Happy birthday to Joe Jackson, born David Ian Jackson, who celebrates No. 57 today — hopefully with a drink and a smoke, if he wants one.
No matter how you may feel about “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”, or Jackson’s many swings or changes in style, give thanks to Jackson for this: he helped a whole new generation get acquainted with Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway and their genre with his 1981 Jumping Jive album. Jackson’s brief tribute on the back was almost as good as the music:
When my dad was my age, jazz was not respectable. It played in whorehouses not Carnegie Hall. These classics from jump, jive and swing are all from the 1940s . . . our main inspiration, Louis Jordan, the king of jukeboxes, who influenced so many but is acknowledged by so few. Like us he didn’t aim at purists or even jazz fans — just anyone who wanted to listen and enjoy. Reap this righteous riff.
There’s been much to reap in Jackson’s career. The album title Night and Day is taken from a Cole Porter song; his current project is a tribute to Duke Ellington, and his other albums have fallen everywhere on the eclectic scale, in parts witty, sarcastic, angry and consistently unpredictable.
“I’ve always been pretty diverse,” Jackson tells Michael Hill on his website, joejackson.com. “It you go back and listen to the first album, you might find that it’s pretty eclectic. I think that artists, especially new ones, get slotted into one movement or genre or another. People were so anxious to put me in a certain category that they didn’t notice how eclectic Look Sharp! was, so they acted surprised a bit later. It’s kind of ironic.”
Many of the pictures of Jackson on his website have him looking sharp, with a cigarette in hand. In fact, there’s a separate header for Smoking; the campaigns against it in public are apparently his biggest peeve. He left New York, reportedly to live in Germany, in part because of it.
From a 2003 op-ed piece Jackson wrote for The New York Times: ”New York used to have an edge — that sense that something thrilling can happen at any moment and that anyone, not just rich people and tourists, can be a part of it. Now even the bohemians are turning sanctimonious . . . the smoking ban is the last straw, the thing that has me packing my bags in utter
Leaving New York? Say it ain’t so Joe.
Sources: Joejackson.com, billboard.com, wikipedia.org