Inner Michael » Update: Joe Jackson has passed

Update: Joe Jackson has passed

The patriarch of the Jackson family has passed on at the age of 89 with Katherine and family at his side. Certainly a controversial figure, he leaves behind as his primary legacy, the Jackson 5, whose music punctuated a lot of our lives. He was their father, their manager, the “bad cop” head of the family  to Katherine Jackson’s good cop. He shaped their lives and their music and made them into stars, something he aimed for himself. The early reports are that he died of Pancreatic Cancer. Pancreatic Cancer is an extremely painful way to go. It could not have been an easy path to the Promised Land.

If you’ve ever been to Gary, Indiana, you’ll understand the blue collar heartland that Michael and his brothers grew up in. Joe worked in the local foundry– a demanding, hard, hot and sweaty job with no path to the top and no opportunities for advancement– not for a Black man. Black brothers were the first to get laid off and the last to be picked for promotions. The crumbling housing and infrastructure of parts of Gary make clear where the  priorities for prosperity lay for the city. The Jackson’ home is still there, now fenced in with a monument in the front but behind it is a wood frame house no bigger than a 2 car garage, where 9 people crowded into 2 bedrooms with only one bathroom– a  total space  of  about 600 square feet.

Joe Jackson shouldered that responsibility of providing a home for 9 people and during his time off from work, he shouldered the responsibility of 7 children and took it seriously. Gary isn’t pretty now, and life is still rough in that neighborhood. But back then there was way too much temptation for boys growing up in the hood. A strict disciplinarian, Joe kept them in line by putting music (not gangs, not drugs, not crime) in the center of their world. There are plenty of stories told about the way Joe Jackson raised his sons– some of those stories from Michael himself. He was a harsh taskmaster by all accounts and he demanded complete allegiance to developing the Jackson 5 while there were plenty of distractions.  Katherine tempered his iron hand somewhat but in those days discipline was corporeal and severe. That is how many fathers kept their children, particularly Black teens, in line. Nihilism ruled in the poor Black neighborhoods and when nothing matters including life itself, anarchy can arise. Joe Jackson kept his boys out of the school to prison pipeline.  He also can claim that all of his children and even his grandchildren  are talented and have been successful in their own right– Janet Jackson, Rebee, LaToya, and  Michael’s brothers Tito, Jackie, Jermain, Marlon and Randy, Tito’s sons who performed as  T3 and Michael’s 3 kids– Prince, Paris and Bigi. The name “Jackson” is synonymous with success and with music. Joe’s legacy will be long and colorful.

If you want to know Joe’s values, take a listen and look at the early work of the Jackson 5. And take a closer look at Michael’s “Beat It” for those reflect the values he was brought up with.  Joe Jackson was a flawed human being with character shortcomings but he was a father who saved 7 children from lives of despair or worse. No matter what you may think of his methods, the outcome for his family could not have been predicted by the look of that tiny house  at 2300 Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana. It’s a cautionary tale yes, but a fairy tale as well. Every one of his children carry his DNA. They can’t be beloved figures without remembering where and who they came from.

Some will find it easy to love the legacy but not the man. If his Maker can cut Joe some slack and love his humanity despite the human, those who admired his sons can be as generous.  I hope the fans and readers will keep this in mind when Joe Jackson comes up in conversation or is the subject of a memorial. May his soul rest in peace.




Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *