Classics: Diana Ross – Muscles (RCA)
Although it failed to get her to #1 in the charts, ‘Muscles’ nevertheless quite made the sensation on the heels of its release back in September 1982. Not only showing Diana Ross going sort of kinky while fantasizing about the subject. And, by that, glorifying the body building. But also because it showed Michael Jackson in a not that usual role while coming to produce the whole. Meanwhile pretty well doin’ his job as a matter of fact.
I suppose one can say ‘Muscles’ pretty much delivered the effect of a quiet storm in many ways of the term. Eventually getting Ross to earn a twelfth and latest Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. And, as a result, pretty much overshadowing the rest of her album content.
Strange though as to how Jackson didn’t manage to develop that more his activities as a producer at the end…
– A native of Detroit, MI where she got raised, Diana Ross first sang duets. Meanwhile sharing the bill with Paul Williams who later on became a member of The Temptations. The first traces of a recording of hers bringin’ us back to the fall of the sixties. And, in the meantime, the beginning of The Primettes who were to become The Supremes when signin’ with Motown in January 1962. Diana Ross joinin’ after she’d got introduced to the group by Mary Wilson and Eddie Kendricks.
Ross first rose to fame as a member of The Supremes, eventually comin’ to replace Florence Ballard as their lead singer. The group released a record-setting 12 number-one hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100. Therefore delivering classics such as ‘Baby Love’, ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’ and ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ to name a few.
Leavin’ The Supremes in 1970, she delivered her eponymous debut-album during that same year. Makin’ her first appearance in the charts under her own banner with ‘Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)’. A cut soon after followed by her cover version of the Ashford & Simpson‘s penned classic ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’. Eventually scoring her first #1 hit.
‘Touch Me In The Morning’, the title track of her second effort, brought her back to top the charts in 1973. An album which features her vibrant cover version of Oscar Brown, Jr.‘s ‘Brown Baby’ although it didn’t see the light as a single. And as if it wasn’t enough, Ross made an even bigger sensation at that time. First makin’ her screen debut in ‘Lady Sings The Blues’, the Billie Holiday biopic. Then releasing the album of the name which would go to no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.
The success story continued 3 years later with the release of the ‘Mahogany’ soundtrack. With ‘Theme From Mahogany: Do You Know Where You’re Going To’ bringin’ her her third #1 hit. A success she soon after followed with ‘Love Hangover’. Meanwhile takin’ the then exploding Disco scene and the nightclubs by storm. Then, surfing on the vibe, she would team up with producers Ashford & Simpson on her 1979 album, ‘The Boss’ and its memorable title track. The latter resurfacing almost 20 years after with The Braxtons covering it along with producers Kenny Dope and Louie Vega. The other cut worth the mention being ‘No One Gets The Prize’ which Danny Krivit masterfully edited as a part of his 2003 ‘Edits By Mr. K’ album.
Diana Ross put an end to her first run with Motown under the form of a sprakling fireworks. Releasing her ‘Diana’ album along with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the Chic fame. This collaboration givin’ birth to extra classics such as ‘Upside Down’, ‘I’m Comin’ Out’ and ‘My Old Piano’. Meanwhile her last single for Motown – ‘Endless Love’ along with Lionel Richie – would be her sixth and final US number-one Pop hit.
October 1981 saw her starting a new phase in her recording career. Meanwhile releasing ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’, her debut-album for RCA. And eventually charting with its title track and ‘Mirror Mirror’. Its follow-up, ‘Silk Electric’, featuring the Michael Jackson penned and produced ‘Muscles’. She then eventually teamed up with Arthur Baker and Darryl Hall who produced the title track of her ‘Swept Away’ album in 1984. Then Ross scored her second #1 U.K. hit the year after with ‘Chain Reaction’. A cut written by and featuring The Bee Gees in the backing vocals. The following years (and releases) seeing her progressively losing her overall impact.
– Did ever Jackie, Tito and their mother realize their would give birth to one of the most exciting ventures in the history of music? This when they found themselves singin’ harmonies together at night after the family’s TV had broken down!?! They would later be joined by Marlon, Jermaine and Michael. With their mom leavin’ when father Joe officially formed The Little Jackson Brothers.
It wasn’t long before he turned their name into The Jackson Five Singing Group (upon suggestion), itself naturally shortened to The Jackson Five…
After they won a talent contest at the NY Apollo Theater during the Summer of 1967, Gladys Knight eventually sent a demo of thel to Motown. But the label rejected it, sendin’ it back to the boys’ hometown in Gary, IN. Soon after, while performing at Beckman Junior High in Gary, they came to the attention of Gordon Keith who signed them on his Steeltown label. Eventually producing their debut-single – ‘Big Boy’ – and releasing it by the end of January 1968. The Five givin’ it a follow-up – ‘We Don’t Have To Be Over 21 (to Fall in Love)’ – before switching to Motown.
There, they started working along with Bobby Taylor who’d brought them to the label. The latter comin’ to produce their debut hits. In other words, ‘I Want You Back’, ‘ABC’ and ‘The Love You Save’. Meanwhile, ‘I’ll Be There’ co-written and produced by Hal Davis, became the group’s fourth #1 single. This makin’ of them the first recording act to have their first four singles reach the top of the Hot 100!
The heat was (definitely) on, and it wasn’t long before The Jackson 5 became Motown’s best-selling group and main marketing focus. Motown jumpin’ on the band’s success to launch both Michael and Jermaine‘s solo careers.
By 1973, with an ear/eye on the then emerging Disco scene, the band delivered ‘Get It Together’. An album that saw them collaborating with writers such as Norman Whitfield and Leon Ware. The title track of their album somehow markin’ an evolution of their sound towards funkier vibes. With the same applying to ‘Dancing Machine’.
Two years after though, most of the group members decided to stop recording for Motown. Therefore claiming for creative control and get a better royalty rate. Eventually signing with Epic in June 1975. To the exception of Jermaine who decided to stay with Motown, with Randy replacing him from then on. The group turnin’ their name from The Jackson 5 (which was owned by Motown) to The Jacksons. Eventually makin’ their debut for their new label via Philadelphia International Records. This most likely being how they came to embrace the Philly Sound such as one could hear on the outstanding although quite underrated ‘Style Of Life’ which saw the light as the B-side of ‘Enjoy Yourself’.
Like Jermaine, Michael, a singer, songwriter and producer, launched his solo activities while still a member of The Jackson Five. Releasing four albums for Motown between 1971 and 1975 before switching as well (as a solo artist) to Epic.
He spent most of the second half of the 70’s along with his brothers. Delivering one of his most vibrant performances back in 1976 on the underrated ‘Style Of Life’. And writing some of the band’s hits such as ‘Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)’ in 1978. But also ‘Can You Feel It’, Heartbreak Hotel’, Walk Right Now’ and ‘State Of Shock’, later on…
As a result, it wasn’t before 1979 that Michael‘s awaited debut-album for Epic hit the streets. Seeing him starting a long time collaboration with super producer Quincy Jones. And gathering an impressive cast of luminaries. From Greg Phillinganes to Louis Johnson, Paulinho Da Costa and Sheila E. But also The Seawind Horns, Randy Jackson and William Reichenbach among others. ‘Off The Wall’ pretty much opening the era of the superproduction for Jacko. Meanwhile standing as the first solo album to generate four top 10 hits Stateside. This by the likes of ‘She’s Out of My Life’, ‘Rock With You’ and ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ in addition to its title track.
More success would come three years after. This with the release of ‘Thriller’. With the latter opening the era of superlatives for Michael. Proudly standing as the best-selling album of all time worldwide, it has been rumored to have saved Epic from a possible bankrupt. It was the first album to have 7 Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles. In other words, ‘The Girl Is Mine’, ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Beat It’, ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”, ‘Human Nature’, ‘P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)’ and ‘Thriller’. Meanwhile, he found time to write and produce ‘Muscles’ for long time friend Diana Ross.
‘Bad’ saw the light almost 5 years after ‘Thriller’. A period that saw Michael duetting with his brother Jermaine on ‘Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ (Too Good to Be True)’. Both of them providing guest vocals on Rockwell‘s memorable ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’. Then contributing to The Jacksons‘ ‘Victory’ album and its following tour.
Michael who’d sold 20 million copies of ‘Off The Wall’, then 66 million of ‘Thriller’ wanted to do even better. And eventually selling 100 million, with ‘Bad’ being initially intended to be a duet album with… Prince! The latter didn’t respond to the invite. No more than Barbra Streisand or Whitney Houston who’d also been thought to contribute.
‘Bad’ only did 35 at the end! And, like its predecessors, it made its impact, spanning extra gems in the charts. From ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ to its title track. But also ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, ‘Man In The Mirror’ and ‘Dirty Diana’. If not ‘Another Part Of Me’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’ to a lesser extend. Meanwhile ‘Liberian Girl’ along with Letta Mbulu failed to chart.
‘Dangerous’ marked quite a change as the first album to not be produced by Quincy Jones since his 1975 ‘Forever, Michael One’. It therefore saw Jacko collaborating with New Jack Swing guru Teddy Riley in addition to Bruce Swedien and Bill Bottrell.
‘Dangerous’ sold 32 million copies. With thanks to extra hit singles such as ‘Black Or White’ and ‘Remember The Time’. Meanwhile Epic postponed the single release of its firing title track due to hit the street in January 1994. This after allegations of child sexual abuse which were made against Jackson in August 1993. His health concerns, and the failure of the previous single, ‘Gone Too Soon’.
By the middle of 1995 came ‘HIStory’. A double-album concept with one half standing as a greatest hits compilation. And the other as a collection of new material including the Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis produced ‘Scream’ that saw him duetting with Janet. But also ‘This Time Around’ along with The Notorious B.I.G.. Not to mention ‘You Are Not Alone’ co-produced with R. Kelly and ‘They Don’t Care About Us’.
Jacko entered the 2000 whilst in the middle of a big dispute with his record label. He nevertheless released the ironically titled ‘Invincible’. An album that would be the last collection of original material he released in his lifetime. It sold an estimated 13 million copies worldwide. Way to low for an artist of this caliber though. Most likely because the record label dispute and the lack of promotion or tour. And also its release at an already bad time for the record industry, with the ongoing development of the illegal download at the time.
By July 2002, Jackson alledged that the then Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola was a “devil” and “racist” who did not support his African-American artists. Using them merely for his own gain. Soon after Sony Music refused to renew his contract. Claiming that a $25 million promotional campaign had failed because the artist refused to tour in America.
From then on the 2000’s would see Jacko taken into like a whirlwind of tragedies. The announce of his passing, on June 25, 2009, havin’ the effect of an earthquake.
His first posthumous song released entirely by his estate was ‘This Is It’, which he had co-written with Paul Anka in the 80’s. His surviving brothers reunited in the studio for the first time since 1989 to record backing vocals. It accompanied the 2009 concert documentary ‘Michael Jackson’s This Is It’. The latter standing as the highest-grossing documentary or concert film of all time. This with earnings of more than $260 million worldwide.
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