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Joe Jackson, The Jackson Family Patriarch, Has Died—But Leaves Behind A Tainted Legacy Not Everyone Wants To Remember

Joseph "Joe" Jackson was 89 when he passed away at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Suffering from multiple health issues in the last years of his life, the patriarch breathed his last after succumbing to pancreatic cancer. 

As tributes from his children and grandchildren continue to pour in, not everyone has rosy memories to share about the man behind the soaring musical careers of his children. 


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Joe's early days

Born in Fountain Hill, Arkansas on July 26, 1928, Joe was one of four siblings who grew up in a strict household. He was raised by a father who had a career as a university professor and was often disciplined, sometimes with physical force, at the slightest hint of disobedience. 

In his teens and after his parents' separation, Joe's family relocated to Indiana where he would drop out of high school, marry a high school love and divorce in less than a year, and dabble in professional boxing. Although he gained considerable success as an emerging athlete, his career in sports was cut short when he married his second wife Katherine and became a father.



He turned his sights to a practical job in construction to help make ends meet and by the 1950s, he took on a part-time job as a musician in his band, The Falcons, to reel in additional income. The band unfortunately failed to attract major record labels and broke up a few years after its formation.

However, Joe's brief time in the music industry sharpened his knack for spotting talent; and this talent, as it seems, he saw in his eldest sons Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine. With his iron fist that he inherited from his own father, Joe groomed and personally trained this trio to become one of the era's most successful performers of all time: The Jackson Brothers. 



From father to manager

A few more years passed and two more of Joe's sons, Marlon and Michael, became old enough to perform. With the addition of two more boys, the original singing trio became a group of five and would eventually become the group that would cement the Jackson family's place in musical history: The Jackson 5. 

Anchored by Michael, aged eight at the time and the group's youngest member, The Jackson 5 reached phenomenal heights of success. As one of the first R&B groups to appeal to both black and white audiences, The Jackson 5 was signed by Joe to Motown Records in 1968, a hit-making label that propelled their careers to unforeseen greatness. 


READ: What's In A Name? Michael Jackson's Daughter Scrubs Off The Vandalism Defacing Her Father's Name On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame



As more of The Jackson 5 hits consistently topped charts, Joe's grip on his children simultaneously tightened beyond a point what many now believe his children should have never crossed. Even with a record label managing The Jackson 5, Joe continued to play the role of no-nonsense manager rather than supportive father.

He allotted no "free time" for his sons and often pushed them to rehearse or go straight to the recording studio to work straight from school. Weekends were usually spent training with Joe at home in the day, then performing in numerous gigs in the evenings up to the wee hours of the morning. There was never time for typical adolescent activities, and when Joe sensed a lack of focus or desire to be elsewhere other than at work, he never once hesitated to punish his sons with a belt or his own hands. 



Verbal punishments were also a common occurrence in the Jackson household. In his autobiography Moonwalk, the late Michael revealed that his father would often call him "big nose" in an attempt to use humiliation to get him to work harder.

On top of everything, Joe instructed his sons to call him "Joseph" instead of "dad" to foster a professional, rather than familial, relationship with them. 



Ultimately, it wasn't only The Jackson 5 boys that carried the burden of their father's sometimes unreachable demands; Joe's other children—Rebbie, La Toya, Janet, and Randy—were not spared from his forceful nature and were also trained to become great performers. 

By the time the 70s rolled in, Joe had switched labels to Epic Records and came the end of The Jackson 5. Jermaine remained with Motown Records who owned the rights to The Jackson 5 name. The four remaining band members renamed to The Jacksons and although they succeeded, they never quite matched the success of their original band, much to their father's dismay. 

Taking advantage of the expiration of the contract binding him to his father and wanting no more of his father's unreasonable approach to success, Michael fired Joe as his manager in 1979, launching a solo career that would transform him into the "King of Pop." 

Michael's siblings followed suit soon after, leaving Joe to manage rising star Janet and find other pursuits. 

For the most part, Joe became estranged from his children after they parted ways. 


READ: Remembering The Time: A Michael Jackson Musical Is Set To Hit Broadway!




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Truths revealed 

Almost 20 years after parting ways with him, Joe's children began to reveal what their childhoods were like with a father who resembled a boss more than a parent to the media, and the world. 

Being the most famous Jackson son of all, Michael's groundbreaking interview with Oprah Winfrey painted a less than favorable picture of his father. Michael came clean and set that his father beat him and his brothers, often to a pulp, to urge them to continue working.



La Toya, in her memoir, shared that Joe's daughters were also similarly abused, and further suggested that she and her sisters may have gotten worse as they may have been sexually abused as well. 

“When your father gets out of bed with your mother and gets into bed with his daughter and you hear the mother saying, ‘No, Joe, not tonight. Let her rest. Leave her alone, she’s tired,’ that makes you crazy,” she wrote.

Janet's hit album Control has also been theorized to be a hidden message to her father. The breakthrough record came after she voluntarily split ways with Joe as her manager in the 80s. 



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Joe continued to appear in the media even amidst accusations of child abuse and straightforwardly addressed any questions about the issue posed during interviews. In several of them, he simply said that he regretted none of his actions and believed that they were what kept his children in check, off the streets, and made them who they are. 

Joe's treatment of his children was also not the only issue he came under fire for. Joe had a known, longstanding affair with Cheryl Terell that lasted for 25 years and bore him an 11th child. His wife Katherine reportedly was in the know of this affair all throughout and attempted to file for divorce twice, but never pushed through with it. 



Joe's public image further soured after his son Michael's death. He was accused of exploitation and self-promotion when he attended the Black Entertainment Television awards in 2009, the year Michael died. Many expected him to pay tribute to his son Michael after years of being absent on the media, but instead, he took the opportunity to announce that he established a new record company. A few years later, he was found to be illegally selling merchandise in Las Vegas bearing images of Michael. 

Joe was ultimately left out of Michael's last will and testament. His other children were more successful in mending their relationships with their father. 



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Ailing health

The only thing that had stopped Joe from continuing his career in music was his failing health.

He recovered from the first of what would be many strokes in 2012. Then, a series of strokes in 2014 greatly affected Joe's health, followed by three heart attacks and another stroke in 2015, was hospitalized in 2016 due to a high fever, survived a car accident in 2017, and was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in the process. 

Surrounded by just a handful of family members at his death bed in a Las Vegas hospice, Joe passed away, just two days after his son's 9th death anniversary. 


Photos from "Jackson family patriarch Joe Jackson dead at 89" from the CBS News YouTube channel