By Vernon A. Williams
In a poignant harbinger of what was to come within days, Joe Jackson sent a cryptic message in a tweet. It read simply, “I have seen more sunsets than I have left to see. The sun rises when the time comes and whether you like it or not, the sun sets when the time comes.”
The earthly sunset on the luminance life of Joseph “Joe” Jackson came Wednesday, June 27, 2018 – exactly nine years and two days after the untimely passing of his world-famous son, Michael.
Another offspring who happened to become a giant in the music world, Janet Jackson, fondly remembered her father last Sunday as she accepted the Disney Radio Image Award. This day forward, the name of the honor is the Janet Jackson Image Award presented by Disney annually to worthy celebrities.
Imagine that. A man from Gary, Indiana, fathered and raised a man commonly referred to as “The King of Pop” as well as a woman whose star shines so brightly that she is the new namesake for an award recognizing world-class achievement.
That’s a lot to wrap you mind around but there is more.
Joe Jackson orchestrated and engineered the success of the legendary Motown singing group, The Jackson Five – which stormed on the scene in 1970 with the hit record, “I Want You Back.” The group consisted of Michael, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and the eldest son, my classmate Jackie (whose real name is Sigmund).
Putting the fruit of his labor into perspective, consider this:
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was the first album ever certified 30 times multi-platinum for U.S. sales, marking more than 30 million sales in the States. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) made the announcement last year with the Estate of Michael Jackson, Epic Records and Legacy Recordings, as the new milestone continues Jackson’s reign as the highest selling recording artist of all time with over 100 million sales for “Thriller” worldwide and one billion total sales to his credit.
The youngest of nine children born to Joe and Katherine Esther Jackson was Janet who remains only one of seven recording artists to ever field six top 10 Billboard hits from one album – aptly named “Janet.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has too many Grammy, Billboard, MTV and other music awards to mention, more than 80 million record sales and at one time was the highest paid recording artist in the business.
Joe Jackson established his musical dynasty with the incomparable Jackson Five, the most famous post-60s singing group in history. Emerging from the humble beginnings of their tiny 2300 Jackson Street home, the J5 became the first recording artists ever to launch their career with four consecutive No. 1 albums – “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There.” The next two fell all the way down the chart to No, 2 in their Billboard debut. No singing group before or after could compare.
Besides their beloved mother – the nucleus of the family – what was the common denominator to the success of Michael, Janet and the Jackson Five? Joseph Jackson.
Media often criticized Jackson for being too stern of a taskmaster in raising his children. He made no apologies. In a 2013 CNN interview, the patriarch – who preferred his children call him “Joe” – owned his tough disciplinary approach explaining:
“I’m glad I was tough. I came out with some kids that everybody loved all over the world. And they treated everybody right.”
Let that marinate. Joseph Jackson helped parent children who did what they did professionally better than anyone had ever done it before. He was father to children idolized around the world by ever age group, ethnicity, nationality, religion and political persuasion.
After toiling for so many years at Inland Steel, Joseph Jackson did what he had to do to contribute to all of the Jacksons – including Maureen, Randy, and LaToya – living lives that reflect their upbringing.
Fame did not spoil the Jacksons. They exuded the professionalism, kindness, respect, civility, generosity and humility taught them as children.
Well done Joseph Jackson. Rest in Peace