Joe Jackson, Patriarch of the Jackson Family, Dies at 89
Joe Jackson, the controversial patriarch of the Jacksons, pop music's most successful family, has died at the age of 89 after a battle with cancer. Last week, his son Jermaine revealed that his father was in failing health: "He's very very frail, he doesn't have long."
Joe Jackson was father to 11 children, including Janet, Michael and the rest of the Jackson 5. He formed the group and helped lead them to unparalleled success. However, he also drew much criticism for the manner in which he raised and disciplined his children in order to achieve such lofty success.
Jackson was himself the oldest of five children, born into in a strict household ran firmly by his father Samuel Jackson, an educator, and mother, Crystal Lee King, a homemaker. At the age of 12, his parents separated and Joe went to live with his father in Oakland. When he turned 18, he moved to East Chicago, Ind., to live with his mother and work at a steel company.
Jackson initially wanted to be a boxer, but his life changed when he met Katherine Scruse. They married in November 1949 and a year later, purchased a home in Gary, Ind., with their first child, Rebbie, arriving a year later.
In the early '60s, Joe began developing his three eldest sons Jackie, Tito and Jermaine as musicians while the young siblings Michael and Marlon were performing in the background. Once he heard Michael sing, however, the lineup quickly changed.
With Michael as lead vocalist and his brothers backing him up, Joe began booking them at local venues as the Jackson Brothers, changing their name to the Jackson Five shortly thereafter. Their reputation quickly spread to Chicago, where they often played the historic Regal Theatre as an opening act for some of the biggest R&B stars of the mid-'60s.
In 1967, they recorded a pair of singles on Gary's Steeltown Records -- "Big Boy" b/w "You Changed" and "We Don't Have To Be Over 21 (to Fall in Love)" b/w "Jam Session" -- which brought them greater exposure. Then Berry Gordy signed them to Motown, a few years after he had previously turned them down, in March 1969.
Jackson relocated the family to Los Angeles and supervised their group's recordings. Years later, he also assisted in molding Janet’s career, financing her first demo, which helped her to get signed at A&M Records. As her manager, he supervised her debut album in 1982 and her follow-up Dream Street in 1984. However, a year later, Janet dismissed her father from his management duties and took her career into her own hands, resulting in her five-times platinum commercial breakthrough album, Control.
Jackson has been criticized for being a strict disciplinarian to his sons, often beating them "with the strap." He has also been accused of emotionally abusing his children, torturing them with incessant rehearsals and bullying.
In a 2013 interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Joe expressed no remorse for being tough on his kids. "I had to be like that way because during those times, it was hard, and you have a lot of gangs there, you know, in the area where we were living, Gary, Indiana, and I had to make sure that they didn't get in any type of trouble, and things of that sort."
"I'm glad I was tough, because look what I came out with," he continued. "I came out with some kids that everybody loved all over the world. And they treated everybody right."
Although Michael spoke of being afraid of his father during his childhood, the late singer requested that he be by his side during his 2005 child-molestation trial. Their bond reportedly grew closer when Michael himself became a father of three children. However, Michael excluded his father from his estate in his final will.
Nevertheless, Joe told The Insider that he planned to oversee his son's charitable ventures for children. "It's a large venture to take on, and I'm happy to do it for him," he said. "They never recognized [Michael] for all the things he was doing when he was living, but...I'm carrying the legacy as much as I possibly can."
In his last six years, Jackson suffered a numbered of medical emergencies. In 2012, he suffered a "mild stroke" in Las Vegas but reportedly was "very good spirits" during his hospitalization. In August 2015, he suffered another stroke while vacationing in Brazil. A year later, Joe was rushed to the hospital after having a high fever.
"We were all worried, but he's doing much better," said Jermaine at the time. "All his vital signs are great. He's just tired. We're just tryin' to hold onto him as long as we can."
Prior to his death, Joe was still legally married to Katherine, but they lived separately. He had a home in Las Vegas, while she wife lives in Calabasas, Calif., where she takes care of Michael Jackson's three children.
Joe is also the father of Joh’Vonnie Jackson, 43, the daughter of Cheryl Terrell, with whom he had a 25-year-long affair. Katherine filed for divorce twice but never went through with the separation.
Joe is survived by Katherine and their remaining children together: Maureen, 68, Jackie, 67, Tito, 64, Jermaine, 63, La Toya, 62, Marlon, 61, Randy, 56, and Janet, 52. Michael died from an apparent cardiac arrest at age 50 on June 25, 2009. Another child, Brandon, died shortly after childbirth in 1957.
Watch Joe Jackson's 2013 CNN Interview