Michael Jackson was the youngest person to ever grace the cover of the Rolling Stone when his made his first of many appearances there on April 29, 1971. A Rolling Stone cover story was a big deal for anyone in popular music, a sign that they had achieved not only popularity and superstar status, but also some measure of respectability among hardened grown-up rock music aficionados who scorned bubblegum. Young fans of the Jackson 5 felt proud and maybe even a little vindicated to see our hero on the cover of Rolling Stone.
But among ourselves, it was hard to hide our disappointment. Why was only Michael on the cover? And why were they "his" six gold records? Weren't those Jackson 5 hits? And were the brothers as disappointed as their fans that the Rolling Stone cover didn't include them? Sure, they were all included in the story itself, and there was a grainy black-and-white photograph of each of the brothers inside.
Over the years many outtakes of Michael's Rolling Stone cover photoshoot have come to light, showing him looking happy, looking bored, looking tough, looking tired, playing with a lighter, talking on the telephone, looking up, looking down, and looking sideways.
Whether the Jackson 5 were as disappointed as their fans when they saw the cover, we'll never know. But given their signficance in music history, it is a shame that the full group, either as the Jackson 5 or as the Jacksons, were never featured on the cover of Rolling Stone.