This clip of the Jackson Five recently surfaced on YouTube, and, yes, as with 90% of popular music, you could easily swap out the one-track mind lyrical guff for last week’s shopping list without any real loss in meaning. But, in addition to being a deliciously funky bit of proto-disco pop, it also serves as a sad reminder of just how flabbergastingly talented Michael Jackson was. Not only did this 1974 Carol Burnett Show performance popularise the ‘Robot’ dance, thus bequeathing a grateful world with the sight of over-remunerated beanpole Peter Crouch doing a shoddy version decades later – it’s also testament to just how early the pieces of his (Michael’s, not Peter’s) later signature sound fell into place. Astoundingly, and upsettingly, he’s only fifteen in this clip – astoundingly because of the stonking power of that voice, upsettingly because he was already an emotionally and physically abused dancing bear, bullied by an authoritarian father and chronically insecure about his appearance. He would go on to be the most successful entertainer in the history of the world (Jesus loses out by a nose through his lack of body-popping prowess), mangle himself with plastic surgery, become addicted to prescription pain-killers and die alone in an enormous mansion at 50.
For some annoying reason, if you want to actually watch the video bit of a WordPress-embedded YouTube video rather just hear the audio, you have to either watch it fullscreen or click to watch it on YouTube itself.