Joe Jackson (musician)

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Joe Jackson
Jackson performing in Arizona, July 1982
Jackson performing in Arizona, July 1982
Background information
Birth nameDavid Ian Jackson
Born (1954-08-11) 11 August 1954 (age 66)
Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England
GenresPunk rock, ska, new wave, jazz pop, jazz, sophisti-pop,[1] classical
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, author
InstrumentsVocals, piano, keyboards, saxophone
Years active1970–present
LabelsA&M, Sony Classical, Virgin/EMI, Rykodisc, E1/Koch

David Ian "Joe" Jackson (born 11 August 1954) is an English musician and singer-songwriter.[2] Having spent years studying music and playing clubs, Jackson scored a hit with his first release, "Is She Really Going Out with Him?", in 1979. This was followed by a number of new wave singles before he moved to more jazz-inflected pop music and had a Top 10 hit in 1982 with "Steppin' Out". He is associated with the 1980s Second British Invasion of the US.[3] He has also composed classical music. He has recorded 19 studio albums and received 5 Grammy Award nominations.[4]


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 Portsmouth Technical High 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,[note 1] later renamed Arms and Legs. The band broke up in 1976 after two unsuccessful singles. He was still known as David Jackson when he joined Arms and Legs, but around this time he picked up the nickname "Joe," based on his perceived resemblance to the puppet character Joe Piano, who was Snoopy in Joe Cool guise playing piano.[5] 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 Jackson's demo tape and signed him to A&M Records. The next year the newly formed Joe Jackson Band released their debut album Look Sharp! A mix of rock, melodic jazz, and new wave, it mined a vein similar to that of contemporaries 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.[6] Beat Crazy followed in 1980. Jackson also collaborated with Lincoln Thompson in reggae crossover.[4]

Jackson at 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.[7] 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".[4]

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)[6] and at No. 4 (US).[8] Two singles released from the album, "Steppin' Out" and "Breaking Us in Two", were US top 20 hits.[9] The tracks "Real Men" and "A Slow Song" referred obliquely to New York City's early 1980s gay culture.[10] "Real Men" also became a top 10 hit in Australia.[11]

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".[12] 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)".[9]

In 1985 Jackson played piano on Joan Armatrading's 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.


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.[13] In 2000 he released a follow-up album, Night and Day II.[14]

In 2003, he reunited his original quartet[4] 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. In 2005 he teamed up with Todd Rundgren and the string quartet ETHEL for a tour of the US and Europe. 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 neighbourhood 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.[15]

In 2015, Jackson announced the completion of his follow-up to 2012's The Duke via his official website. The album's title, Fast Forward, and track list were confirmed in addition to North American tour dates. The titular first single was released for streaming via his official Soundcloud page. The entire record was briefly posted before being taken down a day later.[16]

On 18 January 2019 Jackson released the album Fool, preceded by the songs "Fabulously Absolute", "Strange Land" and "Friend Better".[citation needed] Jackson said about the album on his website: "One of my inspirations for this album was the band I've been touring with on and off for the last 3 years. I've had many different line-ups but this one is special. I met Graham Maby when I was 18, and he's still one of the best bassists around. Doug Yowell is a vortex of energy on drums and Teddy Kumpel is the guitarist I always wanted to work with but could never find. Like my first album, this was a band effort, recorded and mixed (brilliantly, by Pat Dillett) in about a month." Jackson and the band performed "Fabulously Absolute" on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show on 21 January 2019.[citation needed] Fool debuted in the Album Top 20 in Holland, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. In the US it debuted at #25 in Billboard's Top Album Sales Chart. In the UK it entered the Top 40 Indie Albums Chart at #13.

Album reissues[edit]

Beginning in 2016, independent record label Intervention Records began reissuing several of Joe Jackson's albums.[17] All reissues were done in 180-gram vinyl with deluxe jackets. Titles that were reissued are: Night and Day, I'm The Man, Look Sharp! and, for the first time on vinyl, Summer in the City. All albums were mastered using 100% analog tapes except Summer in the City, which was mastered from high-resolution archives.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Jackson spent a number of years living in New York City which served as an inspiration for his 1982 song "Steppin' Out". In a 2018 interview, Jackson said "I don't like New York much these days. It's as if the city and I had a hot love affair and now we're just friends, but we still have to see each other to remain friends. Today I live in Berlin. The New York I knew in late '81 and '82 is gone."[19]

Jackson was married to his wife, Ruth, for two years, but the marriage ended in divorce and was later called a "disaster" by Jackson. In a 2001 interview with the Irish Independent Jackson stated that he was in a relationship with a male partner.[20] Jackson had previously discussed his bisexuality in his autobiography A Cure For Gravity.[21]

Other activities[edit]

Jackson has actively campaigned against smoking bans in both the United States and the United Kingdom, publishing a 2005 pamphlet (The Smoking Issue)[22] and a 2007 essay (Smoke, Lies and the Nanny State),[23] and recording a satirical song ("In 20-0-3") on the subject.[24]

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.[25]

Material loss[edit]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Jackson among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[26]


Studio albums[edit]

Year Title Chart positions
1979 Look Sharp! 40 20 36 13 20
I'm the Man 12 81 45 47 22
1980 Beat Crazy 42 82 32 47 41
1981 Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive 14 29 12 42
1982 Night and Day 3 5 11 3 8 4
1983 Mike's Murder (soundtrack) 91 10 28 64
1984 Body and Soul 14 21 21 2 8 20
1986 Big World 41 22 24 2 27 34
1987 Will Power 67 58 25 131
1988 Tucker (soundtrack) 99
1989 Blaze of Glory 36 31 27 12 61
1991 Laughter & Lust 41 57 20 22 116
1994 Night Music
1997 Heaven & Hell
1999 Symphony No. 1
2000 Night and Day II 65
2003 Volume 4 116 49 27
2008 Rain 154 44 12 133
2012 The Duke 33 21 93
2015 Fast Forward 168 54 11
2019 Fool 13 11 13 25
"—" denotes a title that did not chart, or was not released in that territory.

Live albums[edit]

  • Big World (1986) – a studio album recorded before a live audience, asked to remain quiet so no applause or chat-ups.
  • Live 1980/86 (1988 A&M Records) – with live recordings from the Beat Crazy, the Night & Day, the Body & Soul and the Big World tours. No. 91 US, No. 66 UK, No. 17 AUS[11]
  • Summer in the City: Live in New York (2000, Sony) – with live recordings from August 1999.
  • Two Rainy Nights (2002, Great Big Island) – with live recordings from April 2001 in Seattle WA and Portland OR.
  • Volume 4 bonus CD (2003, Rykodisc) – with live recordings from the 2002 UK concert tour as a bonus CD in the limited edition of the "Volume 4" album.
  • AfterLife (2004, Rykodisc) – with live recordings from August 2003 at The Fillmore in San Francisco, CA, at House of Blues in Los Angeles CA and in Anaheim CA, and at 4th and B in San Diego CA.
  • At the BBC (2009, UMG Recordings, Inc.) – with live recordings from a Peel Session on 21 February 1979 and from performances on 29 November 1979 in Hertfordshire, on 15 August 1982 in Hammersmith, and on 22 January 1983 in Hitchin.
  • Live Music - Europe 2010 (2011, Razor & Tie) – with live recordings from October and November 2010 in Alençon and Brest (France), Basel (Switzerland), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and in Cologne and Berlin (Germany).
  • Live in Germany 1980 (2011 Immortal) – with live recordings at the WDR Studio in Cologne, Germany on 14 March 1980.
  • Live at Rockpalast (2012 MIG Music (Sony Music)) – with live recordings from 14 March 1980 in Cologne, Germany; from 21 February 1983 in Hamburg, Germany; and from 6 and 17 April 1983 in Essen, Germany.

Compilation albums[edit]

Video albums[edit]


Year Title Chart positions Album
US Hot 100
US Alt.
US Rock
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 8 46 18 21
"I'm the Man" 23 I'm the Man
"It's Different for Girls" 5 85 4 101
1980 "Kinda Kute" 91
"The Harder They Come" 34 (Extended play)
"Mad at You" Beat Crazy
"Pretty Boys" Times Square (soundtrack)
1981 "Beat Crazy" Beat Crazy
"One to One"
"Jumpin' Jive" 43 61 32 Jumpin' Jive
"Jack, You're Dead"
1982 "Real Men" 89 6 17 48 Night and Day
"Steppin' Out" 6 30 5 28 5 21 6 4 7
1983 "Breaking Us in Two" 59 90 40 26 35 18 8
"Another World"
"A Slow Song"
"Cosmopolitan" Mike's Murder (soundtrack)
"Memphis" 85
1984 "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)" 77 96 30 15 13 12 Body and Soul
"Happy Ending" (featuring Elaine Caswell) 58 47 19 57
"Be My Number Two" 70
"Cha Cha Loco"
1985 "Go for It"
1986 "Right and Wrong" 90 64 11 Big World
"Left of Center" (Suzanne Vega featuring Joe Jackson) 32 35 28 Pretty in Pink (soundtrack)
"Home Town" Big World
1987 "Nocturne" Will Power
1988 "Is She Really Going Out with Him? (Live)" 5 Live 1980/86
"(He's a) Shape in a Drape" 87 73 35 Tucker (soundtrack)
1989 "Nineteen Forever" 80 58 44 4 16 Blaze of Glory
"Down to London"
"Blaze of Glory"
1991 "Stranger than Fiction" 119 79 53 71 Laughter & Lust
"Obvious Song" 64 2 28
"Hit Single"
"Oh Well" 20 25
2001 "Stranger Than You" 91 Night and Day II
2004 "In 20-0-3"
"—" denotes a title that did not chart, or was not released in that territory.


  1. ^ "The Duke". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Allmusic biography". Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  3. ^ Chiu, David (4 July 2013). "A look back at 1983: The year of the second British Invasion". CBS News. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Jackson, Joe. "A Cure for Gravity: A Musical Journey" 1 October 1999
  6. ^ a b c d "Official Charts > Joe Jackson". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  7. ^ Mike Paulsen (2009). "The Keys : The Keys Album". New Wave Outpost. Archived from the original on 21 March 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Chart runs for Joe Jackson: US albums". Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  9. ^ a b c "Billboard > Artists / Joe Jackson > The Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  10. ^ ""NPR Weekend Edition Sunday: Gay Pop Music", 22 June 2003". 22 June 2003. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  11. ^ a b c d e Australian chart peaks:
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Allmusic ((( Joe Jackson > Charts & Awards > Grammy Awards )))".
  14. ^ "CD REVIEWS: Lenny Kravitz, Megadeth, Ron Hawkins and more". Chart Attack, October 24, 2000, By: Debbie Bento
  15. ^ McNair, James (11 February 2008). "Joe Jackson: Catching up with the maverick singer-songwriter". The Independent;. Retrieved 20 February 2015.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  16. ^ "FAST FORWARD: A NEW ALBUM + US TOUR DATES". Official Joe Jackson. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  17. ^ "Joe Jackson Reissues From Intervention Records". Analog Planet. 26 July 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  18. ^ Records, Intervention. "Intervention Records | (Re)living Music". Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  19. ^ Myers, Marc (13 June 2018). "The Story Behind Joe Jackson's 'Steppin' Out'; A night on the town in a vanished New York City inspired Joe Jackson's hit 'Steppin' Out'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Allen, Jim (26 June 2017). "35 Years Ago: Joe Jackson Reinvents Himself on 'Night and Day'". Diffuser. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  22. ^ "The Smoking Issue". 8 May 2008. Archived from the original on 8 May 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  23. ^ "Smoke, Lies and the Nanny State" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  24. ^ "Joe". Joe Archived from the original on 11 April 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  25. ^ A Cure for Gravity, 1999, ISBN 1-86230-083-6
  26. ^ Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  27. ^ "Discographie Joe Jackson". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  28. ^ "Dutch Charts > Joe Jackson (albums) (in Dutch)". Retrieved 4 December 2015. N.B. The chart run for "Night and Day II" is listed as a re-entry of the original "Night and Day" album. Its peak can be found by clicking the Chartrun drop down box.
  29. ^ a b " > Discography Joe Jackson". Hung Medien. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  30. ^ "Billboard > Artists / Joe Jackson > Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved 4 December 2015. N.B. Peaks for albums released prior to "Big World" are not listed.
  31. ^ Steppin' Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson - Joe Jackson Retrieved May 25, 2020.
  32. ^ The Ultimate Collection - Joe Jackson Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  33. ^ "Collected: Joe Jackson: Music". Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  34. ^ "Steppin' Out – The Videos (The Very Best of Joe Jackson): Joe Jackson: Movies & TV". Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  35. ^ "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.
  36. ^ UK singles chart peak for "Real Men": "Chart runs for Joe Jackson". Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  37. ^ "Screen shot of search results for 'Joe Jackson'". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  38. ^ "Screen shot of search results for 'Joe Jackson'". Fireball Media. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  39. ^ " – Dutch charts portal". (in Dutch). Hung Medien / Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  40. ^ US Billboard peak for "It's Different For Girls": "Chart runs for Joe Jackson: US Singles – Bubbling Under". Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  41. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research.
  42. ^ "Joe Jackson Chart History > Alternative Songs". Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  43. ^ "Joe Jackson Chart History > Mainstream Rock Tracks". Billboard. Retrieved 11 November 2018.


  1. ^ Not to be confused with the band of the same name, which disbanded in 1974.


External links[edit]