JOHN OLSON - LIFE WITH ROCK STARS …AND THEIR PARENTS
They had fame, reams of money and fans willing to do wild, unmentionable things just to breathe the same air — but in its September 24, 1971 issue, LIFE magazine illustrated a different side of the lives of rock stars. Like other mere mortals, they often came from humble backgrounds, with moms and dads who bragged about them, fussed over them, called them on their nonsense and worried about them every single day. Assigned to take portraits of the artists at home with their sweetly square folks, photographer John Olson traveled from the suburbs of London to Brooklyn to the Bay Area, capturing in his work the love that bridged any cultural and generational divides that existed between his subjects.
Unlike the other stars featured in LIFE’s story, the Jackson brothers — Michael, Marlon, Tito, Jermaine and Jackie — experienced fame as kids, and still lived with their parents (father/manager Joe and mother Katherine). At the time of LIFE’s shoot, they were the hottest act in pop, skyrocketing in 1970 with “ABC” and “I’ll Be There,” and had just moved into an expansive new house.
“It was very controlled,” Olson says of the photo shoot that resulted in the September, 24, 1971 LIFE cover. “As I remember, they followed my requests to a T, and were incredibly polite. The dad was pretty stern.”
Indeed, Joe — who had been a crane operator in Gary, Indiana, just three years before — hinted at the relentless drive toward fame about which Michael would later voice such ambivalence. “It wasn’t hard to know they could go on to be professionals,” Joe told LIFE of his young sons. “They won practically all the talent shows and I wasn’t surprised when they did make it.” (+)
#1: © John Olson / Time & Life / Getty, 1970, Olson sets up to shoot the Jackson 5 in their backyard
#2: © John Olson / Time & Life / Getty, 1970, With their parents standing by, 13-year-old dynamo Michael (front left) and his brothers Jackie, Marlon, Tito and Jermaine straddle their motorbikes by the pool
See more photos here.
» more photos of famous people «