The father of multiple music legends including Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and all of the members of the Jackson 5 died after recently being hospitalized with cancer. USA TODAY
Joe Jackson, the man who fathered Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 and deployed an iron will to turn his supremely gifted children into a culture-shifting music powerhouse, died early Wednesday in Las Vegas. He was 89. Tweets from his daughter and his grandsons confirmed his death.
Randy Jackson Jr., the son of Randy Jackson, an original member of the Jackson 5, paid tribute.
“RIP to the king that made everything possible!!! I love you grandpa,” he posted.
Daughter La Toya Jackson, 62, also took to Twitter to mourn.
“I will always love you! You gave us strength, you made us one of the most famous families in the world. I am extremely appreciative of that, I will never forget our moments together and how you told me how much you cared. #RIP Joe Jackson,” her tweet read.
I will always love you! You gave us strength, you made us one of the most famous families in the world. I am extremely appreciative of that, I will never forget our moments together and how you told me how much you cared. #RIP Joe Jacksonhttps://t.co/F5UfYjEgYx
Taj Jackson, 44, the son of Tito Jackson, also expressed love for the grandfather he called “The Hawk.”
“Thank you Grandpa for the amazing strength, determination and pride you showed this family. The Jackson legacy would not exist without you. I lost a grandfather but heaven gained The Hawk,” his tweet said.
A statement from the co-executors of Michael Jackson’s estate also confirmed Jackson’s death and added condolences.
“We are deeply saddened by Mr. Jackson’s passing and extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Katherine Jackson and the family,” the statement from John Branca and John McClain said. “Joe was a strong man who acknowledged his own imperfections and heroically delivered his sons and daughters from the steel mills of Gary, Indiana, to worldwide pop superstardom.
“Mr. Jackson’s contributions to the history of music are enormous. … We had developed a warm relationship with Joe in recent years and will miss him tremendously.”
On June 24, a poetic tweet appeared on Jackson’s verified Twitter account featuring a picture of him standing against a sunset and suggesting he was ready to depart.
“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,” the tweet said.
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. pic.twitter.com/PGcmbulzyC
Later, Paris Jackson, daughter of Michael Jackson, called the tweet “sweet” but questioned whether it reflected her grandfather’s sentiments or even if the verified account was actually his.
“this is a beautiful tweet. though it upsets me to see whoever is in charge of this account taking advantage of it. my grandfather did not tweet this. i’m not sure if he’s ever used this account,” Paris tweeted.
It was another sign of the uncertainty that surrounded the sprawling Jackson family when it comes to determining what is true, false or muddled. Still, Jackson, or his assistants, had been using his Twitter account to post news about him since January 2014.
Jackson had been healthy enough to be out and about as recently as June 6, when a video appeared on his Twitter page showing him at a Jamba Juice in Las Vegas trying to decide what to drink while Michael’s music played in the background.
As the patriarch of the “First Family of Music,” he had just published in March a picture book recalling his life and 60 years in show business, “Precious Moments,” and was enthusiastically promoting it in May, according to his Twitter page.
“He’s very, very frail, he doesn’t have long,” Jermaine Jackson told the paper. “The family needs to be by his bedside — that’s our only intention in his final days. … We shouldn’t have to beg, plead and argue to see our own father, especially at a time like this. We have been hurting. … My mother was worried sick.”
Although The Mail claimed, without citing a source, that Joe Jackson himself had made it clear he didn’t want visitors or family members to see him or his medical records, TMZ reported that his wife, Katherine, 88, and daughter Rebbie Jackson, 68, her daughter, Yashi Brown, 40, and another daughter, Joh’Vonnie Jackson, 43, did visit him on Tuesday.
Joe Jackson wanted to be a music star but it didn’t work out for him. Instead, he made his sons into superstars. Though his own dreams failed, his vision for his talented children made him patriarch of one of the most successful families in music history.
At the same time, he was also a controversial figure who wound up estranged from the kids — including King of Pop Michael Jackson — he set on the path to stardom.
He and Katherine had 10 children; nine survived to have recording careers starting with the Jackson 5, who became instant international pop sensations when they burst on the scene. Their rise lifted the family out of poverty in Gary, Indiana, and into lives of fame and fortune.
But while Jackson is credited as the driving force behind the success, he also was reviled for his abrasive manner and revelations by his children that he was a physically and emotionally abusive father.
“I remember going to the recording studio, and there was a park across the street, and I’d see all the children playing and I would cry. It would make me sad that I would have to go to work instead,” he said. “People wonder why I always have children around. It’s because I find the thing that I never had through them. Disneyland, amusement parks, arcade games — I adore all that stuff because when I was little, it was always work, work, work.”
But the Jackson siblings didn’t all agree on the Joe-was-abusive narrative: Some said it happened, a few said it never occurred.
Joe managed his kids’ various careers from the beginning, but as they matured, tensions mounted. By 1983, all had broken with him — and blossomed on their own.
Jackson had been dogged by ill health — and rumors to that effect — for years. He suffered five strokes within a five-year period, with the most recent coming during a July 2015 trip to Brazil to celebrate his 87th birthday. A year later, he shot down rumors of his own demise on his website, proclaiming, “I am 100% alive.”
A year ago, Jackson ended up in the hospital after a car crash in Las Vegas. He was a passenger in a car when it was hit by another vehicle attempting to make a left-hand turn, Las Vegas police said. He later tweeted and posted on his website to say he was out of the hospital, back home and feeling fine.
Though Joe and Katherine, his wife of nearly 70 years, never officially divorced (Katherine filed petitions twice, but didn’t go through with them), they lived apart. He resided in Las Vegas while she remained at the family compound in Calabasas, California. Shortly before her 88th birthday in May, he posted a video montage of “precious moments” with her on his website.
When Michael died at age 50 in June 2009, Joe proclaimed that he and Katherine would be taking care of their son’s three children: daughter Paris and sons Michael Joseph “Prince” Jackson Jr., and Prince Michael II (then nicknamed Blanket).
However, Michael’s last will and testament made it clear that Katherine was their guardian and she would share the estate with them. It mentioned neither Joe nor any of his siblings.
Joe filed a wrongful death suit against Michael’s attending physician, Conrad Murray, in 2010, but dropped it in 2012. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with Michael’s death (due to a lethal dose of propofol he administered to help him sleep) and served a two-year sentence. He was released in 2013.
Jackson also stirred controversy at the BET Awards tribute four days after Michael’s death, for taking the occasion to promote his new Ranch Records label as he walked in on the red carpet.
In 2011, he was sued by Bravado International when he tried to launch a line of fragrances paying tribute to Michael. Bravado owned exclusive rights to sell Michael-branded products.
Joe Jackson was born in Fountain Hill, Arkansas, on July 26, 1928. When his parents divorced, he went to Oakland, California, to live with his father, before moving to East Chicago, Indiana, when he was 18 to be close to his mother.
He married Katherine Scruse in 1949 after a two-year courtship. For a time, he tried making it as a boxer, then as a guitarist in a band called The Falcons. He eventually became a crane operator at U.S. Steel in East Chicago, often working overtime to feed and clothe his growing family.
One night when he came home from work, he was incensed to find his 9-year-old son Tito had broken one of his guitar strings. He demanded that the boy play, and was surprised at his skill. He then discovered that sons Jackie and Jermaine could sing, and began promoting The Jackson Brothers in local contests. Younger brothers Marlon and Michael joined a couple of years later, and Joe became their manager.
He set up a regime of long and intense rehearsals for his sons, and began booking them in more and more respectable venues until they landed a spot at the renowned Apollo Theater in New York City.
The group won an amateur night contest, earning them a Motown record contract. After they signed, they were on their way to becoming international pop sensations starting in 1969, when they were the first American group to have their first four singles go to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
With 11-year-old Michael singing lead, the siblings from Gary, Indiana, dominated the pop charts with “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “Maybe Tomorrow.” With success came money: Joe moved his family out of Indiana and into a mansion in Encino, California.
Soon the Jackson 5 were ubiquitous: on TV, on tour, on magazine covers and in stores, where their heart-tailed J5 logo was emblazoned on every conceivable type of merchandise.
They would have success into their adult years, with youngest brother Randy joining the Jacksons, and sisters Rebbie, LaToya and Janet launching solo careers.