Janet Jackson Biography
Born into a family of show-business icons, she has gone on to become an icon herself. Rising out of the shadows of her family to attain worldwide fame and most importantly breaking away from the distinction of just being Michael's baby sister.
Sometimes nicknamed 'Papa Joe' or known as simply Joe, Joseph worked hard labor as a crane operator in Gary's steel mills. Before Janet was born, Joe was seeking his own music career forming the R&B/blues band, the Falcons.
They never got as far as the biggest nightclub in Gary. Joseph was also a tough disciplanarian whose teachings and lessons he instilled on his children would later be questioned by those who have written books about him since.
While Joe was stern and gregarious, mother Katherine seemed angelic. For a time before Janet was born, Katherine also held down a job working as a store clerk for Sears. She quit the job as soon as she became a devout Jehovah's Witness in 1965. She was considered the one who 'kept the glue within the family' during the earlier years.
At the end of 1968, the group had signed to Motown Records and by the end of the following year, the group recorded their first of four history-making #1 singles, 'I Want You Back'. By the time the J5 had achieved success, the entire family moved out of Gary into the more sunnier atmosphere of Southern California eventually settling in a gated mansion they named Hayvenhurst in 1971. Janet was all but five years old by this point.
By the age of seven, Janet had dreams of being a horse jockey after a growing infatuation with horses. However, Papa Joe had more on Janet's plate than for her to be a jockey. After the success of his sons' career had began to dwindle due to a changing musical scene, Joseph had decided to put his entire family to work as entertainers.
In April 1974, seven-year-old Janet Jackson made her public debut performance at a Las Vegas nightclub, with nearly all nine members of the Jackson family (Rebbie didn't join until a few months later at a different city). Jackson easily became the star of the shows emulating and imitating various icons such as Cher and Mae West, in particular.
By 1976, Janet and the family's Vegas act had gotten the attention of CBS' Fred Silverman who was desperately trying to find a new variety act after Sonny & Cher had ended while ABC had the competing Osmonds family show featuring Donny and Marie.
Debuting on June 16, 1976, 'The Jacksons' debuted and the Jacksons became the first African-American family to have a variety show on TV. The show lasted only two seasons and was cancelled in 1977.
Good Times and a Bunch of Diff'rent Strokes
11-year-old Jackson's talent was spotted by legendary TV producer Norman Lear, who was looking for someone to help gain back ratings in one of his groundbreaking shows, the family sitcom, 'Good Times'. Casting her as an abused child named Penny, Janet easily stole the show from the show's biggest star, Jimmie 'J.J.' Walker was the apple of Penny's eye every time she saw him. Her dramatic and comedic acting talent helped land her a role as a starring member by the end of the 1977-78 season and she would remain in the show until it cancelled for good in 1979.
Jackson continued her acting career appearing briefly in a short-lived sitcom titled 'A New Kind of Family', which was cancelled in early 1980. In 1981, she landed a recurring role on another family sitcom, 'Diff'rent Strokes' playing Charlene Duprey. With her love interest played by Todd Bridges, who played Willis on the show, Janet, now 15, officially became a teen idol. She would leave the show in 1982 after her music career began to take off. But she would soon find herself back in the TV field by 1984 after her father ordered the 18-year-old to take the role of Cleo Hewitt in 'Fame'. She left the show in 1985 and closed the door of her TV career.
Early Musical Endeavors
Janet always had an interest in music, writing her first song at the age of nine, but she never aspired herself to be a professional singer. Nonetheless, she agreed to participate in music just to help her family out. Her first-ever recording was a duet with baby brother Randy on a song titled 'A Love Song for Kids' in 1978. She would participate in her family's other recordings, particularly with sister LaToya and brother Michael.
In 1981, Janet and her two older sisters LaToya and Rebbie had wanted to start their own musical group, but disagreements between the older sisters forced the group to disband before ever making a record.
Debut Album (1982)
Although she was asked by her father Joseph to start a singing career, Janet was uncomfortable with being in the recording studio feeling she wasn't as talented vocally as her brothers, particularly brother Michael, who was becoming a pop superstar thanks to his albums, Off The Wall and Thriller.
Nonetheless, at the age of sixteen, she released her debut album simply called Janet Jackson though the teenager protested that her last name shouldn't be on the cover. Produced by soul singers Angela Winbush, Rene Moore and Leon Slyvers of the famed Slyvers family music group, the album reached #6 on the Billboard R&B album charts, and spent 45 weeks in the Top 50 and hit #63 on the Billboard Pop albums chart.
The album held 3 Top 20 Billboard R&B singles 'Young Love' (#6), 'Say You Do' (#15) and 'Come Give Your Love To Me' (#17). Two of the singles - 'Young Love' and 'Come Give Your Love to Me' went as high as #64 and #58 on the Billboard pop charts respectively.
The CD sold over a quarter million copies in the US. Billboard Magazine gave Janet the distinction as being the tenth biggest-selling R&B artist at the end of 1982 while the debut album was given the distinction of being the tenth biggest-selling R&B album of 1983.
Despite the modest success, Jackson was dealt with an obstacle for having to compete with brother Michael for pop music prominence after his success with his 'Off the Wall' and 'Thriller' albums.
Dream Street (1984)
In 1984, Janet, now eighteen, released her sophomore effort titled Dream Street. It marked a musical progression from her debut, with more funky, up-tempo production by brother Marlon and famed disco producer Giorgio Moroder, who had established himself as a hit producer thanks to his work with disco legend Donna Summer.
The album only peaked at #147 on the Billboard pop album charts when it was released that July (though it reached #19 on the R&B chart) and the album overall only sold half of what her self-titled debut sold. Critics began to demean Jackson's career as a pop star over before it actually began.
Around the same time, she fell in love and eloped with James DeBarge, member of the Motown family group DeBarge. The marriage was annulled in March 1985, with DeBarge's drug habit often cited as the reason. After the marriage was annulled and after years of dealing with the tensed atmosphere of being a member of a world-famous family, Janet was searching for her own place.
After the limited success of her first two albums Janet's management thought a move towards a far more funk and R&B sound would impove her career. In a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Jackson said the move, and the recruitment of producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis met with much resitance from her family, especially her manager-father. He famously told the two producers to not have his daughter sounding like Jackson family rival Prince.
Her next album, Control explored themes of gaining independence, and self-assertion. In many respects the album Control tried to show that she was in charge of making professional and personal decisions and she alone was accountable for the end results. The lyrics of the title track Control echo her frustrations and her early marriage:
Upon its release, the album went to number one on both the pop (#1 for 2 weeks) and R&B charts (#1 for 6 weeks). The first single, 'What Have you Done For Me Lately' gained massive radio airplay would go on to #4 on the Billboard Top 100, and #1 on the R&B Singles chart. Six of the nine tracks were released as singles. Five singles went to the Top 5 of the Pop charts, with Jackson achieving her first #1 pop single with 'When I Think Of You'. 'Nasty', 'Control', 'The Pleasure Principle' and 'Let's Wait Awhile' all went #1 on the R&B Singles chart.
The album sold over ten million copies worlwide, won 6 Billboard Awards including Top Selling Pop Singles Artist and Top Selling Black Singles Artist, 3 Soul Train Awards (Including Album Of The Year), 3 MTV Video Music Awards, 4 American Music Awards, and was nominated for 3 Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year.
'When I Think Of You' made Janet the youngest artist (at 19) to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart since Stevie Wonder.
A&M Records co-founder Herb Alpert recorded three songs with Jackson and singer Lisa Keith in 1987 for his next album, although only two would make the cut. The single 'Diamonds' would hit #5 on the Pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts, while 'Making Love in the Rain' (on which she sang backing vocals), reached #7 R&B and #35 Pop.
Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)
Jackson did not release another album until 1989. The release date was pushed back several times as Jackson, along with Jam and Lewis, struggled to commit their ideas to record.
By then, A&M Records associates wanted the 23-year-old singer to do a sequel to the hugely-successful 'Control' album yet Jackson wanted to do something else. The result was Rhythm Nation 1814. Jackson explained that 'Control was about my life; Rhythm Nation is about what's going on in the world around us'. Much of her inspiration on Rhythm Nation she said drew from socially conscious artists such as Marvin Gaye, U2, Tracey Chapman, Bob Dylan.
The album opens with a suite of songs about drugs, homelessness, education and prejudice. As well as the more challenging themes, there is a much harder edge than on 'Control'. The album hit #1 on Pop and R&B charts spawning four US number ones and a further three Top 5 hits.
'Rhythm Nation 1814' went to sell even more than its predecessor overall reaching 12 million. She won a total 14 Billboard Music Awards, including Top Selling Album of 1990, 5 Soul Train Awards, a Grammy for the 'Rhythm Nation' mini-movie, 2 NAACP Image Awards, 3 MTV Video Music Awards, and 5 American Music Awards. The single Miss You Much also became the longest running #1 single of 1989.
She also set a record by becoming the first and only artist ever to score 7 Top 5 hits from one album. 'Black Cat' took #1 place on the Mainstream Rock Singles chart.
A massive world tour followed in 1990, The Rhythm Nation World Tour became the biggest and most successful debut tour by any artist in history, it was seen by over 2 million people worldwide, the tour ran a full nine months and performed over 120 shows. Tickets to the Tokyo Dome concert sold out in 7 minutes, a record in Japan.
By 1991, Jackson's contract with A&M had run out. With a number of labels competing for her, Jackson chose Virgin Records for a reported $50 million on March 11, 1991. It was, at the time, the biggest recording deal in music history.
Throughout 1992, Jackson continued to record; her duet 'The Best Things In Life Are Free' with Luther Vandross (from the movie, Mo' Money) became a #1 R&B hit for the duo, and was nominated for a Grammy award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
In 1993, Jackson turned her attention to acting again and took a part in John Singleton's 'Poetic Justice'. Playing opposite Tupac Shakur, Jackson played Justice, a young African-American poet and hairdresser. However her performance was not well received. She earned the 'Worst New Star' award at the 1993 Golden Raspberry Awards, though she did win two MTV Movie Awards (Best Female Performance and Most Desirable Female). Despite the reviews, the movie eventually entered #1 in the box office.
Jackson found better success with the movie as a singer and songwriter rather than an actor when her ballad, 'Again', although not on the soundtrack album and only featured on Jackson's janet. album, gave her both Golden Globe and Oscar award nominations for Best Original Song.
janet. was released in 1993. It is often referred to by fans as her 'sex album'. In retrospect, the album was almost like a love letter to her new husband and long-time friend Rene Elizondo. The couple had married in secret to avoid press speculation, and Elizondo is said to have co-written many of the tracks on janet. although Jackson and longtime producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have said that he only gave Jackson 'ideas for a particular song'. Elizondo's hands make an important contribution to the album cover where he covered the singer's breasts while Jackson looked seductively through just jeans on. The album was a departure from Jackson's earlier images; the baby Jackson had grown up.
janet becomes a big worldwide success. The album becomes the first by a female artist to enter the Billboard Top 200 albums charts at #1 during the Soundscan era. It also became the fastest selling album at that time, selling 350,000 copies in the US in it's first week, and 950,000 worldwide. The album went #1 in 22 other countries. 'janet.' spawned six top ten singles, two of which hit the top spot. The album was supported by a world tour that ran for two years.
In 1995, Janet Jackson recorded the duet 'Scream' with her brother Michael, which reached the Top Five on the Pop and R&B charts. The video for this single became the most expensive video ever, costing around $7 million. The video would later win the Jacksons a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video.
Also in 1995, A&M Records released Jackson's first greatest hits album. Titled 'Design Of A Decade 1986/1996', the album featured all of Jackson's hits from her 'Control' and 'Rhythm Nation 1814' albums. Also included were two new recordings: 'Runaway', which reached #3 on the Pop charts and #6 on the R&B charts; and 'Twenty Foreplay' which reached #36.
After the success of the 'Janet' album, Jackson re-negotiated her deal with Virgin Records for a reported $80 million in 1996, making her the highest paid recording artist of all time.
The Velvet Rope (1997)
Jackson spent most of 1996 in seclusion, citing depression. By the summer of 1997 she had completed work on an album full of sadness, pain, depression and yet also encouragement and survival. In October of that year, that album, The Velvet Rope was released.
The first single was Got 'Til It's Gone, featuring friend and rapper Q-Tip and a sample of Joni Mitchell's 1971 classic single, Big Yellow Taxi. Not many singles were released - only the AIDS-dedicated, dance anthem Together Again (#1 Pop, #8 R&B) and the slinky, sexy and funky I Get Lonely (#3 Pop, #1 R&B). But Gone and the funky and lyrically frank Go Deep became radio favorites.
Jackson's voice could be heard on other songs: Shaggy's single Luv Me, Luv Me from the How Stella Got Her Groove Back soundtrack; the song would only make it as high as #76 on the Hot 100, ending Jackson's history-making streak of 19 consecutive Top 10 singles on Billboard's Hot 100.
Rapper Busta Rhymes recruited Jackson to sing on his song What's It Gonna Be?! from the rapper's 1998 album, E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event). With help from a steamy video featuring Jackson, the song became an instant smash reaching #3 Pop, and #1 R&B and Rap. It was the first song from hers to be on the rap charts and would later be nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Jackson would become the first and only artist to be nominated in the Pop, R&B, Dance, Rock and Rap fields of the Grammy awards and would be the only artist to have a charted single on those charts including the Adult Contemporary charts where she has reached #1 with 1990's Come Back to Me.
Jackson next hit the charts with R&B group Blackstreet, who had appeared in a remix version to Jackson's 1998 hit I Get Lonely with the track Girlfriend/Boyfriend. The song would just miss the Top 40 of the pop charts peaking at #47, but still hit the Top 20 of the R&B charts at #17.
Jackson recorded a duet with legend Elton John for his 'AIDA' soundtrack. The song I Know The Truth was a touching ballad, showcasing Jackson's ever-growing versatility as an artist. Jackson would also write, produce and record a song for a Pepsi promotional campaign in Europe.
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
Seven years after her last film, 34-year-old Jackson returned to the box office with the release of the Eddie Murphy vehicle, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps in 2000. Portraying Professor Denise Gaines, she falls in love with Sherman Klump (Murphy) and learns to deal with Klump's difficulty and outrageous family (to which Murphy played most of the characters).
Jackson did not receive much praise for her acting, though the movie went on to be a bankable success. The single, Doesn't Really Matter became her first #1 of the new millennium making her the first artist to have a number one single in the '80s, '90s and 2000's.
While the film was out, news had spread that the singer and her husband Rene Elizondo had split up after nine years. Elizondo revealed the secret a year after Jackson filed for legal separation. Their divorce wouldn't be finalized until the end of 2003.
All For You (2001)
Jackson worked on her next album, her fourth with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. In search of a new sound she added hip-hop producer Rockwilder as part of her new production team, excluding now former husband Rene Elizondo.
In 2001, All For You, was released. The album was much more upbeat than The Velvet Rope with songs dealing about romance, sex and the single life.
The album sold over 600,000 copies her first week, an improvement on previous performances, and the highest 1st week of sales for one of her albums. The title track became Janet's second biggest hit to date, reaching #1 for 7 weeks. The second single Someone To Call My Lover hit the Top 5 of the Pop charts.
A sell-out tour had it's European leg of the concert was cancelled in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks; extra dates were added around the USA, and the Japanese leg continued, causing some to think that low tickets ales in Europe rather than the risk of flying caused the European cancellation.
Jackson returned to the studio to feature on *N Sync singer Justin Timberlake's song (And She Said) Take Me Now, and Beenie Man's 'Feel It Boy'. However controversy was caused when Jackson's fans protested her collaboration with Beenie Man whose album's lyrics very blatantly promoted the violent attack on and killing of homosexuals.
During this period, Jackson was romantically linked to seemingly everyone from longtime friend, R&B singer and New Edition member Johnny Gill, rapper Q-Tip, actor Matthew McConaughey and Timberlake. Eventually, the rumors were squashed when it was confirmed Jackson's new man was hip-hop record producer and music mogul Jermaine Dupri.
Damita Jo (2004)
Janet's eighth studio release, Damita Jo, was released in March 2004. Its first single, Just A Little While, was marketed to mainstream and adult contemporary radio in early spring 2004. However, likely due in part to the Super Bowl controversy (see below), it was not as commerially successful as her previous efforts; it failed to hit the Billboard Top 40 on the pop charts, the first Jackson single to do so since the early-'80s. MTV and VH1 declined to show the video.
'Just A Little While' was followed by the more urban single, 'I Want You', though with similar lukewarm success. The third, 'All Nite (Don't Stop)', failed to appear on the charts.
Even though Damita Jo didn't live up to her past album sales, it didn't bother members of the recording company and some award shows to recognize the singer.
Jackson received an American Music Award nomination for Favorite R&B/Soul Artist though nu-soul singer Alicia Keys took the trophy (and whom Jackson presented when Keys did her duet with Usher at the AMA's), and in December 7th, NARAS announced the 2004 Grammy nominations, though Janet was banned from attending the award show last year (see, Super Bowl controversy below), she earned two nominations for Damita Jo, one for Contemporary R&B Album the Year, and another for her single I Want You in the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category.
Jackson recieved nominations as Best Female R&B singer at the Source Music Awards, NAACP Image Awards, and BET Awards.
Though, she didn't go on tour for Damita Jo, Jackson performed two songs on 'Good Morning, America'; an additional two songs on her appearance from Saturday Night Live, danced and performed on Jay Leno's 'Tonight Show' and also at the BET Awards.
Eventually garnering Platinum status in the U.S., total sales of the record have reached three million copies in total worldwide.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
During the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII on February 1, 2004, Janet Jackson performed with Justin Timberlake to an audience of more than 100 million people. During this live performance, her top was torn open by Timberlake, exposing Jackson's right breast; the nipple was partially covered by a starburst-shaped decoration held in place by a piercing. Timberlake called the incident a 'wardrobe malfunction'.
Jackson apologized at first, calling it an accident and claiming that Timberlake was supposed to pull away the bustier and leave the red-lace bra intact, however, she later said to an interviewer for Genre magazine that she wishes she hadn't apologized at all.
As a result, CBS cancelled its invitation to Jackson to perform at the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony. The FCC tightened up restrictions on lewd content on television and the entertainment industry suffered a major backlash. Programs that once pushed the envelope began eliminating even mildly coarse language from their broadcasts. Some performers were penalized for things they had gotten away with previously. Many people directly blamed Jackson for this new wave of censorship.
To make things worse, Jackson was told by representatives and family members of entertainment legend Lena Horne that she was cut out of the role to play the legendary singer-actress due to the controversy.
Despite all of that, Jackson has managed to survive the incident and that of the troubles her older brother Michael is facing due to his child molestation case by showing the perserverance that has made her a superstar.
See also: Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime controversy
Life after Super Bowl
To fight back against her critics in 2004 Jackson also began doing television talk show promotions, a first for her. She hosted Saturday Night Live and was heavily praised in her ability to make light of her 'wardrobe malfunction'. She impersonated Condoleezza Rice flashing her breast to the 9/11 commission to divert attention from the war in Iraq.
Another album is planned, possibly for 2005, with longtime boyfriend, Jermaine Dupri as an executive producer.
This below shows the number of hits Janet Jackson has scored since her debut nearly 23 years ago:
Janet remains the only artist to be nominated in the Pop, R&B, Dance, Rock and Rap singles charts simultaneously at the Grammy Awards. Along with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, she was nominated for Producer of the Year at the 1990 Grammy's for her work on the Rhythm Nation 1814 album.
Here's a list of the total of wins she achieved and some of the nominations:
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