The Jackson 5 Receive Keys to the City in Detroit: 'Coming Back to Detroit is Like Coming Home'

Jackson Five
Gilles Petard/Redferns

(L-R) Tito, Marlon (front), Jermaine, Michael and Jackie Jackson 

A street naming in Detroit will have to wait, but the surviving members of the Jackson 5 can now open whatever doors the key to the city fits.

The four Jacksons -- Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon -- accepted plaques bearing the city keys during a high-ticket private party on Friday night (June 15) that launched the second Detroit Music Weekend festival. Detroit police chief James Craig, who presented the honors, declared the iconic Motown group "truly Detroiters." Jermaine Jackson told the crowd that "coming back to Detroit is like coming home," and Marlon Jackson told Billboard that though it was Motown that made the Jackson 5 famous, the brothers already had a special relationship with the city before they signed to the label.

"We used to come play the Fox Theatre amateur nights, trying to make a name for ourselves," he recalled. "So the Jackson 5 and Motown goes back many years... There's some synergy there with the Jackson 5 and the Jacksons and Detroit.”

A city key was also awarded posthumously to the late Michael Jackson, who Jermaine said "we miss dearly."

Prior to Friday's presentation the group and the city were mired in controversy over the naming of a street in downtown Detroit. In May it was announced that a Michael Jackson Ave. would be dedicated during the festival, much to the surprise and displeasure of the other brothers. A Detroit city ordinance requires streets to be named only after individuals, and no compromise was reached during the four weeks following the announcement, scuttling the plan entirely.

But the Jacksons' management said Friday that the street naming would be revisited next year as part of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Jackson 5's first recordings for Motown, which will also include a world tour and other projects. "I can understand hiccups and things of that nature," Marlon said. "It's all going to be rectified and done and we're going to celebrate it and come back and unveil the street and do a 50th year celebration here."

He did, however, view the city key as more than just a consolation prize. "I'm staying over 'til Monday morning, and the first thing I'm gonna do is go right to the bank to see if (the key) will open a vault," Marlon cracked.

The four Jacksons -- who will headline Detroit Music Weekend on Saturday (June 16) -- also sat through a 90-minute tribute concert featuring Jackson 5, Jacksons, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and even Rebbie Jackson hits, with guest appearances by Blue Note saxophonist David McMurray and Herschel Boone for Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker Band. The show culminated with an extended version of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" that featured keyboardist Greg Phillingames, a Detroit native who worked with the Jacksons as a session player and tour musical director.

Detroit Music Weekend will also feature performances by actor/singer-songwriter Jeff Daniels, Grand Funk Railroad co-founder Mark Farner and the Craig Brown Band.