It’s kind of a trick question, asking who was the youngest person to have a number one song.
If you are looking at just solo artists, then it is Stevie Wonder.
Born Stevland Hardaway Judkins, he had performed as a child in the choir at the Whitestone Baptist Church in his hometown of Saginaw, Michigan, along with his mother and siblings. By the tender age of 10, the boy Wonder could sing and play piano and drums. He was snapped up by Motown Records a year later. Hearing him messing around on instruments in the studio, Motown boss Berry Gordy, Jr marveled out loud that this boy was a wonder; the name stuck. There was no doubting Stevie’s talent, and he regularly sat in on sessions for other Motown artists, playing everything from keyboards to bongos. But his own first three singles tanked, and doubts were raised about his commercial potential. All that changed in 1963: on 10 August, aged just 13 years 189 days, he scored a US Billboard Hot 100 No.1 single (and R&B No.1) with the infectious “Fingertips – Part 2”, showcasing his snappy harmonica style.
The video below should start at about the 4:28 mark, that is where Fingertips – Part 2 begins. The first part of the song is, not surprisingly, Fingertips – Part 1.
While Steveie may hold the record for the youngest solo artist to have a number one hot, others may argue the honor belongs to Michael Jackson. IIn January 1970, The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” topped the Billboard charts, featuring Michael, just 11 years 155 days old.
“I Want You Back” is the first national single by the Jackson 5. It was released by Motown on October 7, 1969, and became the first number-one hit for the band on January 31, 1970. It was performed on the band’s first television appearances, on October 18, 1969 on Diana Ross’s The Hollywood Palace and on their milestone performance on December 14, 1969 on The Ed Sullivan Show.
All I can say is “WOW.”
“I Want You Back” ranks number 121 on Rolling Stone’s list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’. It also ranks ninth on Rolling Stone’s list of the ‘100 Greatest Pop Songs since 1963’. In 2020, it was ranked number 2 on Rolling Stone’s list of ‘The 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time’.
In 2006, Pitchfork named it the second-best song of the 1960s, adding that the chorus contains “possibly the best chord progression in pop music history”.A June 2009 article by The Daily Telegraph called it “arguably the greatest pop record of all time”. Digital Spy called the song “one of the most enduring pop singles of the sixties”.
What an amazing coincidence that the two youngest performers to have a number one hit didn’t fade into oblivion, but each went on to have phenomenal, ground-breaking careers.
*image from Motherly