Jackson Family Patriarch Decries Media Image

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GARY, Ind.(NNPA) – The father of the “King of Pop” believes his legacy in shepherding the rise of the world’s most successful music family is being distorted, maligned in a concerted effort to rewrite history.

Instead of focusing on his success as a father, businessman or philanthropist, Joseph “Joe” Jackson says the U.S. media is on a campaign to discredit him and distort the impact a “Black family” from Gary, Indiana, has had on world (entertainment) history. In an exclusive interview with the Crusader Newspaper Group, Jackson reflected on his accomplishments and why he is involved in a project to bring a Jackson Museum to the city of Gary, Ind., where the family’s legacy began. He said he and his wife, Katherine, are adamant about preserving the true history of their family which will allow popular, negative commentaries, such as Martin Bashir’s 2003 infamous televised documentary featuring Michael Jackson, to serve as an official record.

“The real story has never been told in a way that truly reflects what we accomplished as a family—a Black family in America,” said Jackson, speaking from his home in Las Vegas.

“This (museum) can really be something great if people get behind it. I have 28 grandchildren now and I want them to know their history and the sacrifices we made to have what we have today.”

Similar to Graceland, which hails the life of rock and roll legend Elvis Presley, the Jackson Museum will house memorabilia, rare family footage from around the world and serve as the official archive of the legacy of the entire Jackson family, including sibling pop icons Michael and Janet.

In addition, the facility will also house a proposed Jackson Radio Network which is currently in consideration by XM Satellite Radio based in Washington, D.C. The 24-hour channel will play all Jackson music and feature exclusive interviews with family members.

Both projects are conceived and spearheaded by Glenn Cosby and Mel DeVonne, two Chicago-based radio personalities having nationally aired on over 70 stations through the ABC Radio Networks.

Abe Thompson, president and owner of WUBU-FM, in South Bend, Ind., also involved in the project is as an advisor on Oprah Winfrey’s $54 million channel XM Radio.

Cosby, a former national program director for ABC explained, “There is no other family in American history that has contributed to global music history like the Jacksons and something of this magnitude is long over due,” he said. “This museum will not only preserve their legacy but serve as a beacon of inspiration to show that racism, poverty and barriers cannot deprive you of success.”

According to Jackson’s business partner, Rick Neville, the proposed museum complex will include a state-of-the art auditorium, multi-media rooms, classrooms, high-tech exhibits, audio tours and a souvenir shop. It may also house the actual Jackson home, which sits at 2300 Jackson Street.

Though neither man would discuss the financial details of the project, both claim the proposal is on a fast track though they are securing investors.

Neville helps manage Chi City Entertainment, a Chicago-based management company and record label created by Jackson.“This project will bring millions of dollars and several jobs into Gary’s economy,” Neville said. “Graceland has netted over $100 million to celebrate just one artist; the Jacksons have nine — two of which are the biggest selling acts in music history. Gary can become a global tourist destination.

“This is one way for the Jacksons to pay tribute to the city where it all started, as well as preserve their history and tell their own story,” he explained.

The team is banking on the global appeal of the family and the fact that combined, the family has sold over 300 million records. Solo artist Jermaine has had 12 Top 40 albums.

Michael, “the King of Pop,” according to Cosby, has as a solo artist generated over a billion dollars in revenue for the recording industry; and in 2002 the singer was named “Artist of the Century.” In London at the 2006 World Music Awards he was awarded the “Diamond Award” given to artists who’ve sold over 100 million records.

Janet, on the other hand, remains the only artist in Billboard history to hit #1 on the Dance, Pop, Rock, Rap, R&B, Adult Contemporary and Top 40 charts at the same time. In 2004, she was ranked as the ninth most successful recording artist in the history of Rock & Roll, and remains the only member of the Jackson family nominated for an Oscar for her song, Again, featured in the film Poetic Justice, which co-starred with the late Tupac Shakur.

The family is also noted for their philanthropic work concerning such issues as AIDS, world hunger, child abuse and illiteracy.

“We Are the World,” an activist movement and song conceived by Michael, with the help of super-producer Quincy Jones and R&B singer/songwriter Lionel Richie, netted over $63 million for famine relief in Ethiopia.

Jackson says his passion for the project is deeply personal, saying the media has distorted not only his children’s accomplishments but also his legacy — routinely portraying him as an overbearing stage father who viciously beat his children into fame. Ironically, the negative image began when Michael told a reporter he didn’t have a childhood and that he was routinely beaten by his father.

“Yeah, I whipped my kids and back then there was nothing wrong with that,” he said. “Now a’ days people want to call the police on you. The people complaining about what I did got whippings from their parents too.”

He said he wanted his sons to see him as a breadwinner but also as a disciplinarian so that when they became fathers they would be good fathers to their children. “Back then a lot of guys couldn’t handle it,” he remarked. “They’d leave their kids or put everybody on welfare and just give up. That didn’t happen to us.

“That is what is wrong with many of the young people today,” he continued.

“They don’t have strong fathers who understand that you have to correct their kids before things get out of control—-that was how I was raised and how a whole lot of people were raised—-but isn’t that what fathers do?”

Born Joseph Walter Jackson in 1929 in Fountain Hill, Arkansas, to Crystal Lee (King) and Samuel Jackson, as the eldest of four children, he grew up watching his grandfather make medicines from various herbs.

After his parents split, the budding boxer and musician moved to the Midwest where he worked various manual labor jobs before marrying the beautiful Katherine Scruse in Chicago in 1949.

Seeking opportunities denied Blacks in the 1950s, Jackson moved his growing family to Gary to pursue higher-paying work at the local steel industry.

While working at Inland Steel as a crane operator Jackson eventually took a second job at General American as a welder, all the while continuing to nurture his interest in music as a guitar player with the Falcons.

“They used to tease me on the job, saying we were having so many kids, that folks had to sleep in shifts around my house,” he said laughing. “I wasn’t worried so much about all those kids—-but more so about how I was going to put food on the table. My family had to eat, so I worked two jobs. I did what a man is supposed to do.”

Though the story is fairly well known, Jackson discovered his sons had taken an interest in music and soon thereafter he began developing their skills as musicians and live performers, creating an all-male youth singing group comprised of brothers Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine, along with two cousins. Later the two cousins were replaced by younger brothers Marlon and 8-year-old Michael. Under Mr. Jackson’s hands-on guidance the group began performing at small, Black-owned venues across the country winning several talent shows. While he and the boys traveled the country in his old Volkswagen, his wife created a loving home and raised the younger children.

Jackson recalls that shortly after the historical election of Richard Hatcher as Gary’s first African-American mayor in 1969, the group received a big break and was asked to perform at the mayor’s benefit concert to raise money for scholarships. It was then that the group known on the ‘chitlin’ circuit’ as the “Jackson 5” was introduced to then Motown recording artist Gladys Knight who encouraged Jackson to meet music legend and Motown founder Berry Gordy. Many accounts falsely credit superstar Diana Ross with discovering the group.

“The boys didn’t meet Diana Ross until after they had already signed with Motown,” Jackson said. “I was good friends with singer Bobby Taylor and he introduced us to Gladys right there in Gary. Later, when we were supposed to be performing at a show in New York I made a pit stop in Detroit and we went up to see Gordy and that’s how they got signed.”

Hatcher confirms the story, “It was Gilroy Stadium. Stevie Wonder was there, we had a lot of local acts, including the Jackson 5. Gladys made the introduction and the rest is history,” he said. “They were just a local group with a whole lot of talent and a whole lot of potential. I placed Gary on the map nationally and they went on to put our city on the map globally.”

The Jackson Five became one of the label’s largest acts until they left in dispute about royalties and creative differences in 1975. Later youngest son, Randy, and daughters, Rebbie, LaToya and Janet also launched careers — the latter of which is the biggest selling female pop artist in music history.

Currently Janet is starring in the nation’s number one film, Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married.” In just a week of release the film has earned nearly $30 million.

“In this business, you can’t let other people take over your kids,” Jackson said.

“This is a brutal business and it was my role to protect them and make sure they weren’t being exploited. I don’t care what people think about it, I did the right thing.”

Jackson also told the Crusader that he was grateful to the fans who have stuck by his family during controversies, including two sexual molestation trials against Michael, of which he was acquitted, and the national uproar caused by Janet when her breast was exposed during a live telecast of the Super Bowl. The personal lives of other family members have also been the fodder of tabloid media.

“The fans have stuck with us and I really appreciate that,” Jackson remarked. “They can see through the lies, they know the truth. I got to thank (the fans) all the time. See, people try to break us down, but my family is strong. We stick together like families should.”

Jackson says his secret to success is developing a roadmap and working it religiously to fruition. “You must have a clear idea of what it is you want to accomplish and then you go about making it happen,” he explained.

“I wanted my children to be superstars and that’s what they became. My wife and I saw our children’s potential and we developed that. Show business isn’t the only thing they could have been successful at.

“The reason I chose show business is because I had rehearsed my boys and guided them to be successful in it,” he continued. “In order to do what I did you do have to have 100 percent control. If you don’t have control in this industry it’s too hard to deal with.”

Jackson admits that he is not sure his family would have attained such fame if he were launching them in today’s climate of media consolidation, where a handful corporations control 95 percent of the entertainment industry and media.

“Today is so different than when we started, but I know they would have made it eventually—but it would have been hard,” he said.

At age 78 the Jackson patriarch does not seem to be retiring or slowing down soon. He is currently working on several projects, including the launch of a clothing line, a Hip Hop reality TV show and the launch of new artists through his record company, Chi City Entertainment. Jackson also said a movie and autobiography are also in the works. Though he enjoys concentrating on his business endeavors every once in a while he will take in a movie.

“Did you see Janet’s new movie, boy is she good in that thing,” he asked, ever the promoter, ever the proud father. “Now’s not the time to settle down, there’s too much work to be done.”

Source: Amsterdam News

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