The beginning of the 1970s was very kind to The Jackson 5, and in October 1970 the teen group scored their fourth hit with I’ll Be There.
Unlike the band’s previous three hit singles (I Want You Back, ABC, Love You Save) Gordy didn’t use Motown Records’ The Corporation to write the song.
Instead Gordy brought in three songwriters: Hal Davis, Willie Hutch and Bob West to write a ballad for the group.
Michael and Jermaine Jackson shared the lead vocals on I’ll Be There, a ballad that has the allusion to a lover reassuring their love that they will be around, no matter what happens.
One line from the song “Just look over your shoulders honey” was reminiscent of a line from The Four Tops’ Reach Out I’ll Be There. Michael was supposed to sing “just look over your shoulder” but instead changed it when recording.
The song was released on August 2, 1970, the first single from their new album, Third Album, which was released on the same day by Motown Records. Michael turned 12 the day after the song was released.
The song became the group’s most successful single to date, selling 4.2 million copies in the US and over six million copies worldwide.
The song hit the tops of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in October 1970, staying at number one for five weeks and hit number one on the Billboard Black Singles chart.
It was the fourth hit single for the group that year and the first time an African American group had four consecutive number one songs in a row.
This also became the group’s last number one hit, hitting number two on consequent popular songs and Michael gaining the number one spot when he became a solo artist in 1972 with the song Ben.
One of their most popular songs, The Jackson Five regularly performed the song as did Michael through many concert tours in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.