Rob Brunner
April 03, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

He’s just 19 years old, but R&B heartthrob Usher already has two huge hits — the No. 2 ”Nice & Slow” and ”You Make Me Wanna…” — and a double-platinum album, My Way, that recently cracked the top 10. Impressive stats for such a young singer…unless you compare him with the Jackson 5, who were already old pros by the time they reached driving age. Nonetheless, it’s a comparison the suave singer would certainly relish; Usher credits the Jacksons’ 1970 smash ”I Want You Back,” released eight years before he was born, as his earliest inspiration.

”When I first heard it I was looking at a rerun of the Jackson 5 cartoon on TV, and it just made me want to sing along with them. That was my beginning, even before I started singing in church. I used to hum and sing with the radio, but I wasn’t really serious about it. But when I heard that song I was inspired. I wanted to sing like Michael, to be like Mike. As a kid I didn’t know how to dance that well, but I’d try anything — the Windmill, anything — even if I might break my neck. I just kept going for it. If I saw it I’d try to do it; if I heard it I’d imitate it. As time went on I got better.”

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