We’re A Happy Family… The Jackson 5 and the Osmonds
Tolstoy once noted that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” and the proof of that is a comparison between the Osmonds and the Jackson 5.
Both were families with young musical talent, both came out of the mid-60s, both had strong religious faith, both had cartoon shows based upon them, and both had similarly aged teen idol boys fronthing them. One family was happy and the other family thoroughly miserable and, one were ho-hum easy listening and the other revolutionized R&B.
With all the will in the world you can not make the Osmonds the equal of the Jacksons. Maybe (maybe), maybe “One Bad Apple” was as good as “ABC” -or at least not an embarrassment but that’s your lot. But still, for awhile in the 70s, the Osmonds and the Jackson 5 were neck and neck for most popular band in the world.
But the Osmonds had things the Jackson 5 never did. First was a deeply embedded religious faith. Born in Utah, the Osmonds were Mormons and members of the congregation at the Church Of Jesus Christ Of The Latter Day Saints. Was it me who said God doesn’t exist. Nope, I said I didn’t know if God existed. And I also said that religion absolutely had its uses and one of them is it could give you a bedrock of morals that restrain you from the excesses that can make the familes around you so deeply unhappy.
The Osmonds may have been up to their necks in the entertainment business but they were not up to their neck in the lust for success that permeated Joe Jackson’s wrectched stench as he battered and bruised his family into complete submission. The Jackson’s were Jehovah’s Witness, as apocalyptic a faith as you can imagine, so it is possible the sense of impending doom (even if you think you’ll be one of those saved) might lead to a lashing out at the world.
The Osmond parents were a very happilly married couple till the mother’s death in 1999. Joe Jackson was a womanizing philanderer whom his wife eventually tired of and gave the boot.
The Osmonds put family first, the Jacksons put business first. The Osmonds ties as a family were so strong they easily withstood Donny, and later Donny and Marie, becoming the stars of the family. The Jacksons flew broke apart the first chance Michael had to go solo, followed soon by Janet.
But, but, but… the Jackson 5 were the real deal. Not just recorded for Motown but were good enough to follow the pioneering sounds of young Americans. If there albums could have a bit too much filler, which Motown act didn’t? But that they could dance, sing, make some hire wire masterful records is undisbutable. Their misery seems embedded in their joy of creation. And whether it is a fair comment or otherwise, the happy Osmond family spent a career as the personification of bland. Even when things went wrong, divorces and drugs, they hung together and got through it.
Because the unusally unhappy Jacksons were unhappy in their own special way: they were unhappy in pursuit of their art form.