Jackie Jackson on Touring, Keeping Michael's Spirit Alive

The eldest of the J5 on what it feels like to have the group back together after all these years and staying connected to his late brother





The Jacksons are one of the world's most beloved family dynasties, selling over 100 million records to date. After the tragic loss of their little brother and pop icon Michael Jackson in 2009, the family has remained comitted to keeping it all together. We recently caught up with Jackie Jackson, the elder statesman of The Jacksons, about getting the old group back together. Word is, The Jacksons' 40-date show run, now under way at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, will be a big party featuring special guests, their greatest hits, and stories of their adventures across the world.

EBONY: How are you doing, Mr. Jackson? How's tour life treating you?
Jackie Jackson: It's been going wonderful. We've been touring a lot all over the world and we came from that tour and now we're getting ready to open up Las Vegas--we have a long stint in Las Vegas starting February 20th. 40 shows at Planet Hollywood. I've been looking forward to that.
EBONY: You and your brothers got back together for the Unity Tour (in 2012.) How was that experience?
JJ: Prior to that, we hadn't toured together for about 26, 27 years together, you know. And to just come back and do that again it was awesome bc we didn't know what was going to happen. The hardest part was really to put the song list together because we have so many songs and we try to satisfy so many fans from around the world, songs that they would want to hear. It took us two weeks just to put a great song list together. But we put a great list together started rehearsing and everything turned out wonderful. We just started feeding off of one another, everything came back, you know. Like it was in the old days...
EBONY: Can you speak on reuniting and the camaraderie of tour life?
JJ: It was great coming back together because like I told you once we got into the rehearsal hall, we didn't know what was gonna happen, we didn't know what to expect. But once we all got together and started playing the music we just started feeding off one another we just started knowing where each other was supposed to be. We felt Michael's presence there at the same time, it was just amazing man because we just came together--it was like old times. Everything fell right back into place. It was just like that. We had a great time.
EBONY: I know you said you felt Michael's presence...How did you guys keep Michael's spirit on stage
JJ: Nobody can ever take Michael's place, it's only one Michael. But having him on stage with us, we just knew at every given moment where he would be on the stage, during the choreography we just knew where he was. It just felt like he was there with us. During rehearsals and on stage as well. It just felt like he was there with us.
EBONY: Are you working in new music with the classics?
JJ: We're working on new songs and with other artists as well---I don't want to tell you who they are right now, but there will be a press conference in time when we will deliver all that to everyone. It's gonna be a great time. We're very, very excited about the project we're doing right now. It's gonna be a change of the whole Jackson sound that people want to hear. It's like that song "Treasure" by Bruno Mars--that's a Jackson song. It sounds like a Jackson song. It's an old style Jackson song. Its a hit record, a great sound. You're gonna hear stuff like that. It's going to be exciting.
EBONY: So will a new Jackson LP happen soon?
JJ: Yes, we're just trying to finish up, we've already started on some things, but we're trying to finish up while we're going to be all together in Las Vegas. We're gonna start recording again and try to finish it up. Hopefully, it'll be out by the summertime....
EBONY: What are your thoughts on new artists keeping that Jackson 5 sound alive?
JJ: I think it's wonderful. The music is coming back to where it was. Like Robin Thicke's hit song "Blurred Lines." That's a great song, it felt like a Marvin Gaye type of thing. It's music-- it's coming back. Like Bruno Mars, like I told you before that kinda stuff is coming back. It really is, good music is coming back.
EBONY: How was the process of working with new artists on the tour?
JJ: Working with these new artists is really easy because they admire us and what we've done in the past. They pretty much come in and let us do what we want to do and they just want to join forces with us. It turns out really wonderful.
EBONY: As a songwriter, how do you feel about the content of today's new records?
JJ: What I think as a song writer, a lot of these artists are listening to these old songs from back in the day. And they're coming up with some great hooks. They're really are today. They're bringing it back. Lyrical content is very important and also to have a great chorus or a great hook-- a great sing-a-long. My thing was having great melodies. Melodies are very important in a song. Having a great melody and a great hook. That's what I would always come up with a great melody and that's important.
EBONY: Can you speak on your label and what you're working on in terms of artist development?
JJ: It's more of a production company more or less, you know. I'm still developing some artists here and there. I have a big surprise coming really soon. It's five girls. I'm not going to elaborate on that anymore. It's five girls...they're all nationalities. It's gonna be incredible.
EBONY: I often joke that legendary musicians like you and your brothers kinda missed the social media wave. If you all had Twitter back then, how do you think that would've went down?
JJ: It would've been wonderful! If it was back in those days to have social media, man, it would've been off the hook, you know that and I know it too! [Laughs] Here's the thing, we're here today and we're involved in it right now.
EBONY: I heard you were a big sports fan once upon a time.
JJ: I used to watch Gale Sayers, the running back. He was one of my favorite players. Dick Butkus too. I've always been a Bears and a Chicago Cubs fan. All the brothers [liked them.] The whole family did.
EBONY: With the new tour, you've told us there will be a lot of behind the scenes stories. As a reader and a writer, a lot of people want to hear these stories. I've even heard urban legend that you and your brothers kept young Michael up with a lot of groupies on the road...
JJ: Michael kept us from sleeping. He was the one making all the noise. [More laughter ensues]. We had fun though, man. Its gonna be some great stories...these stories are some of the stories that have never been heard in interviews or anything. It's gonna be the first time you're hearing this stuff.


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Can't believe it's going to be five years since his death in four months. It still feels like yesterday to me.