Michael Jackson got his final revenge on his alleged, tyrannical, abusive, and unfeeling father, Joe. He didn't leave him a red cent in his will. That of course is the party line about Joe Jackson. Few fathers have ever been more reviled. Joe was slammed hard for laughing and joking with Reverend Jesse Jackson outside the family compound a day after Jackson's death. He was slammed even harder when he turned up at the BET Awards allegedly shopping a record deal while uttering a few standard, impersonal platitudes about Jackson. And then the ultimate indignity, Michael allegedly blanking him out of his purported will.
With Joe, it was never the proverbial case of you love him or hate him. It was just simply hate. The line was seemingly set by Jackson in his autobiography in 1988. He lightly hinted at regrets over skipping a normal childhood, the forced march into child stardom, and of course the beatings. He minced no words in saying that he wanted to get back at Joe for the abuse.
But Jackson also admitted that his most vivid memory was of rehearsals, countless hours, spent in the studio to get the notes and the dance steps right. Joe's ferocious push to harness his son's talent and whip them into a world class act wasn't just to satisfy a father's obsessive ego, or to snatch vicarious thrills through his children, or because of dollar signs dancing in his eyes. Joe, and so many other hard case black fathers of that time, saw entertainment and the stage as their son's ticket out of the ghetto; a sure fire escape for potentially at risk young black boys from poverty, racism, and the perils of the streets.
In an age when parenting roles were far more rigid and sharply defined, Joe's idea of being a loving, caring and responsible father was to bring home the paycheck, expect his dinner to be waiting on the table, and to be stern, tough, and no nonsense with their children, especially their sons. Joe's fierce drive paid big dividends with the Jackson's. The fame, dollars, and adulation rolled in. The boys did not do drugs, join gangs, commit any crimes, and could not be accused of educational or professional underachievement.
Joe hit the jackpot with Michael. The fierce discipline, focus, work ethic, and business and marketing savvy that Joe drilled into Michael laid the foundation for Michael's transformation from a child R&B star into a music immortal.
Now that Michael's gone none of this has meant much. Joe is not just the child beating, uncaring, gold digging father, but fingers point hard at him for helping to kill Michael; that he is as much the reason for Michael's death as if he had jabbed a drug drenched needle into his heart.
In the days to come, Joe will continue to be the bad guy, the demon, the one who drove Michael to an untimely grave. The flip side of the coin is that Michael would not have been the Michael that the world knew and for the most part loved, if not for the demons that Joe created and exorcised. That's the Joe Jackson who won't get any props.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, "The Hutchinson Report" can be heard weekly in Los Angeles Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on ktym.com