Tuesday, May 5, 2020 10:52 pm
By Nehru Odeh
Hers and her son’s (Michael Jackson) life are inextricably tied. And it seems they both traded fame and longevity. While she got the longevity her son never had, she didn’t become a singer she had always craved while growing up, though her son had it in surplus. Michael became not just a singer but the famous King of Pop. While, on the contrary, Michael, on his part would have loved to live long, but couldn’t because his life was cut short at his prime, his mother, Katherine, has been gifted with longevity. She -the mother of the famous Jackson Five and Janet (all artistes) – turned 90 on Monday, 4 May, 2020. And that is worth celebrating.
This is the intriguing story of Katherine Jackson, the woman who became more famous at her son’s (Michael) death than she had been. According to BlackDoctor, she received roughly half her son’s estate in his will and acted as guardian to his three young children immediately after his death
Of course, this is not surprising because she had a positive impact on her children’s (who were virtually all artistes) career. In 1984, Michael dedicated his legendary 1982 album Thriller to her. Janet Jackson did the same following the release of her 1989 album Rhythm Nation 1814. In 1985, acknowledging what was then a positive impact on her children’s successful music careers. National urban magazine Essence also honored her as “Mother of the Year”.
“My mother nourished me with the most extravagant love imaginable, my father, my incredible father, drove me to be the best that I can,” Janet said. “My siblings set an incredibly high standard for artistic excellence that we got from our parents…”
What’s the story behind this incredible, black woman? Though Katherine, at a time, realized she couldn’t achieve her dream of becoming a music super star, she knew she still had music in her heart. So she joined the local high school band. In 1947, she met Joseph Jackson, who was also living in East Chicago at the time. Joseph obtained an annulment of an earlier marriage and began dating Katherine. After a year-long courtship, they married on November 5, 1949.
“I just had a feeling that he would be my husband,” she said. “The first time I saw him, I fell in love with him — he doesn’t know this…really, he was so nice…”
In January 1950, Joe and Katherine moved into a two-bedroom house at 2300 Jackson St. in Gary. During the couple’s early years in Gary, they sang together, with Joe playing guitar at home while he worked in a steel mill in Gary. Between 1950 and 1966 she gave birth to 10 children, including twins Marlon and Brandon, but Brandon died a few hours after birth.
Early on, Katherine began designing the group’s costumes, was a part of The Jacksons’ management team and was the backbone of the family while trying to keep everyone together.
“When you have learned God’s secret of trusting, you will see that…a life yielded up to His working is one of rest and power,” explains Katherine. “People don’t want to know the truth. Don’t go to war no more. Steady peace because peace is all we need.”
When Michael died, she felt the loss so much that she wrote: “He felt that people wanted him gone, wanted him dead. He would always say that,” Katherine told Dateline in 2010, speaking about her son’s final days in a rare interview. “And, for him to say that, he must have known something. It’s just some of the mean, evil, vicious people didn’t want him around for some reason. They’re greedy. That’s what it is. Don’t take that out. They are greedy.
“Beyond our hardships, our family loved Michael dearly,” confessed Katherine. “And each of us shares a special bond with him. Through our memories, we will always cherish Michael.”
Still, Katherine had a tempestuous marital life. In 1990, she released her autobiography, My Family, The Jacksons, which documented her early years and her relationship with her husband and their children, eight of whom wrote salutes to their mother in the book’s foreword. In that book she said her husband had committed adultery on more than a few occasions. She decided to file for divorce on March 9, 1973 at the Los Angeles County clerk, but chose to rescind the divorce papers.
The following year, Joh’Vonnie Jackson, Joe’s daughter with another woman named Cheryl Terrell, was born on August 30, 1974. This led Joe and Cheryl to a 25-year affair while raising their daughter Joh’Vonnie. Katherine attempted once again to divorce her husband in or around 1982, but again was persuaded to drop the action. As a result, Katherine and Joe remained officially married, but separated until his death in 2018. She currently lives a modest life and manages Michael’s estate.