Album:The Definitive Collection
Ben was Michael Jackson's very first number one hit as a solo artist in 1972. And it was his only number one solo hit for Motown. When The Jackson Five came to Motown and topped the charts with their first four singles, it was inevitable that they would spin off Michael as a solo artist. He sang lead on most of their hits anyway. Michael's first solo album was Got To Be There in 1971. The single Got To Be There reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and his cover of the Bobby Day classic Rockin' Robin reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. They released two more singles that didn't do as well. The album was certified Gold. It doesn't look like they were planning another solo album when Motown was approached by the producers of the film Ben. Ben was the sequel to the successful killer rat film Willard produced by Bing Crosby Productions. The song Ben was sung in the film by the film's star Lee Montgomery. But the film producers wanted a version of the song played over the end credits. They wanted Donny Osmond to record it but he was on tour and unavailable. So they offered it to Motown and Michael Jackson. Ben was written by Don Black and Walter Scharf. Black was a Brit best known for writing Thunderball and other James Bond themes with John Barry. Scharf was a veteran composer of film and TV music since the 30s. He composed the score for Ben. When Ben topped the charts in late 1972, I guess it surprised Motown because there were no plans for a second Michael Jackson solo album. Berry Gordy brought in a team of producers to record a new album. Fortunately, Ben was nominated for an Oscar and Michael performed Ben on the Oscar broadcast. So that was still fresh when the album was released in May 1973. The album did OK but there were no other hit singles. Then things went sour for the Jacksons at Motown and by 1975 they left for Epic. This budget comp covers Michael Jackson's Motown solo hits along with some Jackson 5 hits. Of course he would become a mega star at Epic. But remember it all started with a song about a rat. Here's Michael Jackson performing Ben at the 1973 Oscar Awards broadcast.