Bobby Taylor, the singer and producer who discovered the Jackson 5, has died at the age of 83, according to Rolling Stone magazine.
Taylor died Saturday morning 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 passing to Rolling Stone.
“Bobby was a producer, creator and mentor to all of the greats in the early Motown days,” Michelson said.
Although the Jackson’s and Motown credited Diana Ross with discovering the Jackson 5, it was Taylor who found the band.
Taylor fronted the band Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, which included Tommy Chong, later of Cheech & Chong. At a 1968 concert in Chicago, a family band called The Jackson 5 were their opening act. Taylor was impressed with the group and arranged for the Jackson 5 to audition for Berry Gordy and other executives at Motown. The group was singed to Motown and Taylor would be 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 Smoky Robinson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You.” Berry Gordy felt the songs produced by Taylor were old fashioned and he would assign a new producer for the young group.
Taylor was born in Washington D.C. in 1934. 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.
The group would change their name to Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. The band was signed to Motown in 1965 on the recommendation of Supremes members Mary Wells and Florence Ballard. The band had a top 5 R&B song “Does Your Mama Know About Me” in 1968.
“Bobby had a range that exceeded even Patti LaBelle.” Tommy Chong told Rolling Stone.
Taylor went on to have a solo career for Motown. He later moved to China and then to Hong Kong. He performed at clubs in Honk Kong. His last known recording was on a tribute song for the late legendary rock guitarist Dick Wagner.