Singer, songwriter, actress Janet Damita Jo Jackson familiarly known as Janet Jackson was born on May 16th, 1966, in Gary, Indiana. She’s the youngest of nine children born to Joe and Katherine Jackson including Michael, Tito, Marlon, LaToya, and Jermaine. She was a little chubby, and given to roughhousing. She had an experience of life completely different from what her oldest brothers and sisters may have known as a poor Indiana family.
As she grew, her interests divided in several directions like dancing, acting, singing. At the age of seven she first appeared on stage in her brothers’ show in 1973. In 1977, Norman Lear offered her a job on the CBS hit as Penny Gordon Woods on “Good Times”. Later she appeared on some shows, “Diffrent Strokes” and “A New Kind of Family” among them. She was doing best acting not extremely challenging, but highly paid, with good exposure. Brother Michael was already solo and tearing up the charts with Off the Wall. In the year of 1982, she released her first album, Janet Jackson. It wasn’t bad for a first effort, especially for a sixteen year old, but it played it very safe. Janet had yet to find a voice, a style, or an audience. She toured the country, performing in high schools and encouraging the kids there to stay in school. During the tour, she went with her mother to see The Time perform. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who are the band members would become major persons in her career. In 1983, she got a role on “Fame”. From that shown she became perfect in singing and dancing, as well as acting and writing. During her time at “Fame,” she remained protected and her parents were often on the set. In 1984, at the age of 18 Janet loved James DeBarge and married him. Pressures from a number of different directions intervened her record company, the demands of her schedule, her youth. By the following March, she moved back in with her parents and had the marriage annulled.
In 1984, Janet released her second album, Dream Street. The album peaked at 147 on the charts and Janet retreated to think about her next album. She listened to other songs, worked intensively with songwriters and producers, and cultivated a coherent sound which had been lacking the previous effort. This sound is still recognizable in Janet’s music a blending of the sharp opening phrases and commanding bass lines of funk with the melodic sense of soul, and the rhythm backing of 80s dance pop and, later, rap.
In 1986 she has released an album named Control. It was her first album with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. It changed all of their careers. It hit number one, putting six singles on various charts. Among the charts that Janet simultaneously occupied the No.1 position on dance, black and pop which describe the meld the album achieved. It took the hard beat background and laid a beautiful melody over it, with Janet not always so much singing as keeping a vocal tempo.
The album was aggressive, in tone and melody. The voice of a woman taking control of her voice and her man, “Control” the title track being what the album is all about. The album was all about Janet and who she wanted to be. It was sexier than any past album enough to disturb her mother a bit. The singles from the album just kept coming: five of the tracks from the album became top 5 pop hits. Janet spent most of 1986 and 1987 supporting the album and remixing the songs into dance versions.
Rolling Stone reviewer Rob Hoerburger called Control “a better album than Diana Ross has made in five years.” Ms. magazine named the album one of the musical landmarks of the past 20 years. In the year 1989 Janet has released her next album, Rhythm Nation 1814. What exactly did 1814 mean? Well, R and N are the 18th and 14th letters of the alphabet, respectively but that wasn’t quite it. If, as People reviewer Ralph Novak claimed, Janet was “making a strident declaration of independence” with Control, Rhythm Nation was a few years down the road. 1814 refers to the year that Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the album was about some of the troubles of this Rhythm Nation. She said at the time, “Control was about my life Rhythm Nation is about what’s going on in the world around us.”
Rhythm Nation was accompanied by a long form video project, surrounding a number of the songs from the album, in a conceptually sound form. It’s a morality play featuring two young shoeshine boys, which director Dominic Sena tried to film in the style of a vintage musical. The tour that followed was as much of a production huge, expensive, and theatrical.
Almost the same time Janet was released, she starred in John Singleton’s Poetic Justice. The film, about the meaning of poetry in an urban setting, gained Janet some respect for her acting. Oddly enough, she had attended the same junior high school as John Singleton- “I remember his as this little kid with ‘Coke bottle glasses,’ who had all these books,” Janet said. Since then, she’s spent time building her acting skills, writing songs, and maintaining relationships. She remains close with Michael still as kids they would play piano together. She still talks to him mornings, supported him in public during his roughest times. The key she wears on an earring is a gift from him it was to the cage of a baby deer they took care of as kids. One day, he attached it to the earring and she has left it there. The two siblings joined forces on Michael’s video currently the most expensive music video ever made “Scream.”
With the release of her seventh album, Behind The Velvet Rope, Janet joined longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on a project that set out to tackle social issues like domestic violence and the AIDS crisis. The first single from the album, “Got “Til It’s Gone,” features a sample from an artist accustomed to speaking out through music – Joni Mitchell. And like “Got ‘Til It’s Gone’s” recurring chorus, “Joni Mitchell never lies,” Janet assimilates the statement to a new level in her own career, “I’ve always had this need, when I discover a truth, to share it musically,” Jackson said. “A lot of times when I’ve felt alone, music has helped me get through it. Maybe this album will strike a chord with some people out there when they’re going through difficult times.