Inside The Sibling Rivalry Between Michael And Jermaine Jackson

Being bandmates with your sibling(s) can be the best thing in the world, but it can also be the worst. Or it can be anywhere in between. Popular music history has seen all sorts of rivalries erupt between siblings, from John and Tom Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival to Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis. And while we may think of the Jackson 5 as a group of five brothers collectively chafing at the dictatorial-at-best and outright-abusive-at-worst tendencies of their father, Joseph Jackson, these pop/R&B legends also had one sibling rivalry that became especially prominent years after their heyday. That rivalry was between the group's obvious breakout star, Michael Jackson, and his older brother Jermaine.

While things between Michael and Jermaine looked mostly copacetic during their time in the Jackson 5, it was a completely different ballgame in the 1980s. According to ABC News, the two barely had any contact with each other for close to a decade after the Jacksons' Victory Tour in 1984. But that apparently didn't stop them from beefing toward the end of the decade, with their supposed feud culminating in 1991 and seemingly petering out in the years leading up to Michael's death in 2009. Here's the story of the most pivotal moments in Michael and Jermaine Jackson's sibling rivalry.

Michael allegedly sabotaged Jermaine's career plans in the late '80s

Thanks to his solo albums "Off the Wall," "Thriller," and "Bad," Michael Jackson reigned supreme as the King of Pop in the 1980s — it almost seemed that every single he released was guaranteed to crack the top 10 at the very least. Meanwhile, Jermaine Jackson's relevance had faded substantially; overall, he did fairly well as a solo artist, but by the late '80s, he was primarily known as the most successful Jackson brother not named Michael, which isn't saying much.

As he prepared for the making of his fourth solo album on Arista Records, Jermaine's prospects for a career renaissance looked good. Arista head Clive Davis hired a pair of talented young producers, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Antonio "L.A." Reid, to work with the singer. However, Davis claimed in his memoir "Soundtrack of My Life" that this was the last straw for Michael, who was unhappy enough as it is that Jermaine had a few hits on Arista that did decently on the Billboard singles charts. In retaliation, MJ allegedly got Edmonds and Reid to work on his own projects, as cited by Showbiz411.

"Jermaine couldn't believe that Michael, his close brother, would hijack his producers' material this way," Davis wrote, adding that Jermaine was "crying, indeed sobbing at times, so deeply hurt that his brother would do this to him." 

Ultimately, that album, "You Said," was released in 1991 (via AllMusic) and was still co-produced by Edmonds and Reid under their then-Arista imprint, LaFace. And it was the penultimate track on that record where Jermaine let out all his brotherly angst toward his far more famous sibling.

Jermaine gets salty with a 'Word to the Badd!!'

In the final months of 1991, Michael Jackson was finally ready to return to the top of the charts with new music, as he released "Dangerous" in November of that year. Around that time, Jermaine Jackson had a very minor hit with "Word to the Badd!!," which peaked at No. 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the first single off "You Said." The song still created quite the stir, and it all boiled down to the lyrics, which were clearly directed toward Michael.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Word to the Badd!!" was mainly inspired by how Michael allegedly didn't return Jermaine's phone calls for a good eight months. "I understand he's a very busy person, but after you repeatedly try to contact your own brother and he doesn't call you back, you begin to wonder if he hasn't just completely lost touch with reality," he told the outlet. He went on to stress that there was no real feud, that the song was his way of telling the King of Pop to "get a grip on reality," and that he wasn't trying to look like the jealous older brother.

Direct as the lyrics were to "Word to the Badd!!," there was an even saltier "bootleg" version that seemed to accuse Michael of undergoing plastic surgery ("once you were made/you changed your shade") to disguise his Black heritage — a charge Jermaine vehemently denied, per The Washington Post

Jermaine sometimes had mixed feelings about Michael's eccentricities in his 2011 book

As it seems, the rivalry between Michael and Jermaine Jackson was far from the most toxic in the annals of popular music. Whether you see "Word to the Badd!!" as a diss track or as a wake-up call, it was just one song, and it wasn't like the brothers spent almost two decades suing each other over the tune. But Jermaine appeared to take issue with certain aspects of his little brother's life in his 2011 book, "You Are Not Alone: Michael: Through a Brother's Eyes."

Although The Guardian noted that Jermaine's book mostly painted a positive and "insightful" picture of MJ, there was one part where he stated that Michael's relationship with his pet chimpanzee Bubbles was similar to that of "millions of dog and cat owners the world over" but segued to a discussion of how eccentric that relationship was. As cited by the publication, Jermaine wrote about how Michael would make Bubbles wear copious amounts of expensive perfume — you know, the kind humans use — and give him a wardrobe so complete that the chimpanzee was "apparently better dressed" than Jermaine's own children. It was also pointed out, however, that the sections about Michael's "Wacko Jacko" years were rather "sketchy" and lacking in detail overall.