Blues & Soul - August 1986
The eldest member of the Jackson clam is also aiming for star status, but not at the risk of her
The Jackson family must be one of the most famous in the world. Michael, Jermaine and their brothers have
reached unprecedented success and fortune. Sister Janet is creeping up in a big way, Latoya
is about to enter the firing line once more, and Rebbie Jackson is now on her second album - catching
It's true to say, Rebbie - pronounced Reebie - is the last of the Jackson clan to embark upon a
career and she says there are several reasons for this. First off, Rebbie is the eldest of the
Jackson family "and I looked after them all as children. I felt like I was their mother I didn't mind at all.
I'm very much a family person, but this did not prevent me from being aware of the music business.
I grew up in a music environment, so it was always in my heart. At the time I wasn't interested
enough to become involved. When the boys were established...that's when I began to think it would
be a good idea. I loved Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and I've always liked singers like Lena
Horne. Motown was another heavy influence because I grew up with it, but when my brothers joined
the corporation, I didn't even think about following suit." The second reason will become apparent
as the interview progresses.
It was during 1974 that Ms Jackson performed professionally as part of the Jackson Family Show. Her
debut was in the Celebrity Room of the MGM Grand Hotel. "I did my bit with Michael and Marlon. It was
a song and dance routine. I knew that if I really wanted to do, I had the capability. I've always
enjoyed the feelings of being on stage and pleasing an audience.. I don't think you can match that
At no time though was she tempted to actually join the Jackson 5. "Well, they had all that all sewn up,
and didn't want a female member. The only addition from the family to join the was Randy. And
even the, I didn't think about pursuing a solo career seriously!"
Rebbie did, however, reach national status when her brothers hosted a 1976 summer series on CBS. She
sang several songs and joined in sketches and dance routines. "Great fun", she laughed.The series also
gave her the chance to work with Michael as a producer. "I did a version of 'Midnight At The Oasis'",
she recalls. "Michael sat in front of me and told me what to do and how to make the song work."
The family show ended a year later when Michael moved to New York to star in 'The Wiz' movie.
Rebbie took herself to Hollywood to work with Lynda Carter and Betty Wright, amongst others.
Later she was regarded as a respected artist in her own right. "Prior to performing properly
I got married and raised to children", she told me. "I had all the responsibilities a mother
has, and everything that goes with keeping house."
The quiet lady released her 'Centipede' album in late 1984. It was well received, though not
a speedy hit. She's now on her second, due out this month, title 'Reaction' I think. The title
track has now been released as a single as its first single - initial reactions are promising.
It's a good album too, with the highlight - in my opinion - being her duet with Isaac Hayes on
'Tonight I'm Yours', a terrific track which Rebbie also co-wrote.
"We were looking for someone for the duet, and boy we searched and searched. Then it came to us.
Isaac? He's also signed to Columbia and is recording his album. So we asked him. The song doesn't
have naughty connotations either. It's about a man and wife who go out to work all day, with
the anxiety of making a living, but when they come home in the evening, that time is for them - 'tonight
I'm yours', you see. People can interprete what they like into it, but I know the real meaning
behind the song. "
Working with big, butch men like Mr. Hayes is a temptation for any woman but Rebbie stressed
her husband showed no jealous streaks. "Oh, no, he knows it's only work. My husband respects me and
what I do. Even if I had to get real close to a man for a video, say, he'd know it was work and nothing
more. I wuold do nothing to put my marriage and my family at risk...never!"
The two year wait for her current album wasn't sue to laziness: Rebbie had a third baby, a boy, Nathaniel
Austin, who's now ten months old. "But", she laughed, "it took time to put all the material
for the album together, so being pregnant didn't stop me from working. Erik Nuri assisted in
selecting the tracks and I didn't have all my own way."
The new album holds a variety of sounds, and that was intentional, she says. "I have five different
producers for a start. The material is a combination of R&B, high-energy, dance, and I wanted to find
a mature sound, as well as variety without losing continuity. As a result I hope there's a little
bit of something for everybody. I'd like to be considered as an R&B singer with a popular sound. "
Having a young famiy doesn't clash with her career, and all that involves, Rebbie stressed. "Mind you,
it's not the easiest thing in the world to combine. We're very organised. My husband works for
me a lot, and we own a driving school, so we're real busy all the time. We have a very strong bond
and we all work together because like everyone else we have to make a living."
Should her children show an interest in the bright lights and glamour of the music industry, Rebbie
wouldn't discourage them - nor would she push them either. "No, I won't put them off if they
really want to do it. If they show talents in that area, I will help them all I can. "
We touched on the subject of two brothers: Michael and Jermaine. Jermaine, she said, has started
a lengthy American tour. "I saw him in concert last Sunday. He was really good. I'm so proud. I
don't know whether he'll tour Europe though."
Of Michael, Rebbie surprised me by saying she hadn't heard the new album. "I'll hear it when you do", she
seemed to sigh. "Oh, we keep in touch, after all, he's my little brother, but that's on a personal
not professional basis. I'm always asked about Michael by journalists. I don't mind at all because
I know it's difficult for the media to contact him. But, you see, he's so well-known
and has such a strong following, he can't do it all."
So, Rebbie Jackson, might have been a late starter here when compared to the rest of her talented
family but the old cliché rings so true - it's better late than never!