Before Matthew Knowles, There Was Joe Jackson

Photo: Denise Truscello/WireImage.
Momagers like Kris Jenner and Yolanda Hadid are all the rage right now. But some of the most successful artists and athletes of all time were pushed to stardom by their controversial fathers. Richard Williams coached his daughters Venus and Serena into a level of athleticism that the world had never seen before in tennis. And then there is Matthew Knowles, who can take credit for grooming Beyoncé into the entertainment powerhouse she is. He supervised rehearsals, performances, vocal training and branding for his oldest daughter from the time she was a child member of the group Girl’s Tyme. Despite the tumultuous relationship between Matthew and Tina (then Knowles, now Lawson) that ultimately led to their divorce in 2011, his eye for talent was unmistakable. He not only taught Bey much of what she knows about the industry, but her younger sister Solange and Destiny’s Child bandmates (including Kelly Rowland) have also benefited from his guidance. Before there was a Matthew Knowles, however, there was Joe Jackson.
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Jackson, of course, was the ambitious patriarch of the Jackson family, and gave the world two of the biggest entertainers icons in history: Michael and Janet Jackson. He died early Wednesday morning at the age of 89 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Like Knowles, he is remembered as a controversial figure, whose extreme methods of discipline were considered by many (including his own children) to be abusive. He carried on a decades-long affair that resulted in the birth of his youngest daughter, Joh'Vonnie Jackson. But the musical and pop cultural legacies he helped shape are undeniable.
Living in the blue-collar Chicago suburb of Gary, Indiana, Joe Jackson and his wife, Katherine, had 10 children. In the 1960s, he put five of his oldest sons together — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and later Marlon and Michael Jackson — to form a group that would become the Jackson 5. He oversaw their rehearsals, entered them into talent shows, and eventually negotiated a deal for the Jackson 5 to sign with Motown Records. They would go on to sell 75 million records and host a TV variety show called The Jacksons, which also included their younger brother Randy and sisters Rebbie, LaToya, and Janet Jackson. Joe also facilitated Janet’s first-ever record deal and managed her through the production of her first two albums.
It goes without saying that Michael and Janet Jackson went on to become superstars. Both Michael and Janet went on the record to say that their father's harsh parenting and management style was both a source of trauma and the reason for their monumental success. Despite years of estrangement, Joe joined Janet at the 2015 BET Awards when she was accepted her Ultimate Icon Award. In 2002, he was awarded a proclamation in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the Best Entertainment Manager Of All Time, and was also inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame (his birth state) in 2011.
Despite a complicated family legacy, Joe Jackson helped birth some of the most innovative, influential, and iconic music of the past 50-plus years. He perfectly executed the model of family success that we’ve seen from other famous dynasties like the Knowles and the Kardashians. He will be missed by surviving family members, and through their success, his imprimateur will live on forever.
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