The oldest of the Jackson brothers, Las Vegas resident Jackie Jackson was the co-lead singer of The Jackson 5, and is known for his signature high voice. Jackie began his performing career with dance, jazz-ballet and tap lessons when he was 4 years old, and created The Jackson 5 with his brothers in 1965. Its first record, “I Want You Back,” shot to No. 1 on the charts; the group was the very first to have four consecutive No. 1 hits. The Jackson 5 has sold an estimated 250 million gold and platinum records. He, along with his brothers, is an inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Q: What is your first memory of performing as a child?
A: The first thing I remember was back in Gary, Ind.—we used to perform in all of the high school talent show contests. There were a lot of great groups at the time, but we would win the big prize all the time. We did a lot of shows in our hometown and around Chicago and built from there. Then we started touring and were on the "Ed Sullivan Show." Gladys Knight was the first one who found us in Gary, and flew back and told Berry Gordy about us. Gordy had Diana Ross introduce us to the world, because she was a bigger star, but it was Gladys Knight who found us.
From there, we went on tour, had four No. 1 records in a row—we sold out concerts in stadiums, it was pandemonium.
Q: Where was the first place you toured?
A: The first big concert was in Philadelphia. It was crazy, it really was.
Q: When did you first start writing music?
A: We were writing music all along, but at the time we were on Motown, and they had such great songwriters, we were winning No. 1 records all the time.
Q: Do you have a favorite of the Jackson 5 songs?
A: My favorite one is the very first song, “I Want You Back.”
Q: When you spend so much time with your brothers, does that bring you closer together, or do you fight more?
A: Everyone had disagreements—we all have them no matter who we are. But we’re pretty close. We’d love to write more and like to be together and on stage together, performing, because that’s what we love doing.
Q: Was the writing a collaborative effort?
A: Yes. Sometimes a brother would write a song by himself, but we were all writing together.
Q: After being part of such as successful group, how did it feel to release your own solo album (in 1973, Jackie released his first solo effort, the self-titled “Jackie Jackson”)?
A: When you put your first record out, no matter who it is, when you hear it on the radio for the first time–after hearing it so many times in the recording studio–when you hear it on the radio for the first time, it’s something special. It’s magic.
I remember when I first heard “I Want You Back.” I just had to pull over on the side of the road and listen to it it sounded so good on the radio.
Q:Who were your musical inspirations?
A: My main inspiration was Johnny Mathis. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown, Smokey Robinson and the Temptations were also our idols at the time.
Q: To you, what makes a good song, a memorable song?
A: When you’ve got a great melody, great lyrical content. A song that’s easy for everyone to sing along to. That’s what makes a great record to me.
Q: How has the music industry changed from the first time you started performing until now?
A: It’s changed a lot now. Everything is computerized–it’s all on computers, laptops. Back in the day it was all tape-recorded, and it took a long time to do it. It’s much quicker today, and they make the worst singer sound great today. But don’t get me wrong, there’s some great talent out there, a lot of talented people out there today that I really enjoy.
Q: What do you like best about performing?
A: Seeing the crowd get excited about what we’re doing onstage. When they’re having a great time, that is fuel to my engine.
Q: How do you keep Michael’s memory alive?
A: We honor him in all of our shows, whether we’re doing a Vegas show or a touring show around the world—we always have a segment in the show where we honor our brother, because people want that and he was one of the best out there. It’s a bittersweet moment, because sometimes you’re sad, and there are times when it picks up and people are dancing to his music. It’s great.
Q: What’s your fondest memory of Michael?
A: He was a great guy to be around and always worked hard. He wanted to be the best at whatever he did. He put 110 percent in whatever he did. He was a great humanitarian, a great father to his kids. He was the kind of guy who, if you saw something—if it was a car, anything, and he owned it, and you said, “Michael, I like it,” he’d say, “You want it? You can have it. Do you want it?” He’d just give it to you, that was the kind of person he was. He was a giving person. He was like that all the time. He really meant it from his heart.
Q: How long have you lived in Las Vegas?
A: About five years.
Q: Why did you decide to move here?
A: I just like the quietness of it, to get away from all of the paparazzi–I hate to say that (laughs). I live two doors down from Celine Dion, we’re good friends and neighbors.