Rest In Power: Jackson Family Patriarch Joe Jackson

Joe Walter Jackson, the patriarch of the Jackson family musical dynasty the spanned five decades, has passed at the age of 89.  The lore of him honing the talents of his progeny into becoming musical prodigy is as intimate to the African-American experience as one can get sans the Bible.

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RIP Joe Jackson

Born to Samuel Jackson and Crystal Lee King in Fountain Hill, Arkansas on July 28, 1928, Joe Jackson was the eldest of five children. The public perception of Joe Jackson as a heavy-handed, abusive catalyst in crafting Michael Jackson into arguably the greatest performer the world has ever seen was stoked by revelations from within the Jackson family itself.  

Just last year Joe Jackson expressed his contrition in which he specifically mentioned his remorse at being abusive toward his children. He himself was raised in a rigid, strict household. He described himself as “a lonely child with few friends”. Michael Jackson appeared to downplay the total effect of Joe’s strictness.

After his parents separated when he was twelve, his mother, two brothers, and sister moved to East Chicago, Indiana, a suburb outside Chicago in Northwest Indiana, and he moved with his father to Oakland, California. He would return to his mother and siblings six years later after his father remarried.

Joe worked at Inland Steel Company in East Chicago, Indiana and found moderate success as a Golden Gloves boxer and had ambitions of going pro.  He met 17-year-old Katherine Scruse while he was married to his first wife but was divorced within a year prior to dating Katherine.

They were married on November 5, 1949, and purchased 2300 Jackson Street, a small two-bedroom home near East Chicago in Gary, Indiana. Joe would give up on his boxing career and work full-time at Inland Steel, later getting a second job at American Foundaries to take care of his growing brood.

During the early 1950s, he briefly performed with his own blues band The Falcons, playing the guitar.  The Falcons did not get a recording deal and subsequently broke up after one of their members, Thornton “Pookie” Hudson, founded his own band in 1952, The Spaniels. In the beginning, only Jackie, Tito and Jermaine were in the Jackson Brothers, later Marlon and Michael would in.  With the addition of the two younger brothers, and the realization of Michael’s incredible vocal gifts, the group became what we would then call the Jackson 5.

On November 21, 1967, The Jackson 5 were signed by Jackson to their first professional contract with Gordon Keith, an owner and the first president of Steeltown Records in Gary, Indiana. The group’s first single was “Big Boy,” released in January 1968. Jackson helped to land his sons an audition for Motown Records in Detroit within a year and they were signed with Motown in March 1969.

They relocated to southern California not long afterward.

When “I Want You Back”, hit #1, was released on October 7, 1969, followed by their first album, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 in December 1969, their superstar arc was undeniable.

I Want You Back – The Jackson 5

The Jackson 5 preform I Want You Back on their “Goin Back To Indiana” TV special in 1971. HQ sound

The Jackson 5’s first four singles, “I Want You Back” (The Jackson 5, 1969), “ABC” (The Jackson 5, 1970), “The Love You Save” (The Jackson 5, 1970), and “I’ll Be There” (The Jackson 5, 1970) sold 10 million copies in 10 months, setting a world record for sales.

In 1975, the Jackson 5, with the exception of Jermaine, left Motown and signed a lucrative deal with Epic Records after Michael Jackson had brokered a deal where they could eventually produce their own songs, leading to Motown retaining the Jackson 5 name, so they renamed themselves The Jacksons in 1976.

Jackson 5 – BIG BOY

The Jacson 5. Yes, contrary to popular belief they did in fact cut a few records before Motown.

Randy Jackson would release his solo single “How Can I Be Sure” in 1978 and begin to manage daughter Janet Jackson’s career when she turned 16, crafting her as an artist in her own right.

He financed the recording of his daughter’s first demo then, arranged her a recording contract with A&M Records and began recording her debut album, overseen by him.


I love the intro to this song.classic Janet!

Jackson had eleven children, ten with his wife Katherine Jackson:

Maureen Reillette “Rebbie” Jackson (born May 29, 1950)
Sigmund Esco “Jackie” Jackson (born May 4, 1951)
Toriano Adaryll “Tito” Jackson (born October 15, 1953)
Jermaine La Jaune Jackson (born December 11, 1954)
La Toya Yvonne Jackson (born May 29, 1956)
Marlon David Jackson (born March 12, 1957)
Brandon Jackson (March 12, 1957 March 13, 1957)
Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 June 25, 2009)
Steven Randall “Randy” Jackson (born October 29, 1961)
Janet Damita Jo Jackson (born May 16, 1966)
Joh’Vonnie Jackson (born August 30, 1974)            

Though his business acumen and persistence were apparent, his image took an irreparable blow in the late 80s as media reports alleging he abused his children came to light. He even insisted that, when he was performing in a managerial role, they call him Joseph.

Michael Jackson claimed that from a young age he was physically and emotionally abused by his father, enduring incessant rehearsals, whippings, and name-calling, but also saying that his father’s strict discipline played a large part in his success.

MJ even went so far as to honor Joe with an annual “Joseph Jackson Day” at Neverland Ranch as a sign of his forgiveness for his father. But Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon all deny their father was ever abusive.

In October 2002,  the elder Jackson was awarded a proclamation in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the Best Entertainment Manager of All Time by Jane L. Campbell, mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. In 2014, Joe Jackson was inducted into the R&B Music Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Achievement Award and appeared with Janet Jackson at the BET Awards in 2015 as she accepted the Ultimate Icon Award.

On June 23, 2018, it was reported that Jackson was hospitalized in Las Vegas in the final stages of terminal pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his remaining children, grandchildren, and widow Katherine Jackson.

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