Doctor of Music
A Grammy award-winning musician with a career spanning 6 decades.
Joe Jackson grew up in Portsmouth, a skinny, asthmatic kid who loved books and wanted to be a writer. At age 11, he joined a school violin class to escape from sports, but found himself fascinated by music, eagerly studying music theory and then the piano.
His first efforts as a composer were pieces for piano and small groups of instruments. Within a few years, he was writing songs and leaning more towards the pop world. At age 16, he played his first paying gig as a pianist in a pub just outside of Portsmouth. At age 18, he won a scholarship to study composition, piano and percussion at London's Royal Academy of Music.
While at the Academy, Joe broadened his horizons further by working with a Fringe theatre group, with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and with various pop cover bands. By 1978 – after, among other things, playing at a Playboy Club - he was living in London and his demo tape of songs that would become the album Look Sharp, found its way to American producer David Kershenbaum, who talked A&M Records into signing him. Regular gigs for the Joe Jackson Band followed, with Look Sharp released in January 1979. After two more albums (I’m The Man and Beat Crazy), his drummer quit the band and Joe decided to dissolve it and try something new.
From 1982, Joe was based mostly in New York. With a new guitar-less band, he hit the road for an entire year, as the album Night and Day - a more sophisticated and melodic record built around keyboards and latin percussion - became his biggest success, going platinum in the US and spawning the hit singles Steppin’ Out, Breaking Us in Two and Real Men.
Joe continued to tour and record through the 1980s and 90s, releasing albums such as Body and Soul, Blaze of Glory, Laughter and Lust, and Night Music. He has also written several film scores, notably for Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker -The Man and His Dream. His book A Cure For Gravity – which he described as ‘a book about music thinly disguised as a memoir’ – was published in 1999.
In 2003, the original Joe Jackson Band reunited for the album Volume Four and a lengthy tour. In 2007 Joe moved to Berlin, where he recorded Rain with just piano, bass and drums, a line-up which toured for 3 years. In 2012, Jackson released The Duke, consisting of radical new arrangements of Duke Ellington compositions. Fast Forward, an album of original songs recorded in four different cities with four different bands, was released in 2015. Joe’s latest album, Fool, followed in January 2019 – exactly 40 years after the release of Look Sharp.
Joe Jackson is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and has five Grammy nominations and one award, in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category, for his non-traditional, non-orchestral Symphony No.1. A passionate advocate for live music, he continues to tour (playing Portsmouth Guildhall in 2022) and divides his time between Berlin, New York, and Portsmouth.