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Goin’ Back to Indiana

“Goin’ Back to Indiana” was a multi-media phenomenon capitalizing on the legend of the Jacksons’ small-town Hoosier identity.

Among the many smash hits by the Jackson 5, “Goin’ Back to Indiana” may seem the least likely.

Given the group’s international renown in the late 60s and 70s, the Midwestern reference strikes a quaint tone. The sentimental lament, was, nonetheless, autobiographical.

The Jackson 5 was a family band that emerged from the northern Indiana steel town of Gary. The group consisted of five of the nine children of Katherine and Joseph Jackson, a steel mill employee and musician who gigged frequently with his own R&B outfit, the Falcons.

The group coalesced after performing in a local talent competition. The brothers toured as a opening act in night clubs across the Midwest before being signed to Gordon Keith’s Gary-based Steeltown Records in 1967, when their diminutive front man was still eight.

Moving from congas and background vocals to center stage, little Michael was lauded as a “prodigy” for his dancing and singing talents. Signed to Motown in 1968, the Jackson 5 made pop music history when their first four singles peaked at number one. They left their Indiana home the following year.

Although they performed at Gary’s West High School in January 1971, it would be Michael’s last visit to his hometown until 2003.

The legend of the Jacksons’ small-town Hoosier identity, however, loomed large.

“Goin’ Back to Indiana”, a TV special featuring the group with special guests Bill Cosby, Rosey Grier, and several NBA stars, included footage of the boys in a concert touted as having been recorded in Gary in May 1971.

Records indicate, however, that although the concert was taped in the Hoosier State, the Jacksons only made it as far as Indianapolis on that date.

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