Birth Date: May 16, 1966 / Age: 50
Birth Place: Gary, Indiana
Biography: Janet Damita Jo Jackson (born May 16, 1966 in Gary, Indiana) is an American pop, R&B and soul singer-songwriter and the youngest child of the hugely successful Jackson music family. She rose out of the shadows of her famous brothers to become one of the most successful female entertainers of all time. She ranks as the ninth-most successful artist in the history of rock and roll, and is the youngest artist in the top ten of that group, according to Billboard magazine in 2004. She is well known for her high-octane dance moves, influencing many female artists such as, Ciara, Missy Elliot, Beyonce, Britney Spears among others.
Janet was born the last of nine children in Gary, Indiana to parents Joseph and Katherine Jackson. 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 had had his own music career forming the R&B band, the Falcons. They never got as far as the biggest nightclub in Gary. Joseph was also a tough disciplinarian 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.
By the time she was a toddler, Janet's older brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael had already begun to perform onstage at nightclubs and theaters as the Jackson 5. In March, 1969, the group signed to Motown Records, and by the end of the year, the group recorded their first of their four consecutive number-one 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.
When Janet was 7, she had aspired to be a horse jockey after a growing profound infatuation with horses. However, her father thought otherwise, as he saw her potential early on. After the success of the Jackson 5 began to dwindle due to a changing musical scene and record industry politics, Joseph decided to bring the rest of his offspring into the spotlight including little Janet.
On April 9, 1974, Janet made her public debut performance at a Las Vegas nightclub, with nearly all nine members of the Jackson family (Rebbie did not join until a few months later at a different city). Little Janet quickly became the star of the show emulating and imitating various icons such as Cher, Toni Tennille, and Mae West, in particular.
By 1976, Janet and the family's Vegas act had caught the attention of CBS' president Fred Silverman. The network was desperately trying to find a new variety act to replace the recently ended Sonny & Cher Show, since ABC had a competing show featuring Donny and Marie Osmond.
Debuting on June 16, 1976, The Jacksons show became the first African-American family to have a variety show on TV. The show lasted only two seasons and was cancelled in 1977.
In 1977, 11-year-old Janet's talent for acting caught legendary TV producer Norman Lear's ear. Lear was looking for someone to reawaken one of his groundbreaking shows from TV ruin - the family sitcom Good Times. Casting her as an abused child named Penny, Janet easily stole the spotlight from the show's biggest star, J.J. Evans, played by Jimmie Walker. J.J. was the apple of Penny's eye on the show, a fact the character would make known every time she saw him. Janet would become such a popular draw to the show that she was named as one of the starring cast members during the 1977-1978 season and would remain in the show until it was cancelled 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, the love interest of Willis (played by Todd Bridges). With Janet's charisma, looks and sweetness, she had become a teen idol and was the idol of black girls who aspire to be her or look like her. A prime example is Moesha Mitchell, who was portrayed by Brandy Norwood on the 1990s sitcom Moesha. Norwood was a huge admirer of Janet.
In 1984, Janet reluctantly took the role of Cleo Hewitt in the musical series, "Fame". She later told interviewers that her father told her to do the role. After a year, Janet asked to be let go of her contract. It would take Janet 19 years to appear in another television series.
Janet always had an interest in music, writing her first song at the age of nine, but she never aspired 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.
Although she was asked by her father Joseph to start a singing career, Janet was uncomfortable with being in the recording studio feeling she was not 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 16, she released her debut album simply called Janet Jackson though the teenager protested that her last name should not have been 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 featured 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 album sold over a quarter million copies in the US. Billboard Magazine gave Janet the rank of being the tenth biggest-selling R&B artist at the end of 1982, while the debut album was given the rank of being the tenth biggest-selling R&B album of 1983.
Despite the modest success, Jackson found that she had to compete with brother Michael for pop music prominence, after his success with his hit albums.
In 1984, Janet, now eighteen, released her second 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, producer of hits for artists like 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, A&M A&R John McClain decided to bring in much needed help to make Janet a star. McClain recruited producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to revive the dying music career of the 19-year-old. Before leaving for Minneapolis, however, the producers were given the blessing of Janet's father...and manager after they promised him that Jackson would not sound anything like Prince.
Within months, Jackson, Jam & Lewis crafted what became one of the best-produced records to come around in that particular time. Naming it "Control", Jackson told her life through a funky musical basis:
"When I was 17 I did what people told me,
Did what my father said and let my mother mold me,
First time I fell in love I didn't know what hit me,
So young and so naïve I thought it would be easy,
But now I know I got to take control..."
Janet got the last laugh when the album was released in February, 1986, and became a smash based on hits like "What Have You Done For Me Lately", "Nasty" and "When I Think of You". Jackson's success, however, was not just due to Jam & Lewis' funky productions, but also Jackson's high-tech dance moves that seemed to defy gravity in well-produced music videos that received heavy rotation on MTV, BET, VH-1 and other music video channels. The album peaked at #1 that May and sold over 5 million copies in The United States according to the RIAA. Jackson performed brilliantly at both the American Music Awards (where she won two out of an unbelievable nine nominations) and Grammy Awards (where the album was up for Album of the Year) and was now in the same levels of success that had once eluded her.
When Janet went into her next record, she was under pressure to deliver the same spark that had made "Control" remarkable with the same messages and the same format. However, Janet, now 22, was looking at different matters. She had seen images of shootings, drug dealing, gang-related violence and poverty on TV and wanted to sing some of those messages into what ended up becoming "Rhythm Nation 1814".
And even though Janet had finally scored a hit album, many critics wrote her off as a "studio project" and still were quoting her as "Michael's sister" often to remind her of the person she was now engaged in a "friendly rivalry" with. Janet was determined to prove critics wrong. When "Rhythm Nation 1814" was finally released in October, 1989, she proved them wrong both artistically and commercially. In an artistic sense, Janet gave her fans messages of unity ("Rhythm Nation"), education ("The Knowledge"), poverty ("State of the World") and school shootings ("Living in a World We Didn't Make"). But she also brought a funnier and romantic side to things in songs like "Escapade" and "Alright" while "Black Cat", the solo Jackson production, showcased a more rock side. Ballads like "Come Back to Me" and "Lonely" showcased the calm and cool delivery of Jackson's voice.
Commercially, Jackson made history. As the album peaked at #1 in the beginning of 1990, Jackson found even more success with a three-set of videos from her "Rhythm Nation" mini-movie and the accompanying songs for the non-social message songs that filled up the mini-movie. Jackson even co-choreographed most of the dance moves in all the videos. Because of them, Jackson's status as a hit-making diva was solid. Amazingly, seven songs hit the Top 5 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart between 1989 and 1991. Four of those ("Miss You Much", "Escapade", "Black Cat" & "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" were #1 records. The album sold over 6 million in the U.S. according to the RIAA and became the top-selling album of 1990, winning the Billboard Award for the top selling album of that year. Janet finally had gotten to her big brother's stature even winning multiple awards at the Billboard Music Awards in almost the same fashion of Michael's 8-time Grammy wins. Ironically, Jackson only won one of the 8 Grammys she was nominated - for Best Long Form Music Video. Around the same time, Janet embarked on a world tour that ended up making her a critical darling and the tour itself became the best-selling debut tour by an artist in rock history.
After finding success as a singer, Jackson was given another chance at an acting career when director John Singleton allowed her to audition as a tough, poetic hairdresser from South Central, Los Angeles. The film was called Poetic Justice. Riding off the success of his groundbreaking "Boyz in the Hood" movie, Singleton wanted to find similar gold in "Justice". Instead of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ice Cube, Singleton brought Jackson and rapper Tupac Shakur in as the stars of the romantic drama. When the film opened in 1993, fans were shocked at Jackson's attitude. Before, she always had a shy demeanor but as Justice, Janet cursed and even threatened people who ever crossed her. The new attitude brought along a change in Jackson's music as she entered the studio to record her fifth album (third with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis). The mood was now more brash in its sensual and sexual tone. The music was deep and provocative. The vocals were sexier than ever.
When Jackson released the simply titled "janet." album in May, 1993, many in the music industry have said that she truly broke out of the shell of her older brother. The first song, "That's The Way Love Goes", became a hit out of left-field because Jackson's new label Virgin had originally wanted the hard-edged "If" to be the first release. Instead, Jackson's demand that the former was to be released, led to her having her longest-running #1 single on the Billboard pop charts. Janet also scored a hit with the latter and four other singles including the Oscar-nominated "Again" and #1 R&B single of the year, "Any Time, Any Place" (spent 10 weeks at #1 on Billboard's Top R&B Chart). The album became a huge success worldwide, reaching #1 in 22 countries, selling nearly 17 million copies. "janet." was awarded Grammy, MTV Video Music, and Soul Train Awards.
In 1996, Jackson re-signed with Virgin for a reported $80 million. Around the same time, she was busy trying to create a concept around her sixth studio effort. Yet she was faced with personal demons that almost downplayed the recordings. Jackson acknowledged later she went through clinical depression. The result was possibly her most painful album, "The Velvet Rope". Despite the usual love song ("I Get Lonely"), sex song ("Rope Burn") and anti-racism anthem (the hidden track "Can't Be Stopped"), most of the album showcased pain, life lost, and spiritual growth. The album's almost avant-garde approach took most of the buying public off guard when it was released on October 7, 1997; though it ended up becoming another multi-platinum effort for the diva. And unlike her previous albums, only two songs (the AIDS anthem "Together Again" and the smoky R&B number "I Get Lonely") were released as singles while three more were charted overseas. The tour, however, became a bigger success. A televised show from New York helped Jackson and her crew get nominated for Emmy's. The album also showed signs that personal strain had been developing in one of Jackson's relationships with a former dancer.
When Janet suffered from the aftermath of her failed marriage to James DeBarge in 1985, former dancer Rene Elizondo was always by her side. They began an on-again, off-again courtship in 1986 that resulted in a secret marriage in March, 1991. Many speculated at the time of "The Velvet Rope", their marriage had begun to fall apart. According to both Jackson and Elizondo, the couple had become more business partners than a couple. Together, they helped cultivate the sounds that made Jackson's music popular. By 1999, however, their marriage was all but over. But it took a year into Jackson working on her second box-office flick, "The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" that their marriage would finally be told to the world as Rene revealed in 2000. Jackson explained in interviews that she chose not to tell fans about her marriage because since she had been in the public spotlight at a young age that if word ever got out about her marriage, then it would have made it worse and the marriage was to be over anyway. Elizondo later sued Jackson for spousal support as they went through a nasty court battle that finally ended in 2002 with the divorce finalized and Elizondo only receiving half the multi-million dollar pay-off he was hoping for.
Janet released her eighth album in 2001. Titled "All For You", Jackson made music history with the album's title track reaching every format of radio that day of its release. The song's success helped the album reach #1 and become a big seller. The other big hit included was "Someone To Call My Lover". Unlike "The Velvet Rope", "All For You" showcased a much happier Janet living the single life.
Meanwhile, Jackson was on the mind of many a gossip column about her alleged rapports with everybody from actor Matthew McConaughey, singer Justin Timberlake, singer Johnny Gill and rapper Q-Tip. There were already innuendos (that were later denied) that Jackson engaged in lesbianism with her female back-up dancers. However, in reality by 2002, Jackson was accompanying herself with hip-hop producer and music mogul Jermaine Dupri.
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".
Timberlake's song, "Rock your body" has suggestive lyrics which state, "gonna have you naked by the end of this song". 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 had not apologized at all.
CBS, the NFL, and MTV, which produced the halftime show, disclaimed all responsibility under a hailstorm of controversy. Jackson and Timberlake confirmed those denials, but The FCC continued with its investigation. As a result, CBS conditioned its invitation for Jackson to appear at the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony on another public apology. She declined, but Justin Timberlake apologized and appeared as both a performer and a presenter.
Because of heightened FCC scrutiny of obscene content on television and radio, the entertainment industry suffered a major backlash. Broadcasters implemented video delays of several minutes in some cases where only audio delays had been used before. Programs that once pushed the envelope began eliminating even mildly coarse language from their broadcasts. Some performers were penalized for things that had been acceptable previously. Many people directly blamed Jackson for igniting this new wave of censorship while in fact the FCC was already moving in that direction (and Timberlake's complicity has been largely ignored or forgotten). Even greater responsibility for the crackdown rests with such groups as the Parents Television Council which was responsible for the vast majority of FCC complaints regarding the incident and since then.
The incident also resulted in further professional setbacks for Jackson. Prior to the Super Bowl, she was set to play legendary entertainer Lena Horne in her bio-pic. But after the incident, Horne reportedly refused to return her contract for the film until Jackson was dropped from the project. Jackson also did not receive significant support from MTV for the album she released in the Spring of 2004 (although the video was played).
Despite all of that, Jackson has managed to survive the incident and the troubles her older brother Michael was facing due to his trial for child molestation and ultimate acquittal (which Janet was present for) by showing the perserverance that has made her a superstar.
Many thought it was awkward that a month after the Super Bowl scandal, Janet released her ninth album, "Damita Jo", with the cover of a topless Jackson covering her breasts. Controversy dogged what was potentially a hit album. But even in the midst of everything, the album still managed to make a #2 debut on the charts though it was her first since "Rhythm Nation" to not make it #1 in its first week. The album sold three million copies worldwide to date and garnered Platinum status in America. It could be because this album is a "copy controlled" disc in Europe. The only big hit from the album was her Grammy-nominated Motown-like soul ballad, "I Want You". The single for "I Want You" was only released in Europe and Japan as part single with "All Nite (Don't Stop)." "All Nite (Don't Stop)" was Janet's first single not to hit the top 40 since her song "Come Give Your Love To Me" from her Debut album Janet Jackson The album, itself, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album.
Fighting back against her critics, Jackson began doing interviews. She also 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. In a much lighter tone, Jackson appeared on a TV show for the first time since she was the special guest on the hit show, "Will & Grace" as herself.
As of 2005, there are plans to release a new album, which would feature production once again from Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis with her boyfriend Jermaine Dupri as one of its executive producers. Jimmy Jam told an interviewer that the new album, expected to feature more dance numbers, will come out in 2006, 20 years after Jackson began her successful journey.