Joe Jackson, father to Michael and Janet Jackson and no-nonsense manager of the Jackson 5, died early Wednesday at age 89, family members confirmed via social media. CNN also confirmed the news through a source close to the family.
He was reportedly hospitalized with late-stage cancer and deteriorating health, multiple outlets said last week. The music manager had used a wheelchair in recent years after suffering multiple strokes.
Jackson helmed a family of iconic American entertainers, launching them to stratospheric heights of stardom, but his legacy was marred by repeated charges of abuse that strained and ended his relationships with the children he raised in the spotlight.
The Jackson family patriarch leaves behind his wife, Katherine Jackson, and eight of their 10 children: daughters Rebbie, LaToya and Janet, and sons Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy. Michael Jackson died at age 50 in June 2009. Another son, Marlon’s twin Brandon, died as an infant in 1957.
The eldest Jackson is also survived by an 11th child, a daughter named JohVonnie who was born to another woman during his marriage to Katherine.
Just days ago, he posted a farewell message to fans on Twitter, writing, “I have seen more sunsets than I have left to see.”
Born in 1928 in Arkansas as the eldest of five, Jackson moved to Oakland, California, with his father before relocating in his late teens to a suburb southeast of Chicago. Working at a steel company, he fantasized about becoming a professional boxer or maybe a musician. But he largely set aside those dreams in favor of supporting his new wife and their first baby in Gary, Indiana.
That changed when the Jackson kids started to grow up and develop an interest in music. Beginning with his three eldest sons ― Jackie, Tito and Jermaine ― Jackson instituted regular band practice in the early 1960s that soon expanded to include Marlon and Michael. Much of the time, he made his children call him “Joseph.”
Decades later, Jackie told GQ that his father’s investment in the band stemmed partially from a fear that his sons would somehow get into trouble.
“Gary wasn’t the safest place to live,” Jackie said. “There were gangs and Dad had six boys. He wanted to make sure we didn’t get into drugs, so he kept us busy.”
The group was dubbed the Jackson 5 ― a shortened form of the Jackson Brothers Five ― at the request of Evelyn Leahy, organizer of a local children’s fashion show in 1965.
In March 1969, the group officially graduated from local talent shows as Jackson landed his sons a deal with Motown Records. Their first record, “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5” ― including the hit singles “I Want You Back” and “Who’s Loving You” ― hit shelves just days after a performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” introduced them to a national audience.
In their heyday, the group appeared on many other shows, including “American Bandstand,” “The Dick Cavett Show” and “Sonny and Cher,” and performed for international audiences that once included the Queen Mother.
Jackson would go on to enlist nearly all of his children as performers at various times. He took an active role in managing the singing career of his youngest daughter, Janet, who debuted her first album in 1982.
By the time she started planning her third album, however, Janet was ready to distance herself from the Jackson family. The finished album, titled “Control,” became her breakthrough.
Jackson’s relationships with his wife and children increasingly suffered as the family’s profile rose.
Katherine would at least twice attempt to file for divorce ― once in the early 1970s and once a decade later. She had been living in California, apart from her husband’s Las Vegas residence, for years prior to his death.
In 1991, LaToya revealed in her memoir that her father molested her and Rebbie as children, a claim Jermaine later repeated.
But it was Michael who made the most public accusations of emotional and physical abuse against his father, describing a stage parent who ruled with an iron fist. The singer told Oprah Winfrey during a memorable 1993 interview that his father called him ugly and beat him so often that the mere sight of the man made him nauseous.
Some were even led to wonder whether the elder Jackson’s misconduct contributed to the alleged child abuse Michael was eventually acquitted of. During court proceedings, Joe Jackson was repeatedly seen standing by his son’s side. But he was left out of Michael’s will.
Jackson’s family troubles appeared to follow him up until his death, as some of his kin were reportedly barred from his bedside.
After those rumors surfaced, however, Jermaine put out a message of family unity.
“For however long he has left, my mother, siblings, and relatives want to be with him, without hindrance,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I will always love you!” LaToya Jackson said over Twitter. “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.”
The co-executors of Michael Jackson’s estate, John Branca and John McClain, also expressed their “heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Katherine Jackson and the family.”
“We are deeply saddened by Mr. Jackson’s passing,” the pair said in a statement provided to HuffPost. “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.”
The co-executors lauded Jackson’s “enormous” contributions to pop music history and said they had developed a “warm relationship” with him in recent years.
This has been updated with statements from the co-executors of Michael Jackson’s estate.