(February 10, 2022). Okay, maybe the word “hit” in the article’s title is being used loosely here, but there was a year during the 1980s when all of the Jackson siblings had songs that reached the Billboard Hot 100.
That is, all of the siblings but one.
And that one exception had a song that just missed the chart—reaching No. 101 on the “Bubbling Under the Hot 100” chart, meaning it was just one position away from making the Jacksons the only family in chart history to have as many as nine siblings all reach the Hot 100 during the same year (without being part of the same group, like the Sylvers).
The year was 1984 and there were eleven Hot 100 hits spread among eight of the nine Jackson siblings between January and December (twelve songs if you count one featuring a very prominent but uncredited lead Jackson vocal). The one sibling who missed the chart that year will almost certainly surprise you if you’re not already intimately familiar with the family’s chart history.
It’s also worth noting that, while the Jacksons were all over the charts that year—collectively, they had at least two songs on the Hot 100 every week from January through December—only five of the twelve songs reached the top 10, and all five of those featured the same Jackson on lead vocals: Michael.
Four more Jackson songs made the top 40 portion of the chart and three others never made it higher than No. 47.
What follows is a chronological recap of how things unfolded that year for the famous family out of Gary, IN.
Of course, the Jacksons were the hottest, most buzzed-about family in showbiz in 1984, thanks in large part to brother Michael, whose blockbuster 1982 release, Thriller, had just become the biggest-selling album in history. Adding to the buzz in ‘84 would be Michael’s reunion with his brothers—all of them—and a much-hyped world tour that would dominate the box-office, with receipts exceeding even Bruce Springsteen’s haul that summer.
Chart-wise, the year 1984 began right where ‘83 left off, with Michael still at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with Thriller, an LP that would remain at the top through mid-April and wound up repeating as the top album of the year, making it one of only two albums in history to lead the year-end list for two consecutive annual recaps.
Michael began the year at the top of the singles chart as well. His duet with Paul McCartney, “Say, Say, Say,” which wasn’t on Thriller, started 1984 at No. 1, where it spent the last two of its six total weeks on top of the list that January.
Also to start the year, the sixth of Jackson’s seven Thriller singles, “P. Y. T. (Pretty Young Thing),” was at the tail-end of its chart run, spending the first three weeks of the year moving 64-71-75 before exiting the list altogether (it had reached No. 10 the previous November).
“P. Y. T.” featured backing vocals by sisters Janet Jackson and La Toya Jackson as the “pretty young things,” but neither received name-checks on the label, so the song only counted towards Michael’s Hot 100 tally.
Just two weeks after “P.Y.T.” departed, MJ returned with the album’s last single—the title track—hot off the heels of its iconic and wildly popular music video. “Thriller,” the single, became the Hot 100 chart’s highest new entry in nearly 13 years (since John Lennon’s “Imagine” in 1971) when it entered at No. 20 en route to a No. 4 peak that March.
But with the singles from Thriller finally exhausted, Michael still wasn’t done. While “Thriller” was charting, MJ’s uncredited vocals helped power another big hit that spring, the No. 2 smash “Somebody’s Watching Me” by his friend Kennedy “Rockwell” Gordy. Although his name wasn’t listed on the single, there was no mistaking Michael’s contribution: a lead on the song’s chorus that helped give the Motown label its biggest hit of 1984 not affiliated with Lionel Richie.
At first it looked like 1984 was going to be just Michael’s year again, and for the first four or five months it actually was.
But as “Thriller” and “Somebody’s Watching Me” were both descending the chart, Michael’s older sister La Toya joined in the fun with her only Hot 100 entry: the splashy reggae-pop single, “Heart Don’t Lie.” The tune featured additional lead vocals by Shalamar singer Howard Hewitt, plus backing vocals by the group Musical Youth (“Pass the Dutchie”) and La Toya’s baby sister Janet Jackson. None of the guest artists, however, were given label credit on the single.
La Toya’s very upbeat, if not forgettable song was able to climb to No. 56 on the Hot 100 that June, which was noteworthy at the time. The highest any of the Jackson sisters had ever gone before that was No. 58, which baby sis Janet did in early 1983 with her new-wavy jam “Come Give Your Love To Me,” the second single from her self-titled debut effort (btw, “Young Love,” the first single, peaked at No. 60).
But I digress…
The family’s 1984 chart blitz would continue when Michael’s former label, Motown, decided to capitalize on the Jackson mania by digging through the vaults and compiling an album of previously unreleased songs by the future King of Pop (there was no shame in Berry Gordy’s game!). Motown issued a song recorded by an adolescent Michael eleven years earlier during his “Ben” days. The song was “Farewell My Summer Love,” a mid-tempo groove that reached the top 40 at the end of June, peaking at a modest No. 38.
But this midpoint of 1984 was where things were just heating up.
On the same chart that “Farewell” reached its peak position, Jackson and his brothers blasted onto the chart with a new song: the first single from their highly anticipated Victory reunion album. The raucous, guitar-driven rocker was “State of Shock,” featuring Rolling Stone lead Mick Jagger on co-lead vocals with Michael.
The enormity of Michael sharing the microphone with Mick Jagger was only exceeded by the fact that all five of Michael’s brothers were also included (if in name and backing vocals only), as Jermaine hadn’t recorded with his siblings since 1975. Still, their presence on the song meant that Michael’s five brothers instantly joined him and La Toya as having charted on the Hot 100 in ‘84.
Jermaine, who was now finally free from Motown Records, was not only included on the Jackson’s much-hyped Victory album on Epic Records, but he had already released his own new album on Arista that spring.
That self-titled set included a duet with Michael called “Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’,” a No. 1 dance/disco chart tune that was getting significant radio and club play, but which had not been made commercially available as a single in stores (Mike’s label Epic Records wasn’t having that), so it never charted on the Hot 100, despite its considerable airplay and popularity.
Not to worry, though. Jermaine’s label wasted little time in releasing his album’s first official single, “Dynamite,” a commendable effort that entered the Hot 100 that July and sped up the list (while “State of Shock” was still charting). This made Jermaine the third solo Jackson to have a chart hit in ‘84, after Michael and La Toya.
Then, in the third week of August, with “Dynamite” and “State of Shock” both still riding high, the Jacksons released the second Victory single, “Torture,” which was the chart’s highest new entry upon its debut. “Torture” was notable in that it featured the lead vocals of Michael and Jermaine (the first such top-40 hit since the Jackson 5’s “I Am Love” nine years earlier).
“Torture” also featured lead vocals from eldest brother Jackie, who sang the falsetto ad lib during the song’s outro. That meant that four different Jacksons had already provided lead vocals on nine separate Hot 100 chart hits, and that number would only go up, beginning with the next entry.
That was when eldest sister Maureen “Rebbie” Jackson joined the fray and made history by becoming the first singer to reach the Hot 100 after having eight younger siblings do so before her. Her debut song “Centipede,” a highly metaphorical funk-bop (although the metaphor still isn’t clear 38 years later) written and produced solely by little brother Michael, entered the chart on Oct. 6. By later reaching the top 40, it was Rebbie’s hit that made the Jacksons the first family to have solo top-40 singles by three different siblings.
Then, three weeks later, as if there wasn’t already enough of a family presence on the chart, two more Jackson singles entered the Hot 100: “Body,” the third single from the six brothers’ Victory album, and “Do What You Do,” the breezy ballad and second single from Jermaine’s solo set.
In an even odder coincidence, the three newest Jackson family songs occupied consecutive chart positions that week as “Do What You Do,” “Centipede” and “Body” occupied Hot 100 positions 64, 65 and 66, respectively. And, with “Torture” and “Dynamite” still charting, the family accounted for fivesongs on the chart at the same time, something only the legendary Gibb brothers (Bee Gees Barry, Robin, Maurice and their little brother Andy) had done previously in 1978.
Like “Centipede,” “Do What You Do” would eventually reach the top 40, with the two songs peaking at No. 24 and No. 13, respectively. “Centipede” would be Rebbie’s only hit. “Body,” the dance-oriented single featuring brother Marlon Jackson on lead vocals stopped short of the 40 by petering out at No. 47. Marlon therefore became the sixth Jackson to have a lead vocal on a Hot 100 song that year.
So that accounts for eight of the Jackson siblings who, in chronological order of their Hot 100 chart appearances in 1984, were: Michael, La Toya, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Randy and Rebbie, with all but Tito and Randy having lead vocal duties on their eleven chart hits.
That leaves youngest sibling Janet, who had released a new album, Dream Street, that October. It was the followup to her self-titled debut album two years earlier and, given the Jacksons omnipresence in ‘84, there were high hopes that Dream Street (on the A&M label) and its singles would take her to the next level, or at least outperform her previous set.
Neither thing happened.
The album’s first single, the funky synth number “Don’t Stand Another Chance,” got off to a tentative start by entering the “Bubbling Under the Hot 100” chart on August 9. The song rode that chart for eight weeks, peaking just under the Hot 100 at No. 101 before disappearing in November, never taking that one step it needed to make the marquee singles list (though it did reach the top 10 on Billboard’s Black Singles chart).
With none of the followup singles charting, Janet would end 1984 as the only Jackson sibling NOT to have a Hot 100 chart hit. And the album Dream Street did worse than its predecessor, reaching only No. 147 that fall (Janet’s debut album peaked at No. 63 two years prior).
|Jackson Hot 100 hits in 1984||Artist||Peak||Label|
|“Say, Say Say”||Michael (w/ Paul McCartney)||1||Columbia|
|“P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)”||Michael||10*||Epic|
|“Somebody’s Watching Me”||Rockwell (Michael**)||2||Motown|
|“Heart Don’t Lie”||La Toya (Janet backing vocals)||56||Private-I|
|“Farewell My Summer Love”||Michael||38||Motown|
|“State of Shock”||Jacksons (w/ Mick Jagger) (Michael, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Randy)||3||Epic|
|“Torture”||Jacksons (Jermaine, Michael, Jackie, Tito, Marlon Randy)||17||Epic|
|“Centipede”||Rebbie (Michael backing vocals)||24||Columbia|
|“Do What You Do”||Jermaine||13***||Arista|
|“Body”||Jacksons (Marlon, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Michael Randy)||47||Epic|
One could argue that Janet did join this list by virtue of the backing vocal she provided on La Toya’s “Heart Don’t Lie.” But backing vocals only count if you’re name-checked on the single’s label or an integral part of a group whose name is listed, like her big brothers on the hits by the Jacksons.
Of course, it’s been well documented how much Janet’s career was in need of a new direction and how her fate changed after cutting management ties with her father Joseph Jackson in 1985. The subsequent partnership with her longtime creative partners, songwriter/producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, launched the aspiring Ms. Jackson into a new orbit, beginning in 1986 with the release of her third album Control.
Janet, who had just turned 20 when Control became the first of her seven No. 1 albums in July 1986, more than made up for that 1984 singles chart absence.
From 1986 on, not only did every studio album by Janet—all nine of them—reach either No. 1 or No. 2 on the Billboard 200, but she racked up 28 top-10 hits on the Hot 100 singles chart over the next 15 years, including ten No. 1s—more than any other Jackson sibling during that period, including Michael (who was second with seven No. 1s between 1986-2001).
Janet’s story is obviously legendary, as she has charted more top-40 hits (32) since 1984 than all her other siblings combined, providing an amazing footnote to the statistical anomaly that kept her from joining her siblings in chart glory that year.
Just goes to show that the heart may not lie, but the charts sometimes do, especially when it comes to predicting who would be the biggest Jackson over the next several decades…at least on the Billboard Hot 100.
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
You can also register for free (below) to receive notifications of future articles.