Music Family Patriarch Joe Jackson Leaves Lasting, Complicated Legacy
By Damon Brown
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Joe Jackson died Wednesday, ET confirmed.He was 89. The music family patriarch managed nearly his entire clan of 11 children to stardom, particularly Michael and Janet.
“We are deeply saddened by Mr. Jackson’s passing and extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Katherine Jackson and the family. 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,"John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the Estate of Michael Jackson said Wednesday in a statement.
"Mr. Jackson’s contributions to the history of music are enormous. They were acknowledged by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 in a proclamation naming him as Best Entertainment Manager of All Time; he was inducted into Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2014 and his son Michael acknowledged him with a Joe Jackson Day at Neverland. We had developed a warm relationship with Joe in recent years and will miss him tremendously,”
This father ruled his family with an iron fist, reportedly physically abusing his offspring if they screwed up their dance routines, lyrics or timing, and the entire family confirms that the kids had to call him "Joseph," not "Daddy." In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Joe admitted hitting his children with a strap, saying: "It kept them out of jail and kept them right."
His brutal-but-effective style of leadership was cited as key by his two most famous children. In an early '90s interview, Michael told Oprah that the mere sight of his father would make him afraid to the point of puking. Years later, the King of Pop said that the very same tough love gave him the discipline to become a superstar.
Joe self-funded the first album of his daughter, Janet, launching her into stardom. Shortly after, she broke away from her father and released the 1986 mega smash album, "Control," a direct message that she would be calling the shots of her career from here on out.
Meanwhile, daughter La Toya made molestation accusations against her father in her 1991 memoir that she later recanted -- and the two later apparently reconciled, as he made an appearance on her reality show.
Joe had been pretty much out of the spotlight since the 1970s, when he slowly ceased to be involved in negotiations with regard to his children's music, but the last two decades made him a topic in both tabloids and mainstream media. Rumors circulated about his abusive, dogmatic behavior, but the 1992 VH1 movie The Jacksons: An American Dream put his family leadership under the microscope.
The infamous Michael Jackson interview with Oprah was the following year.
It was watched by an estimated 90 million people, making it the fourth most-watched non-sports program ever at the time. The patriarch, often behind the scenes, was now viewed as a villain in the public eye. He didn't immediately respond, but he defended his choices to Oprah in 2010, a year after Michael's death.
Joe's health had been challenging over the past few years. The rough patch started in 2015 when he had multiple strokes throughout the year. One of them left him stranded in Brazil, which led to Janet shutting down tour production.
And despite his significant hand in the Jackson 5 and the early solo careers of Michael and Janet, Joe had fallen on relatively lean times. Still, Joe consistently said he had "no regrets" on how he raised his family. In an interview with ET's Lauren Zima in October 2017 at a celebration for Michael Jackson's SCREAM he said: "I know there would not be this crowd of people here if it wasn't for him. It's like this all over the world...it happens everywhere."
Joe called his own father a tough taskmaster, with the implication that Michael, Janet and the rest of his kids had a kinder, gentler dad than his own.
Joe's most famous child may have had the last word: Joe was left out of Michael's will, which provides wife Katherine with one million dollars annually.