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BLAME IT ON THE BOOGIE Tito Jackson says brother Michael 'was so successful people forget about the Jackson 5'

The King of Pop's brother credits his mother with family's massive success after poor childhood

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Tito Jackson has a new album

Tito Jackson has a new album

Tito Jackson has a new album

I'm driving through Los Angeles traffic with American pop royalty Tito Jackson, who first set the music world ablaze in the Seventies with The Jackson 5.

At one point I'm talking to Tito's elbow as he cruises up into the hills, all the while giving me the inside story of life in the Jacksons through the decades.

It's a virtual trip with the pop legend as we're on a WhatsApp video call, but, although I'm in Dublin, it feels like I'm in the passenger seat of his SUV.

The iconic singer and musician has linked up with the Sunday World to talk about his new album, Under Your Spell, which comes out next Friday and features collaborations with artists such as Stevie Wonder and George Benson.

Throughout the journey we'll also discuss Tito's poor background growing up with his eight Jackson siblings and parents in "a very, very small house."

He reveals the key role his mother, Katherine, played in spotting her children's talent, and how she prodded her husband, Joe, to nurture it.

Tito is laid-back and softly spoken, but the entertainer becomes animated and forceful when addressing the child molestation allegations against his brother, Michael. He is adamant that they are untrue.

As the conversation begins, when Tito sets off in "horrible traffic" on his way to a video shoot, we talk about The Jacksons playing the Beatyard festival in Dun Laoghaire back in 2018.

"We took the ferry over from England," he recalls.

What are his memories of it? "I liked the beer, man," he laughs.

I mention that his brother, Michael, lived in Ireland for several months back in 2006, staying at Grouse Lodge in Co Westmeath.

"Oh really, wow, I didn't know that!" Tito admits. "That's great news. I guess he had a home there, right? Michael had homes everywhere."

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Their own home as a child was, he says, just two bedrooms for a family of 11. His father, Joe, worked as a crane operator with a steel company in those days.

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The Jackson Five in the 1970s

The Jackson Five in the 1970s

The Jackson Five in the 1970s

Both parents, Tito says, influenced their children's passion for music - but he credits his mother for recognising their talent.

"I have to give credit to my mother because she was singing country music and we'd do the harmonies with her, so that's where I guess singing started," he tells me.

"It was me, basically, who started playing instruments and started playing more modern music like Motown, The Temptations and The Isley Brothers. I had my two brothers (Jackie and Jermaine) singing these songs with me, and we were trying to be a little singing group before Michael and Marlon were even part of the band.

"My father used to jam all the time at the weekends with our uncle Luther. I would sit there as a young kid and just stare and want to do what they were doing.

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Michael Jackson during his "Dangerous" tour in 1993

Michael Jackson during his "Dangerous" tour in 1993

Michael Jackson during his "Dangerous" tour in 1993

"My father had a rule in the house that none of us kids were to play with his guitar when he was not there. I was the one that didn't listen, I guess, and did just the opposite. I started practising and I broke a string and didn't know what to do, and that's when he found out I had been playing his guitar.

"He punished me, and then after that he said, 'show me what you know, what have you learned?' So I started playing and my mom said, 'Joe, I told you he's not playing the guitar like a kid, he really wants to play that instrument.'

"My father said, 'I tell you what, I spanked you because you weren't listening and you went against my word, but I'm going to get you a guitar and I want you to learn every song that you hear on that radio there.' So that's when I started listening and playing all these Motown songs with Jackie.

"My younger brother Jermaine would sing as well, making it a trio. Michael and Marlon were too young. They were little kids playing with little cars on the floor and begging to be in our band, but we would tell them, 'no, you're too young.'

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Tito's new single, Love One Another

Tito's new single, Love One Another

Tito's new single, Love One Another

"Then a year or so later we heard Michael singing at his school function and that's when we discovered that Michael had a golden voice, so we added him and Marlon into the group at the same time.

"Then we used to sing all the time in a room, the five of us when we first started out. My father would be at home, he'd be trying to rest because he was working a late night shift and we're making noise and he'd say, 'be quiet in that room, I got to get some sleep.'

"Then one day my mom went in and said to him, 'Joe, have you really listened to these boys? I think they can sing. My father said 'Kate the boys can't sing. They got nothing.' She said, 'no, really, I think you ought to listen to them. I think you can develop them.'

"He didn't believe this, so then he auditioned us and we sang for him and he couldn't believe it. With his next pay cheque he went out and he bought microphones, a PA system and hired a garage to rehearse and put the band together. He put us on the path to success."

What was it like being in The Jackson 5? "Oh it was phenomenal," Tito says. "But we were young kids and we didn't really grasp the magnitude of the success until later on in life. When you get older you realise you did something great. When we were young teenagers we were just kids enjoying the music and enjoying the ride."

Despite being pop idols, their father made sure that teenage girl fans never got near his boys. "He wasn't going to have us having babies when we were still babies ourselves," Tito laughs. "Papa wasn't having that. He was like any other father would be about his children and his family. You have to give him credit for that."

Tito is proud of his achievements with The Jackson 5. "Without The Jackson 5 there would have been no Michael Jackson nor Janet Jackson," he adds. "But Michael's success was so tremendous that sometimes people forget about The Jackson 5."

Tito Jackson's album, Under Your Spell, is out next Friday. His new single, Love One Another, is now available.

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