Joe Jackson, father of the late pop star Michael Jackson, poses on the red carpet as he arrives for the screening of the film “Sils Maria” (Clouds of Sils Maria) in competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 23, 2014. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/Files
By Bill Trott
(Reuters) – Joe Jackson, the patriarch of an American musical dynasty who started his son Michael, daughter Janet, and the Jackson 5 on the road to stardom but also verbally and physically abused them, has died at the age of 89, his family said on Wednesday.
Jackson, who recently lived in Las Vegas, had been suffering from cancer, according to media reports.
Despite periods of estrangement from some of his 10 children, family members had been at his bedside in his last few days, his grand daughter Paris said.
“I will always love you!,” his pop star daughter La Toya Jackson tweeted on Wednesday. “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.”
Grandson Randy Jackson Jr. tweeted, “RIP to the king that made everything possible!!! I love you grandpa.”
The Jackson family was often riven by legal battles, jealousies, money disputes, Joe’s philandering and unproven allegations of child molestation against Michael.
Joe was left out of the “Thriller” singer’s will when he died aged 50 in 2009.
John Branca and John McClain, the executors of Michael Jackson’s estate, said in a statement on Wednesday that 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.”
Joe Jackson, who was born July 26, 1928, in Fountain Hill, Arkansas, had tried careers as a boxer and a guitarist with little success in the 1950s. He was working as a crane operator at a steel plant in Gary, Indiana, when he took note of the musical and dance talents of his sons.
He called them the Jackson 5 and, with Michael as the precociously talented lead singer, they would become one of the world’s top acts with irresistible pop songs. But it came at a price.
As the group’s manager, Jackson put his sons through long, regimented rehearsals. Michael Jackson told Oprah Winfrey in a 1993 interview that he was so afraid of his father he would sometimes vomit when he saw him.
He said Joe presided over rehearsals with a belt.
“If you messed up during rehearsal, you got hit,” Michael was quoted as saying in J. Randy Taraborrelli’s biography. “Once he ripped the wire cord off the refrigerator and whopped me with it … I would fight back and my father would kill me, just tear me up.”
‘GLAD I WAS TOUGH’
“I’m glad I was tough because look what I came out with,” Joe Jackson said in a 2013 CNN interview. “I came out with some kids that everybody loved all over the world. And they treated everybody right.”
The Jackson 5’s big break came in 1967 when they won an amateur competition at New York’s Apollo Theater. Two years later, the father signed his sons to a deal with Motown Records, which put them in the company of acts such as the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations and Marvin Gaye.
Michael’s singing, dancing and charisma made him the focus of the group, which dominated the 1970s pop charts with No. 1 hits such as “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” “I’ll Be There” and “Never Can Say Goodbye.”
Joe Jackson eventually moved the family from Gary to a mansion in Encino, California.
In 1979, Michael broke from the group – as well as his father’s management – and went to even greater acclaim with the landmark albums “Off the Wall” and “Thriller.” His stylized videos became entertainment trendsetters.
Joe Jackson managed daughter La Toya when she started her career in 1980, and Janet, who Jackson helped launch to stardom in 1982. The children all eventually severed their management ties with their father but Janet paid tribute at the Radio Disney Music Awards last week, saying her “incredible father” had driven her “to be the best I can.”
In 2015, Jackson suffered a stroke, but despite bouts of ill health he continued to make appearances at celebrity events around the world. In March he released a pictorial book of memories called “Precious Moments: 60 Years in Show Business.”
Jackson and wife Katherine married in 1949 and had 10 children – one of whom died shortly after birth – but lived apart in later years. Jackson also had a daughter out of wedlock.
(Reporting by Bill Trott in Washington, additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; Editing by Dan Grebler and Tom Brown)
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