Inside Joe Jackson’s Complicated Relationship With Michael and Janet Jackson and the Rest of the Music Dynasty Patriarch’s Huge Family
Joe Jackson made his children call him Joseph.
But a controlling father with grand designs on his kids’ future does not necessarily a musical dynasty make. Jackson’s family just so happened to have included a bevy of talented performers, including a couple of extra-shiny little stars named Michael and Janet.
Joe Jackson is generally thought of as having been an abusive patriarch, one who admittedly used corporal punishment to discipline his children and who had been estranged from wife Katherine Jacksonfor more than 10 years. Suffice it to say, however, that the global pop landscape might not exist as it is if he hadn’t insisted his offspring enter—and stick with—show business.
“I’m glad I was tough, because look what I came out with,” Jackson, who died Wednesday morning in Los Angeles at the age of 89 after a battle with cancer, told CNN’s Piers Morgan in 2013. “I came out with some kids that everybody loved all over the world. And they treated everybody right.”
How he treated them, though, has been a subject of controversy, and will ensure that his legacy—as father, husband, head of one of the world’s most famous families and a talent manager who set two of the biggest pop stars of all time on their destined course—is a complicated one.
Michael Jackson was 5 when he started performing with the group soon to be called The Jackson 5, with brothers Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Marlon in their hometown of Gary, Ind.
“It hit me before I was a teenager,” Michael said during a series of conversations with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach that he intended to be for a book, which after the artist’s death in 2009became The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation.
“I wanted so badly to play in the park across the street because the kids were playing baseball and football but I had to record,” said the platinum-selling artist, who at his iconic heights was designated the “King of Pop,” per Today.com. “I could see the park, right across the street. But I had to go in the other building and work until late at night making the albums.
“I sat there looking at the kids with tears running down my face and I would say, ‘I am trapped and I have to do this for the rest of my life. I am under contract.’ But I wanted to go over there so bad it was killing me, just to make a friend to say, ‘Hi.’ I used to walk the streets looking for someone to talk to.”
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When Michael Jackson died of an accidental propofol overdose at the age of 50, Joe—who was not included in the Thriller artist’s will—told various media outlets that his son had feared for his life but no one told had clued him in until after Michael was gone.
“They treated him like Howard Hughes. Family couldn’t get to him, like they should’ve,” he told Morgan on CNN in 2013.
In 2010 he lost a bid to challenge the administration of his late son’s estate, which started to rake in money after Michael died, in court. On Wednesday, a rep for John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the estate since 2009, told E! News that the estate had “developed a warm relationship with Joe in recent years and will miss him tremendously.”
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“I always said if I ever have kids I will never behave like this way,” the singer said. “I won’t touch a hair on their heads. Because people always say the abused abuse and it is not true. It is not true. I am totally the opposite. The worst I do is I make them stand in the corner for a little bit and that’s it and that’s my time out for them.”
Talking to Piers Morgan (who hosted a revolving door of Jacksons when he was at CNN) in 2011, Janet Jackson, the youngest of her parent’s 10 children together (Marlon’s twin, Brandon, died hours after he was born), said she felt her father had meant well.
“I think he means well and wants nothing but the best for his kids,” said Janet. “I just think that the way he went about certain things wasn’t the best way, but it got the job done. And that’s because of maybe how he was raised, doing what he thought was best, not knowing any better.”
At the time, though, the “Rhythm Nation” artist said she did not have much of a relationship with him. They had talked a few weeks prior, but “we don’t speak that much,” Janet said. And she was sorry they weren’t closer.
“But I know that he loves me,” she added. “There’s no question about it—I know that he loves me, and he’s told me before… He has his issues, his things, the way he was brought up. He’s set in his ways and I think he did the best that he could and I think he did a wonderful job with us—the outcome—but the way he went about it, I don’t know if I agree with that. But we turned out OK.”
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“We were not being told where he was and couldn’t get the full picture,” Jermaine, 63, said. “Even from the doctor. My mother was worried sick.”
Various members of the family—Joe had 10 children, including a daughter from another relationship, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren—visited in his final days.
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