The Jacksons' 10 greatest songs ever, ranked

4 August 2023, 13:57 | Updated: 4 August 2023, 15:11

The Jacksons' greatest songs
The Jacksons' greatest songs. Picture: The Jacksons/YouTube/Getty

By Thomas Edward

The Jacksons (or the Jackson 5) are undoubtedly the most famous family in pop and soul music history.

The Jackson brothers burst onto the Motown scene during the late 1960s, and music was quite frankly never the same.

The complexion of popular music changed largely because of the introduction of a young Michael Jackson, who was the singular talent that helped spur the brothers to stratospheric fame and success.

Growing up in the public eye, Michael transformed from an immensely talented ten-year-old boy into the world's greatest pop phenomenon.

The Jackson 5 on Sonny and Cher

But before he went on to transform the face of pop music, The Jackson 5 (comprised of Michael, Tito, Marlon, Jackie, and later the youngest brother Randy who replaced Jermaine Jackson when they renamed themselves The Jacksons) scored a series of huge hits as a funky family unit.

Still performing as The Jacksons to this day, their greatest achievements were when Michael was at the fore, entering the top 20 of the US Billboard charts with 18 of their singles, four of which were number ones.

Here are the Jackson brothers' ten greatest songs (including entries from The Jackson 5 and The Jacksons) ranked from top to bottom:

  1. 'State Of Shock' (feat. Mick Jagger)

    The Jacksons, Mick Jagger - State of Shock (Official Audio)

    Hearing Michael Jackson alongside The Rolling Stones' legendary frontman Mick Jagger mustn't have been on anyone's bingo cards in 1984. But it happened.

    'State Of Shock' was in fact in highest charting single The Jacksons had in the US after Michael had become the world's biggest pop star with his solo releases Off The Wall and Thriller.

    Before recording it with Jagger, the original version of the song was initially a duet with Freddie Mercury and was supposed to appear on one of Michael's solo albums.

    Jagger later duetted 'State Of Shock' with Tina Turner at the US leg of Live Aid in 1985.

  2. 'Never Can Say Goodbye'

    The Jackson 5 - Never Can Say Goodbye | Live at Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, 1974 (Remastered)

    In 1971, Michael was only 12-years old but still sang 'Never Can Say Goodbye' with the requisite emotion for such a heartbreaking ballad.

    Because of his impeccable vocal performance, the song gave The Jackson 5 their fifth No.1 R&B hit single.

    It was also hits for two more artists, soul singer Isaac Hayes and disco queen Gloria Gaynor.

  3. 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'

    Jackson 5 - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Official Video)

    Yes, we've included 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' in the Jackson brother's greatest songs, because it is undoubtedly one of the most joyous Christmas songs ever.

    On its initial release, the Christmas cracker was a modest hit at the time, but has since been enjoyed by generations of children every year.

    Nowadays we can't imagine the festive season without it.

  4. 'ABC'

    Jackson 5 "ABC" on The Ed Sullivan Show

    In this Motown classic, 'ABC' sees Michael Jackson attempting to woo a girl on the playground saying it's "as simple as ABC, do re mi and 1-2-3".

    The schoolyard theme fit The Jackson 5 at the time as Michael was only 11 years old when it was first released.

    It's packed with hooks and is now one of the band's most memorable songs - the attempt to make learning fun worked.

  5. 'Dancing Machine'

    Jackson 5 - Dancing Machine (Live)

    'Dancing Machine' was when The Jackson 5 came into their own as a bonafide boogie-bringing group in 1973.

    It was Michael's favourite song he wrote alongside his brothers, and would inform the style of his danceable pop music when he eventually went solo.

    When they'd perform live, the song lent itself to Michael's iconic dancing which he'd break out away from the group choreography.

    It would also prove to be the group's sixth and final No.1 on the R&B charts in the US.

  6. 'Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)'

    Jacksons ft. Michael Jackson - Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) • TopPop

    The Jacksons got down with the advent of disco with 'Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) in 1979, so much so that they recorded an 8-minute version to be played in discotheques at the time.

    Of course, it's the radio edit we're all more familiar with because of the song's infectious melody and lyrics over its insatiable beat.

    Uniquely, the disco-funk ditty was a family affair behind the scenes as all brothers contributed evenly to the track's production, though Michael and Randy shared songwriting duties.

    It was a return to form for The Jacksons, who reached the top ten of charts around the world for the first time after leaving Motown Records in 1976.

  7. 'I’ll Be There'

    THE JACKSON 5 - I'll Be There Jim Nabors FULL HQ performance (NEWLY FOUND FOOTAGE!!)

    With the band's first ballad, 'I'll Be There', the Jackson brothers scored yet another No.1 single in their native US.

    The beautifully written song also showcased the sheer talent of a young Michael, who was remarkably only 11 years old at the time they recorded it.

    Lamenting a relationship in the midst of a break-up, the narrator says they'll be waiting if they ever want to make it work again.

    Because of the sentiment, and Michael's innocence, it became one of the most beloved ballads of the era after its 1970 release.

  8. 'Can You Feel It'

    The Jacksons - Can You Feel It

    Released as the third single from The Jacksons' 1981 album Triumph, Michael was well on his way to becoming the greatest pop sensation of all time when 'Can You Feel It' reached the airwaves.

    Seemingly fans were more keen on Michael pursuing his own path in pop, with the track's high-budget, high-concept music video unable to transform it into a major global hit for the group, though it peaked in the top ten hit in the UK.

    In the years since, 'Can You Feel It' has been seen in a much more favourable light, and is now considered one of their biggest dance-floor smashes.

    Its music video - created from Michael's concept - was also voted as one of the greatest music videos of all time in 2001 during MTV's 20th-anniversary celebrations.

  9. 'I Want You Back'

    The Jackson 5 "I Want You Back" on The Ed Sullivan Show

    What a way to announce yourselves to the world. When The Jackson 5 released their debut Motown single 'I Want You Back', they became an immediate sensation.

    Led by Michael's age-defying voice and magnetic charm, the band achieved their first No.1 song in the US, reaching No.2 in the UK too.

    Despite fibbing about the Jackson brother's back story being discovered by Diana Ross, Motown boss Berry Gordy didn't have to pull the wool over listeners eye (or ears) as the group made an instant impression with their "bubblegum-soul" sound.

    'I Want You Back' became the first of many huge hits for The Jackson 5, and is undoubtedly one of their most enduring songs.

  10. 'Blame It On The Boogie'

    The Jacksons - Blame It On the Boogie (Official Video)

    "Don't blame it on the sunshine, don't blame it on the moonlight, don't blame it on the good times. Blame it on the boogie."

    Though the lyrics don't really make an awful lot of sense, The Jacksons' classic 'Blame It On The Boogie' has been filling dance floors for over forty years.

    That's despite not having even written it themselves - it was in fact another Jackson that wrote the song: a Yorkshireman called Mick Jackson.

    He wrote it for Stevie Wonder originally, though once The Jacksons caught wind of the boogie-rific track they recorded and released it before Mick Jackson could himself.

    Dubbed 'The Battle Of The Boogie' in the UK as they were released two weeks within each other, The Jacksons stole the limelight with their higher chart ranking and star power.

    As history tells us it has become the group's signature song and, for our money, their greatest.