One Song/Three Versions – I Want You Back

Another in a series of random posts on the different ways artists re-interpret songs. 

“Diana Ross Presents the Jackson Five” is how this band was billed when they first hit the scene. They had been her opening act for some time so I guess somebody at Motown decided, “Hey if we slap her name it, it’ll sell.” And sell it did. Not because the Divine Miss Ross’ name was on it but simply because it’s a great song.  This song was released in late 1969, just before my friends and I decided we were too cool for this stuff. Thank God.

Anyway, “I Want You Back” has been recorded a number of times by several different artists.  But, for my money, never better than this. From the initial sweep down the piano keys to the first bomp! to that great, funky bass line to Michael’s voice the message was this – Pay attention! This is exciting!

The first cover of this song I personally ever remember hearing was by British rocker Graham Parker back in the late ’70’s. That’s a good cover but for me a little too close to the Jacksons. And so, what’s the point? I’m looking for a little radical reinvention here.

Lake Street Dive is a Boston-based ensemble that Wikipedia characterizes as “Southern rock, indie pop, blue-eyed soul, jazz, folk-rock.” So, there’s that. I cannot imagine this song being played any more soulfully. These guys are touring next year. I’ve never seen them live but they are now on the short list:

One of the great joys of doing this blog is the surprises I sometimes stumble on. Did you know that there is a Japanese singer named Shione Yukawa? And that she does covers of, among other things, rock songs such as Guns n’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger?” She is apparently a very popular singer/actress in Japan. I love, love, love the sweet purity in her voice. Of course I’ll take her back. :-0

“I Want You Back” is also on my list of great songs that didn’t quite make the top ten. Check it out here.)


6 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – I Want You Back

  1. I just love Shione Yukawa’s version of, “I Want You Back”. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Isn’t she great? I plan on listening to some more of her stuff online. I just love re-inventions. I tend to get locked into hearing a song the first way it’s recorded. When often these songs are written on guitar or piano and then the performers play with different variations. Anyway, thanks for the comment.

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  3. Have you heard David Ruffin’s version? It is not as purely enjoyable as the Jackson Five’s, but it captures the longing of the lyrics much better.


  4. Funny you should ask that. I stumbled on Ruffin’s (ex-Tempations) version while researching this. I hadn’t heard it before. I didn’t use it because the Jackson’s was the first and most popular. And stylistically it was too similar to the Jacksons because in my “Three Versions” posts I’m always looking for radical re-invention. But yeah, as good as Michael’s voice is, it’s a whole different experience hearing a lived-in voice such as Ruffin’s sing this. And what a voice! Thanks for the reminder.


  5. LSD, yeah I can dig that! I almost didn’t click the play button. Glad I did. Good to see good music still being done. Thanks. (Graham Parker does a killer version).


  6. Yeah, I think I considered Parker’s version. Lake Street comes back to Boston fairly often. Just here in fact. Gotta catch ’em some time.

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