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Randy Jackson was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was not into music until sixth grade. His first big break in the industry came when he played with fellow Baton Rouge act John Fred & His Playboy Band when he was 17 years old. He subsequently attended Southern University, where he graduated with a double major in music and psychology.
As a musician, Jackson plays the electric bass. One big break of his was that he played bass for violin virtuoso Jean-Luc Ponty as well as playing bass in the band Mean Gene Okerland's Electric Blues Band from 1985 to 1987. He was a highly regarded session musician in Los Angeles during the 1980s. His credits are far too many to note, but range from playing with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Billy Cobham, Blue ?yster Cult, Herbie Hancock, Richard Marx, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan to playing at the Grand Ole Opry with The Charlie Daniels Band. His production/songwriting work in the San Francisco Bay area with Narada Michael Walden and Walter Afanasieff led Randy to be quite in demand as a producer himself.
While in the Bay area, Randy played in bands with Carlos Santana and Jerry Garcia. He moved to Italy in the late 1980s and produced a record for Italian pop star Zucchero. The record Zucchero and the Randy Jackson Band produced one of Zucchero's biggest hits, "Donne". Jackson has also recorded, produced, or toured with many well-known artists and bands, ranging from Mariah Carey (whom he knew when she was still a teenager; he was in her band at Live 8 in London in 2005) to *NSYNC, C?line Dion, Wild Orchid, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna. He has also worked as an executive with Columbia Records and MCA Records.
Jackson also manages current artists Van Hunt and Nikka Costa. He does very select session work, usually just for close friends, but continues to maintain his ability to play very diverse styles of bass. He played bass onstage on the 2006 Grammy Awards with Mariah Carey as well as the Sly & The Family Stone tribute. Later in 2006 he will serve as the musical director for Carey's The Adventures of Mimi Tour.
Jackson has been a judge with American Idol since its inception in 2001. On the show, he is known for taking a middle road of criticism between the supportiveness of Paula Abdul and the nastiness of Simon Cowell. He has popularized "pitchy" as the way to describe off-key singing. He is also renowned for his heavy use of slang terms and gestures in African American Vernacular English, most notably the words "dude", "dawg", and "dope". Jackson sometimes also refers to the group of male semifinalists as "the dogg pound" (though during season five, the female contestants were also included). When Randy says "you can blow" or "we've got a hot one tonight," it means "you can sing well." Widely well regarded in the music industry, Jackson's commentary is generally that of constructive criticism. He tells the contestants what a record company label executive would be thinking, but what the executive would not actually tell them. He also has a very large attraction to the words "All right, dude, now check this out" right before appraising a contestant's song.
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