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Bobby Taylor (1939 – 2017)

by Kirk Fox

Singer and producer discovered The Jackson 5…

Bobby Taylor, the singer and producer who discovered The Jackson 5, has died, according to Rolling Stone magazine. He was 78, according to public records.

Taylor died Saturday morning, July 22, 2017, at a hospital in Hong Kong, where he’d been living for the last several years. He was undergoing treatment for leukemia. Family friend and producer Suzy Michelson confirmed his death to Rolling Stone.


“Bobby was a producer, creator, and mentor to all of the greats in the early Motown days,” Michelson said.

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Although the Jacksons and Motown credited Diana Ross with discovering The Jackson 5, Taylor was the person who found the band.

Taylor fronted the band Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. At a 1968 concert in Chicago, a family group called The Jackson 5 were their opening act. Impressed by the group, Taylor arranged for The Jackson 5 to audition for Berry Gordy and other executives at Motown. The group was signed to Motown, and Taylor would become their first producer.

In a 2011 interview for the documentary “Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon,” Taylor talked about first seeing The Jackson 5. “I saw this little kid spinning and stuff and said, ‘Dang, send him upstairs. When he finishes, I want to talk to this kid.’”

He produced The Jackson 5’s early Motown songs including a version of Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You.” Gordy felt the songs produced by Taylor were old-fashioned, and he would assign a new producer for the young group.

Taylor was born Feb. 18, 1939, in Washington, D.C., according to U.S. Census Bureau records. He sang in doo-wop groups in New York City. He moved out west and was in a band called Little Daddy and the Bachelors. One of the band members was Tommy Chong, who would go on to greater fame as a comedian and one-half of the duo Cheech and Chong.

The group’s members ended up changing the band’s name to Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers. The band was signed to Motown in 1965 on the recommendation of Supremes members Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. The band had a top-five R&B song, “Does Your Mama Know About Me,” in 1968.

“Bobby had a range that exceeded even Patti LaBelle,” Chong told Rolling Stone.

Taylor went on to have a solo career for Motown. He later moved to China and then to Hong Kong, performing in clubs there. His last-known recording was on a tribute song for the late, legendary rock guitarist Dick Wagner.

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