I’ll be there, but if I don’t…

"I'll Be There" by the Jackson Five“I’ll Be There” is a lovely song. It was the Jackson Five‘s fourth consecutive #1 record, the first down-tempo one, and their biggest hit. I recently shared the video of it with someone who was feeling down and alone, and like to think it made that person feel better.

Leave it to me to point out that it’s not perfectly grammatically correct. You can forgive it since the sentiment in the song is so heartfelt and Michael Jackson was just a kid at the time he sang it…not that he wrote the song — that was the Motown guys, Berry Gordy, et al. — but still.

In the last verse, Michael sings,

If you should ever find someone new
I know he better be good to you
‘Cause if he doesn’t, I’ll be there

“If he doesn’t”? Shouldn’t that be “’cause if he isn’t” good to you? Or is there some Gary, Indiana, dialectal thing going on here?

Jackson Five Love SongsIt also always struck me as odd when he follows that with “just look over your shoulders, honey, ooh,” and not just because it was an adult idea coming from a 12-year-old kid (who, ironically, had more than a few 12-year-old ideas as an adult…but let’s not go there). Who looks over both of their shoulders? Barring a broken neck, we tend to look over one shoulder at a time. Maybe he means look over one shoulder and then the other.

I dunno. Seems to me you shouldn’t have to look twice to see if Michael Jackson’s really got your back.

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5 thoughts on “I’ll be there, but if I don’t…

  1. In The Jacksons: An American Dream (a TV movie that they’re always rerunning on VH1), there’s a scene addressing the “look over your shoulders” lyric. Not sure if it’s fictionalized, but in their account, they show Michael making the grammatical error during the recording session. One of the brothers points it out, and Berry Gordy says, “No, it was great just like that! Leave it in!”

  2. Pingback: Halfway around the sun | I can't believe Dave X Robb doesn't have a blog

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