Joe Jackson was a violent and distant father who found ways to bully his sons but was particularly controlling of Michael.
Trigger warning: The story contains details of child abuse that might be distressing to some readers.
We all know and adore Michael Jackson as the King of Pop. He gave us many evergreen hits and dance moves that will continue to entertain us for a long time to come. He had an exceptional career and with it came a fair share of controversies. While fans got to know the artist only from on-screen appearances, there was a lot going on for him behind the scenes that not many people were privy to. He was subject to a different level of scrutiny by not only the media but also his fans. But nothing would compare to the emotional scars left by a rough childhood before he became the legend we all came to know.
Before his solo career, Michael was part of the family music group The Jackson 5 with his brothers. Michael was the youngest and also the most talented among the kids. The Jackson household was already different from others—working as a band together as a family and their mother being a devout Jehovah’s Witness. But with their dad, Joe Jackson, in the equation, it was nothing short of a nightmare for the kids. The former boxer and failed blues musician is believed to have been a cold and distant father who found ways to bully his sons, particularly Michael. The Guardian reported that he would violently beat them with a belt buckle or the cord of an electric kettle. If he was angry with them, he would make them carry cinder blocks from one side of their garden to the other.
“None of us can remember him holding us or cuddling us or telling us 'I love you,'" Jermaine Jackson, the third son and second vocalist in the band, recalled. The Jackson 5 were made to rehearse their music five hours a day and were not even allowed to go out and play with other children. Michael revealed in interviews, later in life, that just the thought of his father made him nauseous. Joe was particularly controlling of Michael. When Joe passed away in 2018, the former cardiologist who was arrested for the involuntary manslaughter of Michael, who passed away in 2009, made some jarring revelations.
“The cruelty expressed by Michael that he experienced at the hand of his father,” Murray said, trailing off and added, “The fact that he was chemically castrated to maintain his high-pitched voice is beyond words. I hope Joe Jackson finds redemption in hell." The Independent stated that these claims were made by the doctor in footage obtained by celebrity website, The Blast and also mentioned in his book This Is It! The Secret Lives of Dr. Conrad Murray and Michael Jackson. He also claimed that Joe had administered hormone treatments to a 12-year-old Michael at the time to stop his voice from changing.
Joe also seems to have caused a lot of psychological damage to the singer. As a kid, Michael was conscious of his nose, which he thought was big. So his father started calling him Big Nose. This would explain why Michael grew up to get a nose job. His eccentricities later in life could also have been his way of reclaiming a childhood he never had. "I am scared of my father to this day," Michael said in an interview with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for TODAY in 2009. "My father walked in the room — and God knows I am telling the truth — I have fainted in his presence many times. I have fainted once, to be honest."
He went on to acknowledge that his father has changed with age and became a very different person. "He sees his grandchildren and he wants to be a better father. It is almost like the ship has sailed its course and it is so hard for me to accept this other guy that is not the guy I was raised with. I just wished he had learned that earlier," he said of his father. In fact, after his passing, Michael's children Prince Michael and Paris shared loving memories of their grandfather. “This man is and always will be an example of sheer willpower and dedication. He didn’t choose the path that was the easiest but he chose the path that was best for his family,” Prince Michael captioned a family photo.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Carlo Allegri