We’ve all seen the tabloids over the past few decades about Michael Jackson’s turbulent relationship with his father, Joe Jackson. The two men had been estranged for many years, until recently. But, there seems to be a story that has yet to be told—the tale of the lost relationship between a father and a son. Will it ever really be told? Only time will tell.

The story of Michael and his father started back in the 1960s, when Joe Jackson, a father of nine, living in Gary, Indiana began molding his sons Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael into stars. Soon, the Jackson 5 one of the most prominent groups in history was born. Mr. Jackson was not only the group’s manager, mentor and promoter he was its number one advocate; he pushed them, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the limelight.

For Michael—the youngest member of the Jackson 5—the fame brought many challenges, the biggest of which was pleasing his father; a man who ran rehearsals holding a belt, and who admitted to spanking the boys when they made mistakes. “If you messed up you got hit,” Michael wrote in his autobiography, Moonwalk. Sometimes [you got hit] with a switch, sometimes with a belt.”

Through it all, Mr. Jackson insisted that his strict discipline was purely for motivation and to drive his sons to succeed. He often directed his critics’ attention to the many number one singles and Grammy awards the group had won. The problem was, for Michael, being the center of attention of the massively popular group put him under constant scrutiny from his father. So failure was never an option.

The constant criticisms left an indelible mark on the singer, who recalled feelings of insecurity about his looks stemming from the relationship. “I had pimples so badly and it made me so shy,” the King of Pop told talk show host Oprah Winfrey in a 1993 interview. “I’d wash my face in the dark. I wouldn’t want to look in the mirror… and my father teased me. He would tell me I was ugly.” The star would later undergo numerous plastic surgery procedures in an attempt to not only buoy his self confidence, but to gain his father’s approval.

Many have wondered why Michael stayed. Why didn’t he just leave the stressful situation? Could it have been his need to gain his father’s attention, or did he feel trapped? Or…maybe, he was just scared to leave?

In a 2003 interview with the BBC, Michael admitted to being so scared of his father that he became physically ill when he saw him. “I was scared, so scared that I would regurgitate,” he said. Imagine being so frightened at the sight of someone that it makes you sick to your stomach?!?

It wasn’t as if he never made a move to get out, with family, sometimes, you just can’t. In 1979, the year his first solo album hit the charts and after more than two decades of enduring a strained relationship with his father, Michael Jackson made his first move to break free, by firing Mr. Jackson as his manager. He also kept his father at arm’s length when it came to his solo career.

Mr. Jackson tells a different tale of his strictness. Less than a month after Michael Jackson’s death, he spoke out on ABC news’ Primetime and refuted his son’s abuse accusations against him, “Michael was never beat as they call it,” he said. “Everyone spanked their kids when they did wrong,” he explained. While Mr. Jackson acknowledges that he was tough on Michael, he insists that it was all out of love. “I was very demanding, but I got things done,” he said. “I do what’s right. And I love my family. My son. And that’s about it. I try to perfect everything I do.”

Michael Jackson on trial

Michael would later admit as an adult that although his father was tough, on him, and seemingly terrorized him, the experience had helped him deal with being in the spotlight at a very young age. And despite all of the accusations of abuse at his father’s hands, and the strained relationship Michael endured, Mr. Jackson remained a prominent part of his son’s life. He attended Michael’s trials and stood at his side and was steadfast against all sexual abuse and child molestation allegations brought against the star. But, was there an ulterior motive to his actions?

A few years ago, the two men made amends, and all seemed to be hunky dory, though it was recently revealed, after the pop star’s death, that he did not include his father in his last will and testament. Now, why would he do that? Many in the media have accused Mr. Jackson, of not being mournful enough after Michael’s untimely death last June. But, Mr. Jackson continues to be a champion for his son, in spite of their history. He has spoken out on the circumstances surrounding Michael’s death, his sexuality, and his legacy. “I was very proud of my son,” he told reporters last year. “The legacy of Michael will still go on, I promise you that.”

How much of a role do you think Michael’s estranged relationship with his father played in some of his life choices such as his ever changing facial features and his low self esteem? Was Joe all to blame? Also what role do you think Michael’s relationship with Joe played in his relationship with his own children?

Claudia Atticot has been a writer and journalist for more than 15 years. Most recently she worked as a Senior Reporter at Time Magazine for Kids; Time Inc.’s classroom publication. Atticot also writes children’s books for Red Chair Press and freelances for various publications and blogs. She currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and four-year-old son.

© 2010 – 2017, Shalena D.I.V.A. – Personal Branding| Content Marketing| Product Creation. All rights reserved.


  1. ShalenaD.I.V.A on June 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Claudia, this is a great article. I’m so glad you agreed to write about this explosive and touchy subject. For many yesrs, i used to think that MJ used his relationship with his father as a crutch. But the more I find out about the family’s history and mature, I realize that we can’t dictate to someone how they should feel or internalize things. That being said, I think MJ was a very sensitive child who was a prodigy that needed more nurturing than what he received. I also think Joe Jackson may have been the best father he coould’ve been under the circumstances. Who knows how he was treated by his father. Sometimes parents push a little harder when they want to save their chidlren from the streets. I guess Joe went overboard.

    I really think MJ was done with Jow after he had an affair and had a child out of wedlock…

  2. Mikenda on June 26, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Claudia, your article is great it sheds light on the bigger picture. I think that MJ wanted so badly to please his father that he pushed himself beyond the limit. And I agree with Shalena on Joe’s parenting, sometime we teach how we were taught. Thank you for the imformative article.

  3. Claudia on July 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Hi Mikenda, thank you for that. Much appreciated. Shalena, it was my pleasure to write this. I agree it is a very touchy subject, but one that needs to be told.

    I hope we get to work together in the future…

  4. Tamiko Prescod via Facebook on June 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Well I was very close to my father but our relationship is estranged and yes it plays a major role in my life’s decisions.

  5. Trevor Dantzler via Facebook on June 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Joe Jackson’s accomplishments in the development of his kids success often gets overlooked by the bad press and how stern and driving he was as a parent. Not saying I agree with his methods or style but without no Joe there would be no Jackson’s. Michael , Janet or The Jackson’s as a group

  6. Abel Lewis via Facebook on June 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Tell me what does estranged means?

  7. Kwnikkiya Laneece Edwards via Facebook on June 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    My dad left when I was 1 bcuz he had a wife & kids at home. He wanted nothing to do with me but paid his child support faithfully. I wrote him twice while I was in 2nd grade & again in 4th grade he sent my letters back “return to sender”. I found him on FB last year, believe it or not,he still wants nothing to do with me. And it plays a big role in my relationships.

  8. Rosevell White via Facebook on June 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    My parent has one complication with me…..

  9. Rosevell White via Facebook on June 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I sort of by myself byself.

  10. Renolda Dax via Facebook on June 25, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Yes, it happed between my dad & I. Jst wen I needed him de most, bt I dnt regret de time lost coz it help me grow (thou I grew up faster than mst pple) & we r trying 2 repair our relationship. It’s a bit hard coz we view lyf differently & dis on it’s own helps us understand each other much better ;-). Hw r u S’diva?

  11. Rod G on June 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Great article. I was raised in a 2-parent household and was very close to both my parents. A father’s influence and impact is “HUGE”. A father sets the bar for us. I was born about 2 years before Michael. Getting whooped WAS A VERY COMMON & EVERYDAY OCCURRENCE 4 our generation. After my Father passed, I stated at his funeral that I wish he had whopped me more, now that I know what he was “trying” to prepare me for. I think Joe just applied tough parenting and that’s consistent with his environment and the time. He worked in a steel mill, it’s the 60s and Gary, Indiana is no resort town. I feel Michael, because you do want to please both your Mother and Father. We also have to take personal responsibility for what happened to us in our childhood once we become an adult. I wonder if Michael was provided with Therapist or counseling early on to deal with the unique circumstances of his upbringing? However, being a product of that generation, I know that the whole counseling, therapy thing was not a popular option back then as it is now. I think Joe made some mistakes in parenting & only knew tough love. Consequently Michael needed other options (other than million dollar shopping sprees, etc..) at some point that would provide healing for the soul. Just sayin. I LOVE Michael and wish that he was still here with us, although I know he’s at peace now.

  12. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on June 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I had a strained relationship with my father. We walked out when I was three because he had a wife and kids across town. I suffered fromthe rejection and it did affect me, but I learned to forgive because that’s the only way I could be free. My father eventually died of AIDS in 2001. I’m so glad I did the inner work to forgive him. I’m free now and I have no ill feelings towards him. I thnak God for that!

  13. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on June 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    @Abel, estranged means apart.

  14. Dale Darlene Simmons via Facebook on June 25, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    We can’t judge him!!!

  15. KeiLau Dean via Facebook on June 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Not our place to judge. We’re on the outside looking in.

  16. www.shalenadiva.com via Facebook on June 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    I think he had many great strengths and I also agree that we shouldn’t judge.

  17. Kristy Nicole via Facebook on June 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Just like every other parent, they do the best with what they feel is best.

  18. Toni Roberts via Facebook on June 26, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    He was looking out for his children and the type of company they were wanting to run with.. Ill say he went about it the wrong way, but not a horrible father. His parent(s) may have been strict on him the way he was strict on his kids. So, you learn things at home and you take them with you when you leave home.

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