Joe Jackson (musician)

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Joe Jackson
Jackson performing in Arizona, July 1982
Background information
Birth name David Ian Jackson
Born (1954-08-11) 11 August 1954 (age 60)
Burton upon Trent, England
Genres Punk rock, ska (early), new wave, jazz pop, jazz, classical
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, author
Instruments Vocals, piano, keyboards, saxophone
Years active 1970–present
Labels A&M, Sony

Joe Jackson (born David Ian Jackson, 11 August 1954)[1] is a musician and singer-songwriter. Born in England, he lived in New York before moving to Berlin, and his career, during which he recorded nineteen studio albums and garnered five Grammy Award nominations, spans from 1979 to today.[2] Jackson became an overnight success with his 1978 hit "Is She Really Going Out with Him?", his first single, and after a number of new wave singles moved to a more jazz-inflected pop music; he had a Top 10 hit in 1982 with "Steppin' Out", and another hit in 1984 with "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)". He has also composed classical music.


Early years[edit]

Born in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, David Jackson spent his first year in nearby Swadlincote, Derbyshire. He grew up in the Paulsgrove area of Portsmouth, where he attended the City of Portsmouth Boys' School. Jackson's parents moved to nearby Gosport when he was a teenager.

Jackson learned to play the violin but soon switched to piano and prevailed on his father to install one in the hall of their Paulsgrove council house. Jackson began playing piano in bars at the age of 16, and he also won a scholarship to study musical composition at London's Royal Academy of Music.

Jackson's first band, formed in Gosport, was called Edward Bear, later renamed Edwin Bear, and then Arms and Legs, but the band broke up in 1976 after two unsuccessful singles. He was still known as David Jackson while in Arms and Legs, but around this time he picked up the nickname "Joe", based on his perceived resemblance to the puppet character Joe 90. Jackson then spent some time performing on the cabaret circuit to make money to record a demo.

Joe Jackson band[edit]

In 1978 a record producer heard his demo tape, and got him signed to A&M Records. The next year the newly formed Joe Jackson Band released their debut album, Look Sharp!. Its mix of energetic New Wave rock and bitter British punk was in a similar style to the music of Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. The album enjoyed wide critical success: in 2013 Rolling Stone magazine named Look Sharp! number 98 in a list of the 100 best debut albums of all time. Some commercial success also followed, as the debut single "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" reached the top 40 in 5 countries, and no. 9 in Canada.

The Joe Jackson band released I'm the Man in 1979. The album followed a similar musical pattern, and received good, though not as strong, reviews. It did produce the single "It's Different for Girls", which became Jackson's highest charting UK single, peaking at no. 5. Reviews were decent, though Robert Christgau responded to I'm the Man by writing "Oh yeah? Then get the knack back."

Beat Crazy followed in 1980. Jackson also collaborated with Lincoln Thompson in reggae crossover.

Jackson at the El Mocambo, Toronto, 21 May 1979

In 1981, Jackson produced an album for the British power pop group The Keys. The Keys Album was the group's only LP.[3]

The Joe Jackson Band toured extensively until it broke up. Jackson subsequently recorded an album of old-style swing and blues tunes, Jumpin' Jive, with songs by Cab Calloway, Lester Young, Glenn Miller, and Louis Jordan. The album, and associated single release, was credited to the band Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive.[2]

Jackson's 1982 album Night and Day was his only studio album to reach either the UK or US Top 10, peaking at No. 3 (UK) and at No. 4 (US), and the cuts "Steppin' Out" and "Breaking Us in Two" were both top 20 hits. The tracks "Real Men" and "A Slow Song" referred obliquely to New York City's early 1980s gay culture.[4]

By 1984, New York had become Jackson's home base, and he recorded Body and Soul there, an album he later said was "from the point of view of a relative newcomer".[5] Heavily influenced by pop and jazz standards and salsa, it had the US No. 15 hit single "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)".

In 1985 Jackson played piano on Joan Armatrading's 1985 album Secret Secrets, and in 1986 he collaborated with Suzanne Vega on the single "Left of Center" from Pretty in Pink's soundtrack.

Jackson's next album was Big World, with all-new songs recorded live in front of an audience instructed to remain silent while music was playing. Released in 1986, it was a three-sided double record; the fourth side consisted of a single centering groove and a label stating "there is no music on this side". The instrumental album "Will Power" (1987), with heavy classical and jazz influences, set the stage for things to come later, but before he left pop behind, he put out two more albums, Blaze of Glory (which he performed in its entirety during the subsequent tour) and Laughter & Lust. In 1995, Jackson contributed his version of "Statue of Liberty" on a tribute album for the English band XTC called A Testimonial Dinner: The Songs of XTC.

Post pop[edit]

In the late 1990s Jackson expanded into classical music; he signed with Sony Classical in 1997 and released Symphony No. 1 in 1999, for which he received a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album in 2001.[6]

In 2003, he reunited his original quartet[2] for the album Volume 4, and a lengthy tour. In 2004, he contributed a cover of Pulp's "Common People" with William Shatner for Shatner's album Has Been. A dedicated smoker, he gave up his New York apartment in 2006 partly in protest over the ascendancy of smoking bans, and made the Berlin neighborhood Kreuzberg his new home. It was there that he recorded, with longtime collaborators Graham Maby and Dave Houghton, his eighteenth studio album, Rain (Rykodisc, January 2008); the album was followed by a five-month tour.[7]

Joe Jackson and the Bigger Band, featuring Regina Carter, played fourteen shows in the USA and 21 shows in Europe from September to November 2012.[citation needed]

Jackson was married for two years.[8]

Other activities[edit]

Jackson has actively campaigned against smoking bans in both the United States and the United Kingdom,[9] writing a 2005 pamphlet The Smoking Issue, a 2007 essay Smoke, lies and the nanny state[10][11] and issuing a satirical song ("In 20-0-3") on the subject.[12]

Jackson wrote an autobiography called A Cure For Gravity, published in 1999, which he described as a "book about music, thinly disguised as a memoir". It traces his working class upbringing in Portsmouth and charts his musical life from childhood until his twenty-fourth birthday. Life as a pop star, he insisted, was hardly worth writing about.[13]


Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

Video albums[edit]

  • Steppin' Out: The Videos (The Very Best of Joe Jackson) (2001, A&M)[16]
  • Joe Jackson – 25th Anniversary Special (2003, Image Entertainment)[17]
  • Live at Rockpalast (2012), also available as a Double-CD set


Year Title Chart positions Album
UK[2] AUS CAN GER NL[18] NZ[19] US Hot 100[20] US Alt.[20] US Rock[20]
1978 "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" Look Sharp!
1979 "Sunday Papers"
"One More Time"
"Fools in Love"
"Is She Really Going Out with Him?" (re-issue) 13 15 9 46 18 21
"I'm the Man" 23 I'm the Man
"It's Different for Girls" 5 85 101
1980 "Kinda Kute" 91
"The Harder They Come" 34 (Extended play)
"Mad at You" Beat Crazy
1981 "Beat Crazy"
"One to One"
"Jumpin' Jive" 43 61 32 Jumpin' Jive
1982 "Real Men" 6 17 48 Night and Day
"Steppin' Out" 6 30 5 28 21 6 7
1983 "Breaking Us in Two" 59 90 40 35 18
"Memphis" 85 Mike's Murder (soundtrack)
1984 "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)" 96 30 15 Body & Soul
"Happy Ending" (featuring Elaine Caswell) 58 47 19 57
"Be My Number Two" 70
1986 "Left of Centre" (Suzanne Vega featuring Joe Jackson) 32 35 Pretty in Pink (soundtrack)
"Right and Wrong" 64 11 Big World
"Home Town"
1988 "Is She Really Going Out with Him? (Live)" 5 Live 1980/86
1989 "(He's a) Shape in a Drape" 87 73 35 Tucker (soundtrack)
"Nineteen Forever" 79 58 44 4 16 Blaze of Glory
1991 "Obvious Song" 64 2 28 Laughter & Lust
"Stranger Than Fiction" 79 53 71
"Oh Well" 20 25
2001 "Stranger Than You" 91 Night and Day II
"—" denotes a title that did not chart, or was not released in that territory.


  1. ^ "Allmusic biography". Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 274. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^ Mike Paulsen (2009). "The Keys : The Keys Album". New Wave Outpost. Archived from the original on 21 March 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  4. ^ ""NPR Weekend Edition Sunday: Gay Pop Music", 22 June 2003". 22 June 2003. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Bessman, Jim (14 October 2000). "Artists & Music: New York Inspires Joe Jackson Again on Night and Day II". Billboard. p. 24. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  6. ^ "Allmusic ((( Joe Jackson > Charts & Awards > Grammy Awards )))". 
  7. ^ McNair, James (11 February 2008). "Joe Jackson: Catching up with the maverick singer-songwriter". The Independent. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Jackson, Joe (24 June 2001). "Is Joe Jackson really going out with him?" Irish Independent. Retrieved 30 December 2014. Author is not to be confused with the subject of the article.
  9. ^ "The Smoking Issue". 2008-05-08. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  10. ^ "Smoke, Lies and the Nanny State" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-04-010.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  11. ^ "The Official Website of Joe Jackson". Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  12. ^ "Joe". Joe Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  13. ^ A Cure for Gravity, 1999, ISBN 1-86230-083-6
  14. ^ "Allmusic ((( Joe Jackson > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". 
  15. ^ "Collected: Joe Jackson: Music". Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  16. ^ "Steppin' Out – The Videos (The Very Best of Joe Jackson): Joe Jackson: Movies & TV". Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  17. ^ "Joe Jackson – 25th Anniversary Special: Allison Cornell, Joe Jackman, Roberto Rodriguez, Joe Jackson, Graham Maby, Sue Hadjopolous, Andy Ezrin, Catherine Bent, Lee Cantelon: Movies & TV". Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  18. ^ " – Dutch charts portal". (in Dutch). Hung Medien / Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  19. ^ " – New Zealand charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  20. ^ a b c "Allmusic ((( Joe Jackson > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". 


External links[edit]