Sunday, June 13, 2010

On the Cover of Rolling Stone

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.

But there has never, ever before been any clue that the other brothers were at the photoshoot until Opus came out several months ago. It included two pages of contact sheets from this photoshoot, and one of them shows that that Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon were also there. Based on their clothes and the backgrounds, it appears that Jermaine had the only solo shot from this session that was used in the issue, other than Michael's, of course.

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.


  1. I had never really thought about this in the way you describe. Although I was a J-5 fan, it was truly Michael who I adored and whose news of I waited for with much anticipation. I can't say I was disappointed or felt slighted by the Rolling Stone's having covered him as if he was the only Jackson who mattered. But, I can understand that many fans felt about the other brothers as I felt about Michael. And I am certain that the other Jacksons must have felt slighted. The solo act coming out of a group is always one fraught with tensions, resentments, and sadness.

  2. Well, Michael wasn't a solo artist yet when this article came out, and the six gold records referenced in the article's title were Jackson 5 songs, not Michael solos. I loved all the brothers (well, especially Jermaine, I admit), and hated to see any of them singled out. It even made me mad that Diana Ross was only talking to Michael in the photo on the back of their first LP, while the other brothers stood in the background.

    Knowing that all the brothers were at the photo shoot somehow makes me feel worse about it.

  3. Ahhhh, great point. I never saw this when it came out, but instinctively I never liked when they'd single Michael out, it's just that at that age I'd never wanna stand all by myself when I've got such a groovy group to hang with! Thanks for a great post!