michael Jackson. A lot of the younger generation don’t remember how powerful he was as an entertainer. Forget about the other stuff for a moment. The seismic impact he has made on popular culture, from a music and entertainment perspective alone, will be written about and studied for years to come. Don’t get me started on the perfection of the production of Get On The Floor from Off The Wall. Quincy!

Let’s not forget how good a singer Jermaine was too. He handled the bridges on the Jackson 5 recording of I’ll Be There, and I always loved the contrast between Jermaine’s and Michael’s voices.

An aside: I greatly respect Mariah Carey‘s choice to cover this song and Without You, the Harry Nilsson chestnut (written by the boys from Badfinger!) What a voice she has.

Anyway, this song is dedicated to my Dad, to my Mom, to the memory of Michael Jackson, and to the Jackson family. And to anyone here who listens with a generous spirit.