On Oct. 14, 1969, five boys in matching lime green and pink suits wowed the masses on The Hollywood Palace. It was the first national broadcast performance of The Jackson 5, who energetically sang their debut single “I Want You Back” — a hit that would soon skyrocket to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In the 50-plus years since that iconic set, the brothers from Gary, Indiana enjoyed massive success in the industry, garnering spots on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Of course, it’s no secret that the family was also at the center of much controversy regarding the late “King of Pop” Michael Jackson.
Still, the legacy of Michael, Marlon, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine continues to be strong, with the living brothers performing classics like “ABC” and “The Love You Save” around the world.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, Marlon, Jackie and Tito are making a special one-night stop at Parx Casino’s Xcite Center, the proceeds of which will benefit Universal Family of Schools — an organization with a mission to prepare students for college and other opportunities that lead to sustainable careers.
Ahead of the concert — the only one The Jacksons will be performing in the northeastern part of the country this fall — The Times spoke with Marlon, who is thrilled to carry on their longtime tradition of supporting youth.
“We do those from time to time, especially to charities that help out kids and promote positive things and try to help unify the world together as one. Those things are important to us, especially to me,” he said. “Believe it or not, we’ve always, since the early ‘70s, would do stuff like this. We’d go to children’s hospitals. In Japan, I went to an orphanage. Those types of things have always been close to our hearts.”
Though Jermaine won’t be at the Parx show (he lives abroad and only joins his siblings on occasion), Marlon assured attendees that energy levels will be at an all-time high as they play the biggest hits.
“We have a great time. We have a Jackson party on stage and do what we know how to do,” he said. “It’s truly a blessing to still do something that you still love doing as work and it doesn’t seem like work. Trust me, you do want sometimes to get away from it. You have to. But we really enjoy it.”
When asked if he, Tito and Jackie can still pull off their dance moves from the ‘70s, Marlon exclaimed, ‘Yeah! It’s second nature so it just happens.”
As for their wardrobe of colorful suits, the brothers decided to ditch their bright duds some years ago. Marlon said, “Those are in storage somewhere and put away. We have different outfits. You get to a certain point where you don’t really care as much as you used to when you were younger about what you wear.”
For Marlon, it’s a joy to see a massive range of ages in the audience. While many are original fans now in their 70s and 80s, Marlon also sees children, teens and young adults belting back every word.
“They weren’t even born when those songs were recorded,” he said. “It’s a wide span and I think it’s the music. It’s family-oriented music and it was geared toward a younger demographic, but the instrumentation was geared toward the older and we put the two together. And it’s still around today. It still sounds fresh today.”
According to Marlon, there’s something about their music that brings everyone together, no matter their background. When The Jackson 5 first came onto the scene, he reflected on how races were being integrated in schools for the first time. And it wasn’t going well. Despite the tension, students of every color were able to agree on one thing — their love for the band.
“We’re no different from each other. We’re all the same. It really bridged that gap and it just goes to show how powerful music is,” said Marlon, who stressed that simply pumping out hit singles wasn’t — and still isn’t — the group’s goal. “It was about bringing people together in peace and harmony and uniting the world together as one. Wherever we go, there are different nationalities in the audience, but they’re all there in harmony and peace. They’re all unified. That’s the true mission behind the music.”
Not only does The Jacksons’ artistry promote these ideas, but so does Marlon’s closet. During our Zoom chat, Marlon wore a baseball cap that read “Study Peace.” Upon being asked to explain the meaning behind it, he said, “I felt that in my heart, if I could get people to wear stuff that said ‘Study Peace,’ subconsciously, you would start gravitating toward that without even realizing what’s taking place.”
As The Jacksons work to unite their listeners during these contentious times, Marlon happily shared that he still feels Michael’s presence by his side through it all.
“Of course,” he said. “I mean, his spirit is right there on stage with us every night when we perform. He’s right there with us all the time.”
If you go: The Jacksons are performing at Parx Casino’s Xcite Center, 2999 Street Road in Bensalem, on Saturday, Sept. 10. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale now for $55 to $95. Visit parxcasino.com/bensalem/xcitecenter for more information. All shows at Parx Casino are for audiences 21 years and older.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org