Hey kids! Remember that time in the last Jheri Curl Fridays column when I talked about The Sylvers? That piece spoke in depth about oldest brother Leon Sylvers III and his status as one of the most successful producers of the early Eighties; scoring hits with Shalamar, Gladys Knight, The Whispers, and his own band, Dynasty. Well, Leon III was not the only member of the musical family to enjoy a stellar run as a producer. Younger brother Foster had production aspirations of his own, and he had a pretty steady gig behind the boards in conjunction with as well as independently of his more successful older brother. Among the more successful artists he worked with: disco starlet Evelyn “Champagne” King and the youngest sibling of the family act The Sylvers were most often compared to: Janet Jackson.
In the early Eighties, Janet was well known as a TV actress, having memorably played abused child Penny Gordon on “Good Times” and later appearing occasionally as Willis Jackson (Todd Bridges)’s girlfriend Charlene on the hit sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes”. Her singing career began by accident. As she explains in her book The True You (an otherwise painful read), she was tooling around in her family’s recording studio, recording tracks in secret, when her work was discovered by older brother Randy and father Joseph. The Jackson family patriarch, always cognizant of heirs to exploit, railroaded a teenage Janet into pursuing a singing career, and got her a contract with A&M Records in 1982.
Her self-titled debut album was released at the end of that year, during a period that saw a flurry of Jackson-related releases. Jermaine’s Let Me Tickle Your Fancy (with the title track featuring Devo) came out around that same time, as did an album you just might have heard of called Thriller. Janet’s album was a moderate success, selling about a quarter of a million copies and spinning off three Top 20 R&B hits, including the Sylvers-produced “Come Give Your Love To Me”. It notably featured Janet putting a bit of a new wave-y spin on post-disco R&B. It was the one song on her debut that pointed the way to the more adventurous work she’d do with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-the production duo that pushed her to the top of the charts with 1986’s Control and kept her there for the next two decades during a run as arguably America’s most popular female dance/pop artist.
There was never a video for “Come Give Your Love To Me”, but Janet made the rounds of the more popular music-based TV shows of the day, including “American Bandstand”, where this performance originated. The shy Janet smile was already in full effect, but it’s interesting to see how awkward she looked onstage-a far cry from the confident performer she’d become in just a half-decade. While she shied away from performing her pre-Control music for many years, she has performed this, in addition to the other minor hits that started her career, on tour several times in recent years.