Joe Jackson, the patriarch of music superstars, the most famous being the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, died on Wednesday. He was 89. He had been suffering from cancer. He active and about till well into his 80s but suffered a series of strokes including one in 2015 when he was travelling to Brazil for a birthday bash.
Jackson had hinted at his impending death in a tweet on Monday: “I have seen more sunsets than I have left to see. The sun rises when the time comes and whether you like it or not the sun sets when the time comes.”
One of the most celebrated father figures in musical history, Joe, a steel plant worker from Gary, Indiana, had recognized the musical talent in his children and had assembled them into The Jackson 5. The group, with its danceable Motown R&B, hit No.1 with four songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Eleven-year-old Michael became the youngest singer ever to top the benchmark US singles chart as the lead vocalist on 1969’s with “I Want You Back.”
But Michael Jackson later revealed that he grew up in terror of his father, who would regularly lash him with a belt. In a widely watched 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, then mega-star Michael broke down in tears as he discussed his father’s beatings, and he later excluded him from his will.
Janet Jackson, Joe’s youngest child, has said that her father insisted that she address him as Joseph. She suffered low self-esteem when she saw how other fathers showed affection to their children.
Jackson’s public image further eroded after the death of Michael, who suffered from intense anxiety and depression, when his father seized the media spotlight to promote his own record label project.
“I’m glad I was tough,” was the reaction Jackson had at an interview with Winfrey in 2010. He acknowledged that he physically disciplined his children but said it was for their own good. “It kept them out of jail and kept them right,” Jackson said.
His wife Katherine, who served as the much-needed nurturing figure to 10 children, explained her husband by saying that beating children was commonplace for African American fathers of his age and background. Katherine, to whom Michael and Janet dedicated their most celebrated albums, survives her husband of 68 years.
Jackson also had a daughter, Joh’Vonnie, with a long time mistress. Jackson moved in the 1980s to Las Vegas while still married to Katherine, who lived in Los Angeles. Their other children were Jermaine and La Toya Jackson, who both found success in their solo music careers.
A broken guitar string that made Jackson Five team
The grandson of a slave, Jackson was born in rural Arkansas. After his parents’ divorce he moved first with his father to Oakland, California and later joined his mother as a teenager in the Chicago area.
Jackson worked as a crane operator at the US Steel plant in Gary, Indiana, providing some stability for his family.
According to family lore, Jackson’s sons would sneak into his closet when he was working and bring out his guitar. Angered one day when he noticed a broken string, Jackson demanded that Tito, his third child, prove that he could play.
“And when I started playing, his mouth flew open! He gave me the guitar and told me to learn every song I heard on the radio,” said Tito Jackson in an interview in 2017. “So I started learning The Temptations and all that, playing songs like ‘My Girl,’ with Jackie, Jermaine and myself singing. It just grew into a group… and the rest is history!” he said.
Joe Jackson would manage all recordings of The Jackson 5 on Motown Records and moved the family to California. Michael Jackson eventually broke out on his own with his 1975 album Off the Wall after being signed to Epic Records.