Sunday, February 28, 2021
The Jackson Family
By Cheryl Tillman Lee (Family Editor)
Published July 2, 2009

The family group made music history when their first four singles shot to Number one in 1970


Michael Jackson was one of the most gifted, and most of all popular recording artists of all time. Dominating the charts backed by elaborate arrangements with no shortage of talent, aimed at audiences throughout the country.


Michael displayed a talent for music and dance from an extremely young age. Michael Joseph Jackson was born August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana, the son of steelworker Joseph Walter “Joe” Jackson and Katherine Esther Scruse. He was the seventh of nine children. His siblings: Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Randy and Janet.

Michael began his musical career at age five as the lead singer of the Jackson 5, who formed in 1964. Michael was six years old, but his natural gift for singing, dancing and entertaining belied his youth. In the early years, the Jackson 5, Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, Marton and lead singer Michael played local clubs and bars in Gary Indiana.

The Jackson 5 were the first act in recorded history to have their first four major label singles “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There,” reach the top of the American charts. Several singles later among them were “Mama’s Pearl,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” and “Dancing Machine,” and were Top 5 pop hits and number-one hits on the R&B singles chart.

Jackson bought a large ranch in California; he dubbed Neverland, and filled it with amusement park rides, which he envisioned as a land of fun.

Reflecting back in 1994, I had the pleasure of going to the Neverland Ranch along with a few bus loads of anxious kids, and being assigned to chaperone a 12 year old, making sure I knew where she was at all times. Those kids had the time of their lives enjoying all the festivities that the ranch provided. Some of them got sick from eating too much popcorn and candy.

The Neverland staff was very meticulous in how they brought in the media. The property had ferris wheels, a merry-go-round, zipper, spider, sea dragon, wave swinger, super slide, dragon wagon, kiddle roller coaster, bumper cars, a movie theater, and animals, including a pet chimpanzee, Bubbles. Jackson had many different artifacts of Disneyland, magnificent wooden ships, and statutes. He was interested in so many things.


The Neverland ranch operated as Jackson’s private amusement park and home when the facility opened 1988. Neverland was the fantasy island in the story of Peter Pan where children never grew up. The ranch was Michael’s permanent residence until 2005.

Being one of the most popular groups of the era, the Jackson 5 sold over 100 million records worldwide and were later known as The Jacksons, an all American popular music group, whose repertoire combined R&B, soul, funk and later disco.

Joseph Jackson served as manager to: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Michael and Randy, who replaced Jermaine in 1975. Joseph Jackson was a still mill employee who often performed in an R&B band called “The Falcons,” with his brother Luther.

Katherine was born in Barbour County, Alabama. She was the daughter of Martha Mattie Upshaw and Prince Albert Screws. Katherine’s father later changed his surname to “Scruse,” and her surnamed was changed to Katherine Esther Scruse when she was four. She contacted polio as a child and eventually made a full recovery from the disease. At four, her family moved to East Chicago, Indiana.

Katherine served as the group’s designer during the early years, often making suits for her five eldest sons to wear during their lengthy rides to theaters throughout the mid-to-late 1960s.

In 1968, after the Jackson 5 signed with Motown Records. Katherine’s role was more limited. Throughout the Jackson 5’s rise to fame, and later the solo careers of Michael and Janet, she was often described as a devoted mother and wife to her family. In 1984, she joined her husband in helping to create their sons’ Victory Tour. In 1985, Essence magazine named her “Mother of the Year.”

In May 1994, Michael married singer-songwriter Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley. They first met in 1975 during one of Jackson’s family engagements at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and were reconnected through a mutual friend in early 1993. They stayed in contact. Jackson proposed to Lisa Marie towards the fall of 1993. They married in the Dominican Republic in secrecy. Jackson and Presley divorced less than two years later, remaining friendly.

In 1995, Jackson attempted to put the focus back on his music. In late 1996, Jackson married Debbie Rowe, and over the next two years, the couple had two children, son Prince Michael Jackson Jr. and daughter Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Jackson and Rowe divorced in late 1999. Jackson has a third child named Prince Michael Jackson II (aka Blanket).

In 2001, Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and later held a massive concert at Madison Square Garden celebrating the 30th anniversary of his first solo record. Among many other celebrity guests, the show featured the first on-stage reunion of the Jacksons since the Victory tour.

Jackson’s success resulted in his being dubbed the “King of Pop,” a nickname conceived by actress and friend Elizabeth Taylor when she presented Jackson with an “Artist of the Decade,” award in 1989, proclaiming him “the true king of pop, rock and soul.”

I also had the pleasure of seeing Michael Jackson perform at the Shrine Auditorium in the early 90s, while working as Entertainment Assistant for the L.A. Sentinel’s Entertainment Editor, Gertrude Gipson, I remember meeting Michael Jackson’s mother who sat right in front of me.

Michael Jackson helped so many people and was involved in a number of charitable events. He joined Luciano Pavarotti for a benefit concert in Modena, Italy.

The show was in support of the non-profit organization Warchild, and raised a million dollars for the refugees of Kosovo, as well as additional funds for the children of Guatemala. Later, Jackson organized a set of “Michael Jackson & Friends” benefit concerts in Germany and Korea.

He is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most charitable pop star in history.


Categories: News (Family)

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