Friday, August 27, 2010

Song of the Week: My Cherie Amour

by Corey Sheppard

Jermaine Jackson was one of music’s first teen idols. His voice and bass playing sent thousands of girls through a frenzy. Jermaine (as said by J5C….numerous times) was the sex symbol out of the five boys. His chilled, mellow leads were the perfect opposite of Michael’s piping lead, but their two styles totally blended together. He was an integral part of the group, and was often looked at as the “fan favorite.”

Jermaine had shown potential from the very beginning and producer Bobby Taylor must’ve known it. Jermaine was given two tracks to record on the J5’s debut album Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5. One of the tracks chosen for Jermaine was a frantic version of the Temptations “(I Know) I’m Losing You.” As for the second cut, Bobby Taylor must have wondered: hmmm, what would be the perfect song for a growing 14-year old to sing to the young ladies……ding…a-ha Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour.”

Stevie Wonder was flying fresh off of one of his biggest hits that winter of 1969, when the J5’s version popped up on their debut album on December 18. Jermaine’s first lead comes right directly in the middle of the album, sandwiched in between Michael’s leads on the J5-original “You’ve Changed” and the masterpiece “Who’s Lovin’ You” (the perfect spot if you ask me).

I have always looked at Jermaine’s version of the tune as the acoustic, unplugged version of Stevie’s classic, if you will. With brushes being the only percussion being used, (also a triangle used in the intro and outro), and an acoustic guitar strumming beautifully throughout the song, it gives an opposite affect to Stevie’s version with his relying more on the string orchestra, and a prominent snare drum on the track. It definitely helped the soul-vibe of the track by it being recorded in Detroit, Michigan.

Being that this track is one of the first J5 recordings that we hear Jermaine singing on, we get a slight hint of Jermaine’s man-child voice. This record comes at in interesting time for Jermaine’s voice. He had a very raspy tone at this time. Jermaine’s voice would not fully change until late 1971, partially due Jermaine getting rid of his tonsils, and the other factor just being Mother Nature.

With that being said, I like his voice here. He sounds a lot better than most of the young boys that are out now (these kids now are just whining up a storm!!!). The main reason why I love Jermaine on this record is because he sings this song with a lot of passion. From his very beginning notes, to the finale (listen to the fade-out Jermaine is still wailing away till the very end of the take) this kid was extremely eager to make a statement.

My two favorite sections of this record are the intro and the bridge. The intro is nearly flawless (except for a slight flat note from the acoustic guitar at 0.14 ) and the bridge is simply excellent. The background vocals are a delight as well (it sounds like it might just be Michael and Jackie here). The brothers totally wrap themselves around the bridge leading in to the final verse (which is slowed down a bit). The harmonies and delivery from the boys is downright perfect. Who would expect this kind of delivery from young kids who haven’t even graduated from high school yet?

Once again, I recognize and appreciate Bobby Taylor’s versatility on this track. He created the perfect cool, relaxed instrumental for Jermaine and the boys to lay their vocals onto. No one would’ve thought to give the young group such a strong and emotional tune. But just like every other obstacle in the Jackson 5’s early career, they were successful in breaking through.

After this recording, the Jackson 5 had a long history and association with Stevie Wonder for many years. While only covering two more songs from the Wonder catalog, the Five collaborated with Stevie on his number one recording “You Haven’t Done Nothin.” Around the same time, Stevie Wonder returned the favor by giving the brothers a tune called “Buttercup” (a song speculated in the press around 1975, but not released until 2009) and according to sources a couple more songs including a song entitled “You’re Supposed to Keep Your Love For Me.” Ironically ten years later, Stevie Wonder found himself working side-by-side with Jermaine on the latter track and also on Jermaine’s top-ten single “Let’s Get Serious.” It must have been a real delight for Jermaine to be working with one of his mentors.

But now back to 1969. This record was very important for the boys (and especially Jermaine) in more ways than one. It showed Motown that Jermaine was quite capable of handling not only a lead vocal but a classic tune with a unique arrangement as well. Motown paid attention to this and less than six months later was given his first B-side entitled “I Found that Girl” (which actually replaced “My Cherie Amour” in the Five’s live concert act).

Because of the significance of this record (and the fact that I just simply adore the arrangement) I would say this is my favorite early Jermaine record. A major thanks goes to Bobby Taylor, for reintroducing Jermaine as a lead vocalist. Jermaine (more than likely) had only one shot to prove himself as a vocalist to the eyes of Motown. And luckily for all of us fans, he passed that test with flying colors!

Next Weeks Song Hint: Since You’ve Been Gone/I’m Just Not the Same Baby

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Corey Sheppard, 20, has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1993. His favorite hobbies are listening to music, playing racquetball at the YMCA, and hanging out with friends. Corey’s life passion is centered on music. His latest project is an all-new production company shared with Robert White Jr. entitled "Ask About It Productions."


  1. Thanks Corey, this got me thinking...
    Do you think they gave Jackie a chance for a lead?
    Maybe they thought 3 solo singers would be too much... Jackie got to sing a solo line here and there but that's not the same.

  2. I'm not sure Raisa!

    I think Jackie's first major opportunity to lead was in 'Man's Temptation', but there is a possiblity that he was given a song during the 'Bobby Taylor sessions' and it has just not been released yet. This is probably true since on the first album Jermaine, Michael, and Jackie did most of the vocal recording.

  3. Man I hate the middle part where it slows to a crawl and becomes a choir exercise, but the rest is fun. Loved Jermaine's voice then, a little bit husky, kind of like David Ruffin.

    Liked that you noticed a bum note in the beginning, that is one of the great things about music made back then, mistakes are left in, which gives it more interest than just perfect electronically-fixed records. They also had to put more time into recording a song, and I think by doing that more ideas pop into mind for arrangement or revisions. For instance, all the versions of ABC or Mama's Pearl. And those tunes were chalk-filled with bits and parts and changes-whereas now it's so sparse.

    My fave Jermaine song is Love Will Find A Way. The one I hate hate HATE is 16 candles. But hey, Jermaine was a treasure.

    And that Stevie Wonder cover you posted always makes me laugh. It looks like someone led him into a restauant---and just left him there. He's standing with the biggest smile yet people are ignoring him or just kinda looking blankly at him.

  4. Haha, Anon, that's Stevie "in a cafe or sometimes on a crowded street..." And I happen to love that middle part that you hate! But I'm with you on 16 Candles. Thank heavens they didn't use that as a Jermaine single.

  5. Odd to believe its was apart of the Philadelphia 1970 show..... and took "I Want you Back"'s place.

  6. Maybe the musicians hadn't yet mastered I Want You Back.

  7. I can't stand '16 Candles' I would love to do a song of the week post, about how much it annoys me lol

  8. And for the record: I actually quite enjoy the middle part. It had to be taken there in my opinion :o)

  9. I love the education I'm getting here, I've got a lot to learn! Thanks!

  10. Hey, I like that middle hook as well, it's even better when the rhythm starts back up..."Maaaaaybe suhuhm dayee"...Go on Jermaine wit 'cha bad self!