Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Oldies Week: Sixteen Candles

Michael wasn't the first to sing an old hit from 1958 when he recorded "Rockin' Robin." The Jackson 5 themselves did it first with "Sixteen Candles," a song that was released in April 1971 on the group's fifth LP, Maybe Tomorrow.

The song was originally released in 1958 by The Crests:

So why why did the Jackson 5 ever record such a hokey, dated song? Well, we may have a couple of clues in the song itself. Jermaine sings the lead vocals, and he changes the lyrics in a significant way. Instead of singing what The Crests did:

Sixteen candles make a lovely light
But not as bright as your eyes tonight

Jermaine sings:
Sixteen candles make a lovely sight
But not as bright as your hazel eyes

Is it mere coincidence that Berry Gordy's daughter Hazel has just turned 16 a few months before the song first appeared on a Jackson 5 LP? Or that since Hazel was 15, Berry had known his daughter had such a huge crush on Jermaine that she wrote him over-the-top fan letters? Could it be that Berry had arranged to have Jermaine sing the song as a birthday surprise for Hazel when she turned 16 on August 24, 1970, and then liked it so much he decided to put it on the J5's next LP?

It's all speculation, of course, but the pieces do all fit together.

In Holland and Sweden, where "How Funky Is Your Chicken" was released as a single, "Sixteen Candles" was used as the B-side.

Whether is was an album cut or a single, it was never a popular song among fans, except for those young female fans about to turn 16. They all knew exactly who Jermaine was singing to.


  1. Anonymous said...
    yep, for my money, that's what happened. Done for the August birthday and then thrown on an album. I always thought something was up with the "hazel" reference. That damn song starts with a bluaaaugh! Loud catastrophe of sound, and then someone plays with the reverb on the bridges and it sounds positively amateur. Tho it is nice hearing Michael and Jackie in the background.

    Hey, the word verification to this post was: sonal
    No kiddin

  2. Though I was born in 70s, I still love 50's and 60's songs. Such a inspiring and loving songs.