Joe Jackson is a singer-songwriter and musician from The Bronx, New York City. He rose to prominence during the late 1950s as part of his brothers’ group The Jackson 5. Joe became estranged from his family in 1982 and changed his name to Jack White later that year after he began playing music with other musicians under the moniker “The Thugs”.

Joe Jackson was born in 1941 and is an American musician, known for his work with the funk band The J.B.’s. After leaving The J.B.’s, he became a solo artist. He is also the father of Michael Jackson who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist.

Joe Jackson Biography, Songs, & Albums |

Beat Crazy In his 1999 memoir A Cure for Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage, Joe Jackson writes approvingly of George Gershwin as a musician who kept one foot in the popular realm and one in the classical realm of music. Like Gershwin, Jackson possesses a restless musical imagination that has found him straddling musical genres unapologetically, disinclined to pick one style and stick to it. Is he the Joe Jackson who emerged in 1979 as a new wave singer/songwriter derisively asking, “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” The reggae-influenced Joe Jackson of 1980’s Beat Crazy? The jump blues revivalist of 1981’s Jumpin’ Jive? The New York salsa-styled singer of 1982’s “Steppin’ Out”? The R&B/jazz-inflected Jackson of 1984’s Body & Soul? Or is he David Ian Jackson, L.R.A.M. (Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music), who composes and conducts instrumental albums of contemporary classical music such as 1987’s Will Power and 1999’s Grammy-winning Symphony No. 1? He is all of these and more.

On August 11, 1954, in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England, he was born David Ian Jackson. His parents met in Portsmouth, England, when his father was in the Navy and his mother was working at her family’s tavern. They first lived in Swadlincote, on the boundary of Staffordshire and Derbyshire, where his father grew up, but when Jackson was a year old, they went back to his mother’s birthplace, Portsmouth, and he grew up in Portsmouth and neighboring Gosport. Ronald Jackson, his father, worked as a plasterer. Jackson, who grew up in working-class poverty, suffered with asthma, which he was diagnosed with at the age of three and which caused him to have episodes well into his thirties. Because he was unable to participate in sports, he resorted to literature and, later, music. He started violin lessons at the age of 11 and went on to study timpani and oboe at school. When he was in his early teens, his parents bought him a used piano, and he started taking lessons, quickly determining that he wanted to be a composer when he grew up. His social context was more receptive of popular music than the classics, therefore he played percussion in a citywide student orchestra. Jackson established a trio after becoming interested in jazz and, at the age of 16, started playing piano in a bar, his first paid performance.

By the early ’70s, Jackson became a fan of progressive rock, notably by such British groups as Soft Machine. Meanwhile, in 1972, he passed an advanced “S” level exam in music that earned him a grant to study music, and he was accepted at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Rather than moving to the city, he spent his grant money on equipment and commuted several days a week to attend classes while continuing to live at home and play pop music locally. He switched from writing classical compositions to pop songs and joined an established band called the Misty Set, where he sang his first lead vocal on-stage. He moved to another established band called Edward Bear (not to be confused with the Canadian band of the same name); deciding that he resembled the title character on a television puppet show called Joe 90, his bandmates began calling him “Joe,” and it stuck. After six months, the two principals in Edward Bear decided to retire from music, and with their permission Jackson took over the name and brought in a couple of his friends, lead singer/guitarist Mark Andrews (later of Mark Andrews & the Gents) and bassist Graham Maby.

Jackson continued to attend the Royal Academy, where he studied composition, orchestration, and piano while majoring in percussion. He also occasionally played piano in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Jackson graduated from the academy after three years in 1975. By then, Edward Bear were forced to change their name to Edwin Bear because of the more successful Canadian band, and then became known as Arms & Legs. Arms & Legs were attracting more attention and acquired management, who in turn signed the band to MAM Records. In April 1976, MAM released the first Arms & Legs single, with Andrews’ “Janie” on the A-side and Jackson’s “She’ll Surprise You” on the flip. After subsequent singles failed to chart, Jackson quit the band in October 1976 to become the pianist and musical director at the Playboy Club in Portsmouth, determined to save enough money to record his own album and release it himself. In August 1977, he played his first gigs as the leader of the Joe Jackson Band, singing and playing keyboards, backed by Andrews (sitting in temporarily and soon replaced by Gary Sanford), Maby, and drummer Dave Houghton. At the same time, he quit the Playboy Club job to become pianist/musical director for a cabaret act, Koffee ‘n’ Kream, who were beginning a national tour in the wake of their triumph on the TV amateur show Opportunity Knocks.

Jackson toured with Koffee ‘n’ Kream from the fall of 1977 to the spring of 1978, and the money he made enabled him to move to London and continue recording his album in a Portsmouth studio. He began shopping demo tapes and was heard by American producer David Kershenbaum, who was scouting talent on behalf of A&M Records. He arranged for Jackson to be signed to A&M in August 1978, after which they immediately re-recorded Jackson’s album. It was completed quickly, and at the end of the month the Joe Jackson Band embarked on an extensive national tour. Despite his classical education and background playing many types of pop music in pubs and clubs, Jackson had become genuinely enamored of the punk/new wave movement of the late ’70s in England, especially the energy and simplicity of the music and the outspoken tone of the lyrics. Jackson had no trouble incorporating these elements into his own music, and if he was using the new wave label as a flag of convenience, the style nevertheless was a good fit for him.

Look Sharp! In October 1978, A&M released the first Joe Jackson single, “Is She Really Going Out with Him?,” a rhythmic ballad in which the singer ponders why “pretty women” are attracted to “gorillas” and worries about his own inadequacy. The record initially failed to chart, but Jackson and his band continued to tour the U.K. and began to attract press attention. Look Sharp!, his debut album, followed in January 1979, and in March, it broke into the charts, eventually peaking at the bottom of the Top 40. The same month, A&M released the album in the U.S., and it quickly charted, reaching the Top 20 after “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” was released as a single in May and became a Top 40 hit; in September, the LP was certified gold in the U.S. In the U.K., “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” was re-released in July and charted in August, making the Top 20. Jackson was nominated for a 1979 Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male, for the single.

I'm the Man Jackson was on the road almost constantly, but he found the time and motivation to write a follow-up to Look Sharp!, and I’m the Man, his second album, was published in October 1979. That was a little too soon for the US market, where Look Sharp! had not yet finished its run, and although the album charted in the Top 40, it was a sales failure, with the song “It’s Different for Girls” failing to chart on the Hot 100. In the United Kingdom, however, I’m the Man entered the Top 20 while “It’s Different for Girls” reached the Top Five. Jackson, like other punk/new wave artists, incorporated reggae rhythms on occasion, most notably on Look Sharp”Fools !’s in Love” and I’m the Man’s “Geraldine and John.” He released an EP in the United Kingdom in May, which included a rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s reggae classic “The Harder They Come.” The CD was titled the Joe Jackson Band in honor of his band’s contribution to his sound.

Beat Crazy, which was also ascribed to the Joe Jackson Band and was released in October 1980, finds him delving even further into his reggae and ska inspirations. It was a commercial flop, reaching in the 40s in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and its singles failed to chart. The Joe Jackson Band did a month-long tour in the United Kingdom from October to November, followed by a month in Europe from November to December, but no dates in the United States were scheduled. The band broke up after the European gigs, according to Jackson, because Houghton no longer wanted to tour. Sanford went on to work as a studio musician, but Maby remained with Jackson.

Jackson withdrew to his family home in terrible health after more than two years of nonstop traveling, where he immersed himself in the jump blues of ’40s singer Louis Jordan. He put together a new band in the style of Jordan’s Tympany 5, with three horn players (Pete Thomas on alto saxophone, Raul Oliveria on trumpet, and David Bitelli on tenor saxophone and clarinet), pianist Nick Weldon and drummer Larry Tolfree, as well as Maby and Jackson himself, who played vibes and sang. The band performed a selection of swing and jump blues tunes, and the resultant album, Jumpin’ Jive, was a Top 20 smash in the United Kingdom in 1981. The album failed to crack the Top 50 in the United States, despite the fact that it foreshadowed the late-’90s neo-swing wave.

Night and Day Over the following year, Jackson underwent significant personal changes. He and his wife split, and he relocated to New York City, where he started to experiment with new musical forms, including salsa and Gershwin and Porter’s traditional songwriting techniques. Night and Day, Jackson’s first album to place his piano playing at the center of his songs, was released in June 1982. Jackson traded in new wave rock for a catchy pop-jazz-salsa-dance hybrid, and “Steppin’ Out” became a multi-format hit, first receiving airplay on album-oriented rock radio before spreading to the pop and adult contemporary charts, eventually charting in the Top Ten and earning Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. The album charted in the Top Ten and was certified gold, yielding a second Top 20 song in “Breaking Us in Two.”

Mike's Murder In May 1983, Jackson wrapped up his Night and Day tour. Mike’s Murder, a film written and directed by James Bridges and starring Debra Winger, had requested him to contribute a song. Jackson ended up creating a couple songs and a few instrumental pieces for the film’s soundtrack album, which was released in September. Unfortunately, owing to a disagreement between Bridges and the company that had sponsored the picture, it would not premiere until March 1984, by which time it had a John Barry soundtrack and just a little amount of Jackson’s music left. The film was a flop at the box office, but the soundtrack CD made it into the Top 100 and yielded a hit song in Michael Jackson’s “Memphis,” while “Breakdown” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

Big World Jackson returned in March 1984 with Body & Soul, a follow-up to Night and Day in style, but with a bit more of an R&B tilt, and it was another commercial success, reaching the Top 20 and spawning a Top 20 single in “You Can’t Get What You Want (‘Til You Know What You Want).” After the four-month Body & Soul world tour concluded in July 1984, Jackson retreated; he later wrote that the tour had been “the hardest I ever did; it came too soon after the last one, and by the end of it I was so burned out I swore I’d never tour again.” He re-emerged after 18 months in January 1986 for a series of live recording sessions at the Roundabout Theatre in New York. Audiences were invited to attend, but instructed to hold their applause as the performances were cut direct to two-track tape. The resulting album, Big World, released in March 1986, had a one-hour running time, making it an ideal length for the new CD format, though it had to be pressed on two LPs with the fourth side left blank. Jackson undertook another extensive tour lasting eight months, and the album spent six months in the charts, but only peaked in the Top 40.

Jackson was commissioned to produce a 20-minute soundtrack for Shijin No Ie (House of the Poet) in the winter of 1985, and the orchestral work was recorded with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. He changed it to “Symphony in One Movement” and added a few additional instrumental pieces for his second album, Will Power, released in 1987, which was his first to represent his classical education. Jackson’s growing ambition to incorporate classical elements into his popular work and to release “serious” pieces tended to place him in a no-land, man’s where rock reviewers preferred that he remain to pop-based music and classical critics simply disregarded him.

Live 1980/86 While staying off the road, Jackson had two albums released in 1988. In May, he issued the double-disc set Live 1980/86, which reached the Top 100. In August came his swing-styled soundtrack to the Francis Ford Coppola film Tucker: The Man and His Dream; the album earned a Grammy nomination for Best Album of Original Instrumental Background Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV. His next LP, released in April 1989, was Blaze of Glory, another modest seller that peaked only in the Top 100 despite radio play for the single “Nineteen Forever.” Jackson, who felt the album was one of his best efforts and toured extensively to support it, was disappointed with both the commercial reaction and his record company’s lack of support. He parted ways with A&M, which promptly released the 1990 compilation Steppin’ Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson, a Top Ten hit in the U.K.

Laughter & Lust Jackson wrote his third movie score for 1991’s Queens Logic; no soundtrack album was issued. Signing to Virgin Records, he released his next album, Laughter & Lust, in April 1991. Here, he expressed some of his frustration with the record business in the appropriately catchy, ’60s-styled “Hit Single,” while the socially conscious “Obvious Song” and a percussion-filled cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” attracted radio attention. Another world tour stretched from May to September, after which Jackson was not heard from on record for three years. In the interim, he wrote music for two movies, the interactive film I’m Your Man (1992) and the feature Three of Hearts (1993), neither of which produced soundtrack albums featuring his music. He reappeared in record stores in October 1994 with Night Music, a low-key album that attempted to fuse his pop and classical styles, including instrumentals and guest vocals by Máire Brennan of Clannad. Jackson next left Virgin and signed to Sony Classical, a label more accepting of his musical ambitions. In September 1997, Sony released Heaven & Hell, a song cycle depicting the seven deadly sins, billed to Joe Jackson & Friends; the friends included folk-pop vocalists Jane Siberry and Suzanne Vega, and opera singer Dawn Upshaw. The album reached number three in Billboard’s Classical Crossover chart, and a tour ran from November to April 1998.

In the late 1990s, Jackson worked on two projects, both of which were released in October 1999. His Symphony No. 1, which was performed by a lineup of jazz and rock musicians, including guitarist Steve Vai and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, and received the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album in 2000, was released by Sony Classical. Jackson’s book, A Cure for Gravity: A Musical Pilgrimage, was published by Public Affairs, in which he talked about his love of music and described his life from infancy until his emergence as a public figure in the late 1970s. “So I’m still composing music, no longer a pop star — if I ever truly was — but simply a composer, which is what I intended to be in the first place,” he wrote, bringing his narrative up to date.

Summer in the City: Live in New York Having released only semi-classical works on his prior three recordings, Jackson was thought to have abandoned pop/rock music completely, but the early years of the 21st century found him in a flurry of activity, much of it returning him to the pop realm. In June 2000, Sony Classical issued Summer in the City: Live in New York, an album drawn from an August 1999 concert that featured him playing piano and singing, backed only by Maby and drummer Gary Burke, performing some of his old songs along with covers of tunes by the Lovin’ Spoonful, Duke Ellington, and the Beatles. Four months later came Night and Day II, a new set of songs in the spirit of his most popular recording. Touring to promote the album in Europe and North America from November to April 2001, Jackson recorded the concert CD Two Rainy Nights: Live in Seattle & Portland, released in January 2002 on his own Great Big Island label. (The album was reissued by Koch in 2004.)

Volume 4 Later in 2002, Jackson rejoined with the original members of the Joe Jackson Band, Graham Maby, Gary Sanford, and Dave Houghton, to record Volume 4, which was released in March 2003 by Restless/Rykodisc. They then proceeded on a global tour that lasted until September 2003 and culminated in the release of the live album Afterlife in March 2004. Meanwhile, his performance of “Steppin’ Out” was being used in a television ad for Lincoln Mercury vehicles, and he was composing the soundtrack for the 2005 film The Greatest Game Ever Played. In 2008, Jackson released Rain, which was followed by Live Music: Europe 2010, which was recorded live in Europe during his Joe Jackson Trio tour with Dave Houghton and Graham Maby in 2010.

The Duke Jackson released The Duke, a Duke Ellington tribute CD, in 2012. Jackson, a long-time admirer of the legendary jazz pianist and bandleader, didn’t want his tribute to be solemn, so he infused these timeless compositions with a variety of unexpected rhythms, arrangements, and musical pairings, including a duet with punk icon Iggy Pop on “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” In 2015, Jackson embarked on yet another big endeavor, recording Fast Forward in four places with four different bands of musicians, each representing a distinct facet of the songwriter’s creative personality. In 2017, as part of Record Store Day, Jackson released the track “Fools in Love,” which was accompanied with “Music to Watch Girls By,” which were previously unheard live recordings from 2010 with his group. Joe Jackson toured the United States in mid-2018 with his band, which included guitarist Teddy Kumpel, bassist Graham Maby, and drummer Doug Yowell. After the tour’s last concert in Boise, Idaho, Jackson and his band went straight to Boise’s Tonic Room Recording Studio to start production on their new record while they were still fresh from their regular gigs. Fool, the album that resulted, was released in January 2019.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Joe Jacksons drummer?

A: Joe Jackson is the drummer for The Rolling Stones.

Is the musician Joe Jackson still alive?

A: Joe Jackson is still alive and well.

What band did Joe Jackson play in?

A: Joe Jackson is a British musician who primarily plays rock and roll, but also has played jazz for many years. He was born on September 27th in 1941

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