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The Jackson 5
Never Can Say Goodbye

The sinuous "Never Can Say Goodbye" proved the Jackson 5 could make music as mature and sophisticated as any of their more established Motown peers. Written by future sitcom star Clifton Davis and originally intended for the Supremes, “Never Can Say Goodbye” explores themes of romantic turmoil wholly absent from previous J5 hits like "ABC" and “The Love You Save,” calling on 12-year-old Michael Jackson to interpret decidedly adult lyrics like “Even though the pain and heartache/Seem to follow me wherever I go” — and resulting in his most complex lead vocal turn to date. (Isolate Jackson’s performance here in KORD to experience the extraordinary scope of his preternatural talent.) Although Motown A&R execs were initially reluctant to release “Never Can Say Goodbye,” fearing it vaulted the Jacksons too far past the puppy-love pabulum of teen rivals like the Osmonds, Berry Gordy ultimately pulled rank, and the group scored its biggest hit since “I’ll Be There” a year earlier.

The song itself has been covered many times, including a 1974 version by Gloria Gaynor.


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