After an already impressive 20-year career as a musician, producer and record label executive, Randy Jackson achieved worldwide fame as one of the judges on the hit musical talent competition "American Idol" (Fox, 2002-16). Coming out of the rich musical heritage of Louisiana, Jackson established himself as freelance "gun for hire," playing bass guitar for names like Santana and super group Journey for several years. Soon he began working as a producer for such high-profile acts as Mariah Carey, 'N Sync and Whitney Houston. After several years as an A&R vice president at recording companies Columbia and MCA, Jackson was recruited as a judge for "American Idol," with whom he would share the table with singer Paula Abdul and acerbic music industry entrepreneur Simon Cowell. The show, hosted by ubiquitous broadcasting presence Ryan Seacrest, became a smash hit during its first season, going on to fulfill its promise of producing several bona fide pop stars; among them Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. For his part, Jackson provided a much needed equilibrium in between the histrionic Abdul and gleefully nasty Cowell, with his good-natured critiques and signature exclamation of "Yo, Dawg!" Although initially the least known of the judges, Jackson may actually have been the most uniquely qualified, and throughout several cast rotations, remained as the only original judge until the end of season 11. Talented and personable, Jackson's vast and varied experience in all aspects of the music industry had served him well.
Randall Darius Jackson was born on June 23, 1956 in Baton Rouge, LA to parents Herman, a plant foreman for Exxon, and Julia, a homemaker. Surrounded by music of all types in the parish of his youth, Jackson's influences were numerous when he began to dabble with the saxophone and other instruments before finally settling on the bass guitar. As a teen he attended Robert E. Lee High School during the day, where he also played football, but was soon spending any available night picking up music gigs with various groups at local hot spots. Jackson's first real break came at age 17 when he began playing with area band John Fred and his Playboys, a pop act that scored a minor hit in 1967 with a parody of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," re-imagined as "Judy in Disguise [with Glasses]." After high school graduation, Jackson moved on to Baton Rouge's Southern University, where he earned a dual degree in music studies and psychology prior to being recruited by renowned jazz fusion drummer Billy Cobham. The 20-year-old Jackson spent the next three years touring with Cobham's band before settling in the San Francisco Bay Area where he began amassing a reputation as a talented studio musician and bassist-for-hire, recording and touring with a vast array of talent, from Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown to Jerry Garcia to Ernie K-Doe.
In 1983, he landed his most prominent gig up to that point, playing bass for arena rock superstars Journey, during which time he joined them for the recordings of the albums Frontiers and Raised on Radio. It was during his tenure with Journey that he earned the apt sobriquet "Emperor of the Bass," before leaving the band in 1986 for nonstop session work with Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston and Elton John. In the early 1990s, however, and exhausted and overwhelmed Jackson, feeling as if he might have peaked creatively, stepped back from his work as a freelance musician and paused to consider his future. On the advice of a friend, he made an about face and embarked on a career behind the scenes as an executive. Working to cultivate both new and established acts, Jackson spent four years as a Vice President of Artists and Repertoire (A&R) with Columbia Records, followed by another four-year stint as a Senior VP in the same position with MCA Records, where he arranged music for the likes of Madonna, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Celine Dion. After nearly 10 years as one of the music industry's top A&R executives, he was asked to review a tape of the hit British series, "Pop Idols" (ITV, 2001-03). At the time, Jackson found the program - a talent show for amateur singers - to be utterly hilarious. Little did he know it would affect the future trajectory of his career in ways more profound than he could ever have imagined.
Produced by influential British music mogul Simon Fuller, "Pop Idol" was being developed as a property for American television, and Jackson was approached about signing on as one of the judges. Initially hesitant, he eventually warmed to the idea of trying something new and working with music industry contemporary Simon Cowell, who, along with 1980s pop princess, Paula Abdul, would fill out the judges' panel. From its very first season in 2002, "American Idol" (Fox, 2002-16) became not only a Nielsen ratings hit, but a nationwide media phenomenon. Season one's winner Kelly Clarkson went on to mainstream stardom, with hit singles that included "Since U Been Gone" enjoying constant radio airplay, while "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest laid the groundwork for his ascension to media mogul-dom, with a daily morning radio show, television projects with E! Networks, and taking over Dick Clark's role on ABC's annually televised New Year's Eve extravaganza. Kinder by far than the show's resident "meanie" Cowell, and less emotional than diva Abdul, Jackson came to be regarded as the panel's voice of reason with the only true musical chops to back it all up. While his co-stars often garnered substantial tabloid ink, Jackson's closest brush with becoming gossip column fodder came with the news that in July of 2003 he underwent a controversial weight-loss gastric bypass surgery. A type-2 diabetic, Jackson, who weighed over 325 pounds prior to the surgery, lost well over 100 lbs. after the procedure.
Using his vast music industry background and expertise, Jackson wrote, What's Up Dawg?: How to Become a Superstar in the Music Business. A self-help book for aspiring pop idols, it was published in 2003. Meanwhile, Jackson began dipping his toe into acting, appearing in episodes of "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05), "Kevin Hill" (UPN, 2004-05) and "Dr. Vegas" (CBS, 2004-05). Behind the scenes, he also developed and produced a series of his own with the dance competition "Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew" (MTV, 2008- ), in addition to executive producing a holiday music special for his longtime friend and collaborator, "Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas to You" (ABC, 2010). As "Idol" continued to be a ratings juggernaut for Fox, the judges' panel eventually went into a prolonged state of flux with the eventual departures of Abdul and Cowell, and the temporary additions of singer-songwriter-music executive Kara DioGuardi and comedian Ellen DeGeneres. By the time singer-actress Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler joined the show for its 10th season in 2011, Jackson had become the last of the original "American Idol" judges.
Although the show remained popular with Lopez and Tyler for the two seasons that followed, it did experience its first significant dip in the ratings during the 11th season. This ratings slump may have been due to recently launched music competition shows like "The X-Factor" (Fox, 2011- ) and "The Voice" (NBC, 2011- ) taking a bite out of the ratings pie "Idol" once had all to itself. After enjoying significant boosts in public exposure during their brief tenures on the program, both Lopez and Tyler announced that the 11th season would be their last, once again leaving Jackson as the final judge standing. Acting quickly, "American Idol" producers announced Maria Carey would be joining the series for the 2012-13 season, followed closely by Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Played bass for Journey's album <i>Frontiers</i>; joined band for several tours
Played keyboard and bass on Whitney Houston's first two albums
Joined an all-star band that featured Aretha Franklin and Keith Richards for the film "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1986)
Performed on Celine Dion's English-language debut <i>Unison</i>
Played bass on Bruce Springsteen's albums <i>Lucky Town</i> and <i>Human Touch</i>
Joined Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul on the panel of judges for reality competition series "American Idol" (Fox)
Underwent well-publicized gastric bypass surgery and subsequently lost over a hundred pounds
Named musical director for Mariah Carey's "Adventures of Mimi" tour
Executive produced dance competition series "Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew" (MTV)
Released debut album <i>Randy Jackson's Music Club, Vol. 1</i>; lead single "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" performed by Paula Abdul
Remained on judges' table after Simon Cowell left "American Idol'; joined by Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler for series' 10th season; Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban replaced Lopez and Tyler in 2012