August 11, 1954 – Musician Joe Jackson is born

August 11, 1954 – Musician Joe Jackson is born

Joe Jackson is born in Burton-on-Trent, England. He grew up in Portsmouth, England, where he was an awkward, skinny boy with asthma. To avoid playing sports, he took up the violin at age 11, fell in love with music, and took up several more instruments. By age 16, he was playing piano at local pubs. At age 18, Jackson was accepted into London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he studied to become a composer and played with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. However, he became disillusioned with “serious” music and turned to rock in the 1970s. He played with several bands in the late 1970s and became musical director at the Portsmouth Playboy Club. Meanwhile, he made a demo recording; A&M records signed him in 1978. His first album, Look Sharp, was a hit, rising to No. 20 on the pop charts, and included the classic song “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” His next album, I’m the Man, released the same year, rose to No. 22 and seemed to establish him firmly as a new wave hero, frequently compared with Elvis Costello. However, in 1980, Jackson took the first of his many unexpected turns, releasing Beat Crazy, an album heavily influenced by reggae. His 1982 album, Jumpin’ Jive, was a collection of swing-era tunes that prefigured the swing revival of the late 1980s and early 1990s. His salsa-influenced Night and Day (1982) included the single “Steppin’ Out,” which rose to No. 6 on the charts. But by the early 1990s, Jackson had largely retreated from the mainstream pop world and started creating more experimental, sophisticated, and eclectic albums, including Night Music (1994) and Heaven and Hell (1997). His instrumental album, Symphony No. 1 (1999), won him his first Grammy, for Best Pop Instrumental Album.