With all the music, the dance moves, the rumors, and the feuds, the Jackson family hardly needs any introduction. But with Michael understandably stealing the thunder, the other Jackson kids — Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Randy, and Janet — have fallen a little bit under the radar. Originally from Gary, Indiana, the Jackson siblings have all made an impact on the entertainment industry. Some, however, have seen more fame than others.
Their music wasn’t the only thing that kept the family in the headlines. In fact, much of the time, it was the drama that occurred behind the scenes, within the family unit. Sibling rivalry? For sure. Family secrets? Uh, huh.
This is everything you need to know about the Jackson family. And, on the way, you can check out what the remaining members of the fam are up to today…
It All Started with Joe
Joseph Walter Jackson, aka Joe Jackson, was the family patriarch. As a young man, he wanted to be a professional boxer. He joined the Golden Gloves boxing club in Chicago and even did pretty well for himself, that is until he met a young woman named Katherine Scruse. After Katherine came into his life, his priorities changed.
The thing is, Joe was already married by the time he met Katherine. So, he quickly annulled his first marriage to be with his then-17-year-old new girlfriend. By 1949, they were married and moved to Gary, Indiana. Their first child, Rebbie, came six months later. In the end, Joe gave up his dream of boxing in order to support his family. To make a living, he worked as a full-time crane operator for US Steel.
The matriarch of the family, Katherine, whose birth name was Kattie, contracted polio when she was only two years old. As a result, she developed a life-long limp. The Scruse family moved from Alabama to Indiana when she was four years old. Her father’s name was Prince Albert, which came full circle when Michael chose to name his son Michael Jackson Jr., aka Prince Michael.
Perhaps because of her childhood illness, Katherine eventually came to be obsessed with cleanliness. She would rub rubbing alcohol on her children. Mama Jackson also gave them hot potatoes to put in their pockets in the winter to keep them warm. (But hey, to each her own, right?)
From a Failed Attempt to a Golden Opportunity
Okay, so boxing wasn’t going to work out for Joe, but he tried to grasp at another dream during the early years of his marriage to Katherine. He formed a blues band with his brother Luther called The Falcons. Joe played the guitar. After a few years, he became frustrated with the fact that his band wasn’t getting their big break.
It wasn’t even gaining any notoriety at all. And so, they called it a day. Then, one night, Joe saw a golden opportunity when he witnessed his son Tito playing his guitar with his brothers Jackie and Jermaine. It was at that moment that Joe discovered that his sons had some real musical talent. Some might even say he had dollar signs in his eyes.
Ripples and Waves, Plus Michael
With the realization that perhaps musical talent skipped a generation and had been gifted to his three sons, the boys started playing gigs around town together. Before long, two of their cousins joined the group. Later, they were replaced by Marlon and Michael. Michael, as we know, was only five years old at the time.
It didn’t take long for Michael to steal the show as he proved to be the most dynamic performer with his voice and his moves. He quickly took over as the family group’s lead singer, resulting in Jermaine being cast into the background. At first, the group was called Ripples & Waves Plus, Michael. It’s a good thing they changed it to what clearly ended up sticking: The Jackson 5.
The Start of Jacksonmania
There’s a widespread rumor that Diana Ross was the one who discovered The Jackson 5 in their early years. But the truth is that it was the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight, who discovered them. After she met the group, she contacted Motown Records. They were then invited to audition for Motown executive Barry Gordy.
Gordy, of course, was blown away. He immediately signed The Jackson 5 in 1969. As soon as they had a record deal, their careers soared. Joe took on the role as their manager. During their first year with Motown, they released five No. 1 hits, setting a world record for selling 10 million records in 10 months. It was the start of Jacksonmania.
Keeping the Faith
Something not everyone knows about the Jacksons is that Katherine converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith in 1963. It was after meeting someone who was spreading the Jehovah’s Witness message in the way we all tend to experience: by a door-to-door proselytizer. She was so inspired that she converted and started raising her children in the faith.
She even encouraged young La Toya and Michael to preach the Jehovah’s message in their neighborhood. In fact, once The Jackson 5 gained notoriety, Michael would still preach door-to-door, but he would disguise himself with fake mustaches or hats in order to remain incognito. Michael continued to follow the faith up until the music video for Thriller came out. As it turns out, it didn’t thrill the church as much as it did the fans.
Sorry Mrs. Jackson
One of the many Jackson scandals involved a report that revealed that Joe had had many affairs and mistresses over the years. Yet, it was only after he had a child with another woman that Katherine spoke publicly about it, denouncing him in the process. Joe maintained a 25-year affair with a woman named Cheryl Terrell, whom he met at a Los Angeles police department Christmas party in the ‘70s.
Joe was 20 years older than Terrell. They had a daughter named Joh’Vonnie Jackson. (The New York Post revealed that he even gave himself a nickname for his tendency to pick up younger women: the Hawk.) He set up Terrell and their daughter in a house less than five miles away from his family home in California. He visited his second family almost daily. Katherine claimed she filed for divorce twice, but she withdrew both times. Joe and Katherine stayed married, probably due to her strong faith, but they were estranged during the latter end of Joe’s life.
Making an Epic Change
In 1976, after The Jackson 5’s huge success, they decided to leave Motown Records for a new label: Epic Records. Epic promised them better promotion and the ability to sell whole albums rather than just singles. Jermaine, though, decided to hang around with Motown and launch his own solo career. Randy replaced him in the group, and they renamed themselves The Jacksons. They went on to release five more albums.
As for Jermaine, who was involved with Berry Gordy’s daughter, Hazel (they have three children together: Jermaine Jr., Autumn, and Jaimy), he started making feuding singles, like Word to the Badd, which was meant to lash out at Michael, who allegedly convinced producers to focus on his album more than Jermaine’s.
Marlon Jackson Went in Another Direction
Marlon was very young when the family group was formed, and so when he was old enough to take the stage, he was brought in as a percussionist. He toured with the group from 1970 to 1984, throughout the name and label changes. Following the group’s eventual breakup, Marlon released the solo album Baby Tonight in 1987.
He then made only minor contributions to some of his family members’ solo albums. Marlon later left the music industry, stepping out of the spotlight completely. He began running an entertainment company called the Major Broadcasting Corporation, which was later known as the Black Family Channel (until it was sold in 2007). He also became an actor and worked on numerous B-list projects, starring in Student Confidential (1987) and Cronies (2015). He’s also a real estate agent.
‘Till Death Do Them Part
Only two of all the Jackson siblings have never gotten divorced through all of the years and entertainment industry drama. Marlon married Carol Parker when he was just 18, and, against all odds, the couple has been together ever since, with their three children. Then there’s Rebbie, the eldest Jackson, who also married her childhood sweetheart, Nathaniel Brown. They, too, have three children. Brown died in 2013 from cancer.
Speaking of Rebbie (born Maureen Reillette), she may be one of the unsung members of the family. Like her siblings, she managed to make an interesting recording career for herself. But unlike the others, she didn’t pursue music professionally when she was a kid. Rather, she joined her brothers and sisters on the Las Vegas stage in the mid-‘70s, when she was already 24 years old.
Rebbie Went Solo
Rebbie, like Marlon, also decided to start a career outside the family. After performing in Las Vegas and appearing on the show The Jacksons (1976-77), Rebbie wanted to act. Despite that dream, she was convinced to continue on in the music industry. She worked as a background singer for some legendary artists, including Lou Rawls and Chaka Khan.
Rebbie released four albums of her own to moderate success. Her debut album, called Centipede, came out in 1984. After her album R U Tuff Enuff, she stepped away from making music for nearly a decade. The fact that she was married and had children was something that became a problem for her father who kept urging her to continue pursuing her career.
Janet Caught the Bug
When Janet was young and watched her brothers form The Jackson 5, she initially didn’t want to follow in their footsteps. The truth is she was interested in becoming a jockey or a lawyer. But another truth is that she caught the performance bug once she got her first chance to step on stage performing with her brothers in Las Vegas at the MGM Casino.
At that moment, she fell in love with dancing and singing, and the rest is history, as they say. Janet, as we know, grew to be one of the more successful Jacksons, and her career has spanned decades. Speaking of Janet, we can thank her for YouTube. Here’s why…
Cutting the Family Off
Despite the Jacksons’ musical success, the debts started to pile up as the years went on. In time, the family was forced to rely heavily on Michael and Janet. They were, after all, bringing in the most money as their careers just kept on shining. The thing is, Michael and Janet, cut off their cash flow to their siblings and parents in 2003. Why? It’s not known.
Michael went so far as to take his father and siblings out of his will. When he died in 2009, his estate was put into a trust fund for his kids and Katherine, who was put down as their legal guardian. The rest of the money went to charity. Joe wasn’t a happy camper, and so he filed a petition for $15,000 per month for living expenses. However, he withdrew the petition a year later, for unknown reasons.
Janet Superbowl XXXVIII halftime show
I doubt there’s anyone alive that hasn’t heard of the notorious incident that occurred at the 2004 Superbowl XXXVIII halftime show. Just in case you weren’t around or have been living under a rock, Janet was on stage with Justin Timberlake when he accidentally (“accidentally” has been up for debate) ripped off her bra, exposing her to millions watching at home.
The infamous “wardrobe malfunction” ended up getting Janet banned from the Grammy Awards that same year. Interestingly, though, Justin wasn’t. Janet’s music was also blacklisted from major channels. Jawed Karim, a programmer, was frustrated with the fact that he couldn’t find the video of that wardrobe malfunction anywhere online. And so, he decided to create a website where people can upload and share their own videos. Today it’s known as YouTube.
The Death of Tito’s Ex-Wife
Tragedy struck the Jackson family in 1994 when Tito’s ex-wife Dee Dee was found dead. The two had been high school sweethearts who wed right after graduating and had three children together (Tariano, Taryll, and TJ Jackson). Tito and Dee Dee stayed together until 1993, when they were amicably divorced. Dee Dee started dating Donald Bohana, a man who ran hospital and insurance companies.
Three months after they started dating, she was found dead, presumably drowned, in his swimming pool. At first, her death was ruled as an accident. It utterly shocked the family, especially because they all knew Dee Dee couldn’t swim, was terrified of water, and would never willingly get into the pool. Her sons went before the Superior Court and claimed that Bohana beat Dee Dee and killed her. Bohana was ultimately found guilty of second-degree murder and is currently in prison in central California. However, he maintains his innocence.
Tito Became a Blues Guitarist
Most passing fans of the Jackson family will only remember Tito as something of a punchline (due to his funny-sounding name). But this Jackson brother went on to have more of a behind-the-scenes career after the group stopped making music. Following the disbanding, Tito started managing his son’s career before returning to the stage himself.
Tito hit the stage again as a blues guitarist. In 2007, he even appeared as a judge on the UK competition show Just the Two of Us. In 2016, he released a solo album called Tito Time, featuring the single Get It Baby. Tito doesn’t seem to be slowing down, even in his fifth decade of recording and performing.
Jermaine’s Lifelong Jealousy
Jermaine’s jealousy seems to have defined his relationships with his brothers. When Jermaine was younger, it was hard for him to accept Michael’s booming success. After all, Michael got to be the lead singer over him. Both brothers were groomed for solo careers by Motown, but although Jermaine’s first single, Daddy’s Home, made the top ten charts, he never matched Michael’s success in music.
In fact, Jermaine never came close. The jealousy just never faded, even later in life. Jermaine was quoted many times by family friends as saying, “That should have been me.” Sometimes, sibling rivalries just never work themselves out.
The Apple Didn’t Fall Far
Jermaine seemed to have inherited his father’s love of women, which is evident from his numerous affairs. When Jermaine was in his mid-20s, he went after his own brother Randy’s longtime girlfriend, Alejandra Oaziaza. Randy and Alejandra had two kids together, but it didn’t prevent Jermaine from flirting with her and starting a relationship with her – all while Randy was on the road.
Believe it or not, Jermaine secretly married Alejandra and had three children together (Jaafar, Donte, Jermajesty). They ended up divorcing, perhaps less secretly, in 2004. Needless to say, the ties between Jermaine and Randy were essentially broken. Sadly, the brothers stopped speaking to each other completely.
Randy Revolutionized Digital Video
Regardless of their age, members of the Jackson family had to learn to play an instrument in case they were called up to perform with the group. Randy was just three when The Jackson 5 began performing, and, as he got older, he learned to play the piano as well as percussion. By the time he was 11 in 1972, he had started touring with the band.
After they stopped touring, Randy recorded music with his siblings on their various solo projects. In 1990, he started a company called Total Media, Inc. with Philip Taylor Kramer (of Iron Butterfly). Total Media was the first company to create video compression – a technology capable of producing full-motion video from a single-speed CD-ROM. The company was later sold for $900 million.
Jackson Family Marriages
Some marriages in the Jackson family were hidden and controversial. Jermaine’s third wife, Halima Rashid, was the result of an encounter in a Starbucks line. They married after just eight months, and it lasted for a little over a decade. Their separation was all over the media when, in 2015, Rashid was arrested for attempting to bite a chunk out of Jermaine’s leg during a fight. The case was eventually dropped when it couldn’t be determined who the actual aggressor was. Regardless, Rashid left Jermaine the next year and filed for divorce.
Then, there was the secret marriage between Janet and Rene Elizondo – a marriage kept hidden for almost a decade. The couple married in 1991, and in 2000, Elizondo filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. It was then that their relationship was known. Janet’s reason? It was her only way to attempt to have a “normal family life” in such a famous family.
Jermaine Made It to Reality-TV
Of all the Jackson family members, Jermaine’s career has been the most varied after the Jackson 5 disbanded. He focused on a solo career both during and after the family group was making music. Instead of simply working with the same people he had been working with all along, in 1982, he started working with Devo on Let Me Tickle Your Fancy.
Throughout the ‘90s, Jermaine kept performing while also writing and producing for different artists. After a hiatus away from the limelight, he appeared on the TV screens in 2007 as a housemate on Celebrity Big Brother UK. He continued on the reality show train, showing up on Gone Country and Celebrity Wife Swap. In 2016, he performed with The Jackson 5 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
The Rumors Were True
Joe was known as a strict disciplinarian whose methods were quite extreme. In an interview with Oprah, Joe admitted to using a belt strap on his children, and he didn’t even regret it. In his eyes, it kept them out of trouble. Michael detailed the abuse in his autobiography Moonwalk in 1998. He wrote that if any of the kids made a mistake, Joe would strike them.
Jermaine claimed that none of the kids can remember their father ever being affectionate with them or saying that he loved them. As the manager of The Jackson 5, Joe allegedly forced the boys to practice to the point of physical exhaustion. They practiced for five hours a day after school. He controlled every part of their lives, restricting them from having friends and playing outside.
Joe was eventually diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and passed away on June 27, 2018, in Las Vegas. It was just one month shy of his 90th birthday. Days prior to his passing, Joe posted a message on Twitter, seeming to indicate that he was aware that his time was running out.
He posted: “I have seen more sunsets than I have left to see. The sun rises when the time comes and whether you like it or not, the sun sets when the time comes.” Despite his controversial role in the family and the things he put his children and Katherine through, his family was with him at his bedside during his last moments.
Speaking Out About It
LaToya was very outspoken about her father’s abuse during her childhood. But sadly, he wasn’t the only one who abused her. Her ex-husband Jack Gordon also mistreated her for years. Joe hired Gordon to manage LaToya’s career back in the ‘80s. She ended up marrying him in 1989, and they stayed together for seven years.
LaToya claimed that she was forced to marry him, saying that she feared for her life. She even referred to herself as a prisoner. The divorce was public and messy. In response to her claims, Gordon claimed LaToya is a “psychopathic liar” and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Gordon passed away in 2005 from cancer.
La Toya Had to Distance Herself
Many people remember La Toya as the most noticeable member of the Psychic Friends Network. But not everyone knows the reason for her strange commercials. After distancing herself from her family in the late ‘80s, La Toya released a solo album called La Toya. She also posed in Playboy in 1989. (She later claimed Gordon forced her to do it).
In the late ‘90s, Randy saved his sister by helping her escape Gordon’s home while he was away. After filing for divorce, La Toya secluded herself in her home and spent her time writing music. In the 2000s, she appeared on reality TV shows like Armed & Famous, Celebrity Big Brother, and NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice. In 2019, she was on The Masked Singer as “The Alien.”
The Show Must Go On
In 2012, Jermaine, Tito, Jackie, and Marlon reunited as The Jacksons. The brothers said they love touring together and were surprised to see that their music still touches so many people. They began the tour one day after their father was buried (in the same cemetery as Michael, in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California).
Jackie told The Independent: “My father would say the show must go on, and we must carry on entertaining. He was the one who got us going, so it was very healing for us to continue what he started.” The Jackson brothers say they plan to keep touring and releasing music for as long as they possibly can.
Jackie Is Still in Las Vegas
The original Jackson 5 leader, Jackie, has kept himself busy when he’s not with the family band. Following their Victory Tour, he worked with his brothers on different projects, including making the theme song for the 1987 film Burglar starring Whoopie Goldberg. The single wasn’t a hit, but it was in Belgium’s top 40 for two weeks if that counts.
Jackie then devoted most of his time behind the scenes. He has worked as the head of his own independent record label called Jesc as well as Futurist Entertainment. He then appeared in The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty, and in 2012, he joined the brothers for a series of Las Vegas performances.
He Did Wrong
Michael, the King of Pop, seemed to do no wrong for a long time. But while he was still alive, there was no denying his odd lifestyle. His obsession with reliving a lost childhood in his Neverland Ranch, his friendships with young boys, and so on. In 1993, allegations started emerging about his inappropriate relations with kids who stayed at Neverland.
Shortly after, LaToya famously denounced her family for being silent collaborators, who had allowed Michael to take advantage of these children. She went so far as to say that her family knew about pay-offs made to one child’s family for nearly $1 million. The family members defended themselves and Michael, throwing La Toya under the bus.
La Toya has been quoted as saying, “I love my family and I miss them very much, but I’m a new person now. A lot of people will not agree with what I’ve done, but it was right for me.”
Janet, After Being Blacklisted
Janet, the baby of the family, is the most prominent and successful of the “other” Jackson family members. She has been a bona fide musical phenomenon since her debut in 1982. Rhythm Nation is still the only album in history to include singles that topped the charts in three different calendar years. It’s also the only album with seven top-5 singles.
Janet also had the most significant acting career, gaining fame as Penny on the ‘70s sitcom Good Times and as Charlene on Diff’rent Strokes during the ‘80s. After the Super Bowl half time controversy, Janet was blacklisted from the industry. But in 2007, she was in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married as well as its sequel a few years later.
Katherine Had to Defend Her Kids
The now 90-year-old has spent the last couple of decades speaking to the media and defending her children, mostly Michael. As of 2011, Katherine was living with her grandson T. J. Jackson and his family in Calabasas, California. She claimed she was never estranged from Joe and denied the rumors that Joe was banned from the family home.
According to Jermaine’s 2011 book, You Are Not Alone: Michael Through a Brother’s Eyes, Katherine told Michael that before she died, she wanted to see her sons perform together one more time. Katherine most recently appeared at the BET Awards in 2015 with Janet as she accepted the Ultimate Icon Award.
Was It Voluntary or Involuntary?
The world was shocked when Michael died in 2009. Leading up to his death, he was rehearsing and pushing himself beyond his limits for his upcoming tour in London. His daughter Paris told Rolling Stone in 2017 that she’s positive her father was killed intentionally by Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael’s former doctor. Murray had prescribed him what proved to be a deadly combination of medication.
Murray was later found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2011. According to Paris, it was voluntary. The family also sued AEG Live, Michael’s concert promoter, for overworking Michael and creating a need for him to use drugs. AEG Live was actually the one that hired Murray as Michael’s doctor. The Jacksons lost the case.