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Joe Jackson, patriarch of musical Jackson family dies

‘Papa Joe," was known for his stern and unflinching presence

6/27/2018, 11:12 a.m.
Joseph Jackson, the strong, fearsome patriarch of the musical Jackson family, has died, according to a person close to the ...
Joe Jackson, the patriarch of the musical Jackson family has died. He was 89.

(AP) -- Joseph Jackson, the strong, fearsome patriarch of the musical Jackson family, has died, according to a person close to the family. He was 89.

Jackson was a guitarist who put his own musical ambitions aside to work in the steel mills to support his wife and nine children in Gary, Indiana. But he far surpassed his own dreams through his children, particularly his exceptionally gifted seventh child, Michael. Fronted by the then-pint-sized wonder and brothers Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Jackie, the Jackson 5 was an instant sensation in 1969 and became the first phase of superstardom for the Jackson family. Over the following decades, millions would listen to both group and solo recordings by the Jackson 5 (who later became known as The Jacksons) and Michael would become one of the most popular entertainers in history.

"We are deeply saddened by Mr. Jackson's passing and extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Katherine Jackson and the family. Joe was a strong man who acknowledged his own imperfections and heroically delivered his sons and daughters from the steel mills of Gary, Indiana to worldwide pop superstardom.

Michael Jackson's estate released a statement mourning the death.

"We are deeply saddened by Mr. Jackson's passing and extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Katherine Jackson and the family. Joe was a strong man who acknowledged his own imperfections and heroically delivered his sons and daughters from the steel mills of Gary, Indiana to worldwide pop superstardom," said John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the estate.

"Papa Joe," as he would become known, ruled through his stern, intimidating and unflinching presence, which became so indelible it was part of black popular culture, even referenced in song and on TV.

"This is bad, real bad Michael Jackson, Now I'm mad, real mad Joe Jackson," Kanye West rhymed in Keri Hilson's 2009 hit, "Knock You Down."

Michael and other siblings would allege physical abuse at their father's hands.

"We'd perform for him and he'd critique us. If you messed up, you got hit, sometimes with a belt, sometimes with a switch. My father was real strict with us -- real strict," Michael Jackson wrote in his 1985 autobiography "Moonwalk."

LaToya Jackson would go as far as to accuse him of sexual abuse in the early 1990s, when she was estranged from her entire family, but she later recanted, saying her former husband had coerced her to make such claims. She and her father later reconciled.

By the time they were adults, most of the Jackson siblings had dismissed him as their manager; Michael and Joseph's relationship was famously fractured; Michael Jackson revered his mother Katherine but kept his distance from Joseph.

However, during some of his son's most difficult times, including his 2004 molestation trial, Joseph was by his side, and Michael acknowledged their complicated relationship in a 2001 speech about healthy relationships between parents and their children:

"I have begun to see that even my father's harshness was a kind of love, an imperfect love, to be sure, but love nonetheless. He pushed me because he loved me. Because he wanted no man ever to look down at his offspring," he said. "And now with time, rather than bitterness, I feel blessing. In the place of anger, I have found absolution. And in the place of revenge I have found reconciliation. And my initial fury has slowly given way to forgiveness."