(Bloomberg) — Joe Jackson, who guided his children to pop stardom in the Jackson 5 during the 1970s and spent the rest of his life fending off allegations of abusive parenting, has died. He was 89.
The Associated Press reported his death, citing an unnamed family source who did not provide additional details. He had received treatment for pancreatic cancer, according to People magazine.
A former crane operator at U.S. Steel Corp., Jackson led his family out of poverty in Gary, Indiana, when he founded the soul-inspired quintet with sons Jermaine, Tito, Jackie, Marlon and Michael. The group, signed by Motown Records, dominated the music charts for much of the decade with its blend of funk, soul and R&B on hits such as “I Want You Back,” “ABC” and “I’ll Be There.”
Jackson worked several jobs to keep the family fed and invested his savings in the band. He spent endless hours perfecting their stage act, organized their tours and recording contracts, and helped seal a ground-breaking sponsorship deal with PepsiCo Inc. in 1984, according to his 2004 memoir. He claimed to have sold his share in the family house to support the careers of daughters Janet and LaToya.
The Jackson 5’s diminutive lead singer and dance prodigy, Michael, would become the main beneficiary and victim of his father’s harsh discipline as he slipped from superstardom to a premature death in 2009.
Michael Jackson, whose 1982 album “Thriller” sold more than 100 million copies, credited his father for some of the commercial success, while lamenting a deficit in the relationship with the man who preferred to be known as “Joseph” to his own children.
Michael Jackson died at age 50 in his rented house in the Holmby Hills district of Los Angeles. His father wasn’t named in his son’s will, though the singer’s mother, Katherine, was.
“We were nervous rehearsing because he sat in the chair and he had this belt in his hand and if you didn’t do it the right way, he would tear you up,” Michael Jackson said about his father in a 2002 interview with U.K. journalist Martin Bashir.
Joe Jackson said in his memoirs that he was “extremely strict” with his children and “pushed them to the limit” to achieve success. They had a demanding rehearsal schedule and were rarely allowed to leave the house.
He was also accused of sexual abuse in daughter LaToya’s 1991 book “Growing Up in the Jackson Family” and in a live-television interview on the “Donahue” show. LaToya Jackson later retracted those comments and said they had been motivated by an abusive husband who controlled her.
Joseph Walter Jackson was born July 26, 1928, in Fountain Hill, Arkansas, according to his website. His year of birth is sometimes cited as 1929. His father, Samuel Jackson, was a high-school teacher and his mother, Crystal Lee King, was one of Samuel’s pupils before the two married.
His parents split up when he was 12, so Joe went with his father to Oakland, California, while his mother relocated to East Chicago, Indiana. Jackson moved to live near his mother when he turned 18.
He was preparing to become a professional boxer when he met Katherine Scruse. Jackson divorced his first wife to be with Katherine, whom he married in 1949. They lived in Gary, an industrial city on Lake Michigan, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of downtown Chicago.
After the birth of their first child, Rebbie, Jackson quit boxing to work for U.S. Steel, though he harboured ambitions as a musician. In the mid-1950s, he and his brother, Luther, formed a band called the Falcons, which broke up after a few years.
When Joe Jackson discovered the musical skills of his sons Tito, Jackie and Jermaine, he entered the trio in talent competitions. Marlon and Michael then joined the band and the five boys formed the Jackson 5.
After winning an amateur-night competition at the Apollo Theater in New York, Motown music producer Berry Gordy signed them to his record label in 1968 and they opened for the Supremes at the Los Angeles Forum the next year. By the end of 1970, they had four consecutive No. 1 hits in nine months. The family left Indiana for a large house in Encino, California.
In 1976, Joe Jackson moved the group from Motown to Epic Records to gain higher royalties and more creative control. He also changed the act’s name to “The Jacksons.” Jermaine remained with Motown to pursue a solo career and was replaced in the band by the youngest son, Randy. Two years later, Michael recorded his hit album “Off the Wall.” He left the group after touring in 1984.
During the 1980s, daughters LaToya, Janet and Rebbie had their own musical projects. Janet had global success as a recording artist and actress.
In 1997, the Jackson 5 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after selling more than 100 million records.
“I was always of the opinion that each one of my children could improve more and more,” their father said in his memoir. “That’s probably why they are so successful.”
Jackson also had a son, Brandon, who died at birth, and a daughter out of wedlock with a different woman.