Fifty years after The Jackson 5 signed with Motown and came to Detroit for the first time — famously performing for the label’s roster around Berry Gordy’s home swimming pool — the city will honor the group with a street named after it.
Well, one of its members, at least — and possibly more.
Michael Jackson Ave. was announced Thursday for a block in Detroit’s downtown, with an unveiling to take place during the second annual Detroit Music Weekend June 14-17. The surviving Jackson 5 brothers — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon — will headline the festival and receive a key to the city. But Jackie and Marlon, on hand for the Thursday announcement, were surprised that the street was being named just for their late younger brother and indicated there might be a change.
Marlon told Billboard that the street was “supposed to be” named for the entire group and added that “I think it is going to be that. There was a mistake.” A Detroit city ordinance requires any honorary street naming to be for an individual only, but sources said that talks were underway to allow for an exception to that. Festival founder and producer Vince Paul explained, “I’d like to do the other four brothers individually. It seemed appropriate to start with Michael because of his premature passing, so that’s the first one we’ll start with. But if I had my druthers there’ll be [streets named for] Tito, Jackie, Marlon. That’s where I’m going with it.”
Aretha Franklin was the recipient of a street naming before last year’s Detroit Music Weekend. Altering the ordinance will also allow the festival to name streets for other legendary Detroit acts, such as The Temptations, Four Tops and Supremes without controversy.
The two Jacksons were nonetheless happy to be returning to Detroit for the festival, especially during the anniversary year of their arrival at Motown. “We should have a music festival here,” Jackie said. “This is the music city. This is where the music comes from. Everybody talks about the Motown sound all over the world, so we should have a music festival here.” Marlon added, “We’re looking forward to it. Music is universal. It all accomplishes the same thing — unity, happiness, love, peace. That’s what music is about and that’s what Detroit is about, too.”
In addition to the Jacksons’ free public performance on June 16, a tribute concert to the group will take place the night before, with former Jacksons and Michael Jackson keyboardist Greg Phillinganes co-directing the band with Kern Brantley.
Detroit Music Weekend will also feature more than 500 performers on five stages during the Saturday program, including former Grand Funk Railroad frontman Mark Farner, Emmy-winning actor and recording artist Jeff Daniels and his son Ben Daniels’ Band, and the Craig Brown Band. Full information is available at DetroitMusicWeekend.org.