Joe Jackson, the patriarch of music superstars whose iron-fisted guidance both shaped his children’s success and traumatized them, died Wednesday, family members said. He was 89.
Jackson, whose most famous child, King of Pop Michael Jackson, died almost nine years to the day before him, had been ailing from cancer.
He kept active well into his 80s but suffered a series of strokes including in 2015 when he travelled to Brazil for a birthday gala in his honour.
Entertainment sites including TMZ said Jackson died with family around him in Los Angeles. Family members later confirmed his passing on social media.
Representatives did not respond to requests for details.
But Jackson hinted at his impending death in a tweet Monday: “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.”
One of the most famous and consequential father figures in musical history, the steel plant worker from Gary, Indiana recognized a blooming musical talent in his children and assembled them into The Jackson 5, one of the first African American acts to win major success among white audiences.
The group, with its danceable Motown R&B, hit number one with four songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Eleven-year-old Michael Jackson became the youngest singer ever to top the benchmark US singles chart as the lead vocalist on 1969’s “I Want You Back.”
But Michael Jackson later revealed that he grew up in terror of his father, who would regularly lash him with a belt. In a widely watched 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, then mega-star Michael broke down in tears as he discussed his father’s beatings, and he later excluded him from his will.
Janet Jackson, Joe’s youngest child and the most famous after Michael, has said that her father insisted that she address him as Joseph. She suffered low self-esteem as she watched how other fathers would show affection to their children.
Joe Jackson’s public image further eroded after the death of Michael, who suffered from intense anxiety and depression, when his father seized the media spotlight to promote his own record label project.
A broken guitar string
The grandson of a slave, Joe Jackson was born in rural Arkansas to a similarly merciless father. After his parents’ divorce he moved first with his father to Oakland, California and then joined his mother as a teenager in the Chicago area, making him one of millions of African Americans to leave the South for northern cities in the Great Migration.
Putting aside his ambitions to become a boxer, Joe Jackson found work as a crane operator at the US Steel plant in Gary, Indiana, providing a stable home life for his young family.
According to family lore, Jackson’s sons would sneak into his closet when Joe Jackson was working and bring out his guitar. Angered one day when he noticed a broken string, Joe demanded that Tito, his third child, prove that he could play.
Joe Jackson would manage all recordings of The Jackson 5 on Motown Records and moved the family to California. Michael Jackson eventually broke out on his own with his 1975 album “Off the Wall” after being signed to Epic Records.
The patriarch later managed the early career of Janet. But even as the father of two of the top-selling artists in history, his life did not end in luxury and he was cut out of Michael Jackson’s estate.
By 2012, the once-powerful manager was seen selling Jackson-branded perfume at a cart in a humdrum Las Vegas shopping mall — and entered a legal feud as he did not have rights to the Michael Jackson name.