Her vocal performances are often distinguished by long, humorous, and explicit spoken sections in her music, which she started doing on stage to get the attention of the audience. She has also recorded songs in a disco or dance music style and even some country styled songs. She is the mother of Keisha Jackson.
Born in Thomson, Georgia, Jackson is the daughter of a sharecropper. Her mother died when she was a child and subsequently, she and her father moved to Newark, New Jersey. By the time Jackson was in her mid-teens, she had moved to Brooklyn to live with an aunt. She occasionally worked as a model for magazines like JIVE and Sepia.
Jackson's singing career reportedly began on a dare to enter a 1964 talent contest at Harlem nightclub Smalls Paradise, which she won. Although she first recorded for MGM Records in 1970, she soon left and began a long association with New York-based Spring Records. Working with the label's in-house producer, Raeford Gerald, her first single to chart was 1971's deceptively titled "A Child of God (It's Hard to Believe)," which reached number 22 on the R&B charts. In 1972, Jackson had her first R&B Top Ten single with the follow-up, "Ask Me What You Want", which also reached the pop Top 30, then "My Man, A Sweet Man" reached #7 R&B; all three hits were co-written by Jackson. "My Man, A Sweet Man" retains its popularity today for northern soul enthusiasts and is played on the radio in the UK and quoted as an example from this musical genre as is her 1976 recording, "A House for Sale". The following year brought her biggest single success and her third Top Ten hit, "It Hurts So Good," which made #3 on the R&B charts and #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. The single was featured on the album of the same name and in the blaxploitation film Cleopatra Jones, also appearing on that film's soundtrack along with the song "Love Doctor".
In 1974, she released the album Caught Up, which introduced her innovative style of raunchy rap. The featured release was her version of Luther Ingram's million-seller, "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right", for which she received two Grammy nominations. By now, she had switched producers to work only with Brad Shapiro, recording at Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama with the renowned Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. She continued to record most of her material for Spring there, including the follow-up album, Still Caught Up.
Over the next ten years, Jackson had a string of successful albums and numerous R&B chart entries, the biggest being her 1977 version of Merle Haggard's country hit "If You're Not Back In Love By Monday". That hit single was followed by many more, including her version of the Boney M. song, the disco single, "Never Change Lovers In The Middle of The Night." This single peaked at #33 on the Black Singles chart in 1979.
Jackson recorded an album in 1979 with Isaac Hayes called "Royal Rappin's" and the same year saw her release a double album, "Live And Uncensored", recorded in concert at Los Angeles venue, The Roxy. Jackson also formed and produced the group Facts of Life. They had a major hit in 1976 with "Sometimes" (#3 R&B, #31 Pop).
Jackson found herself without a label when Spring closed down in 1984, but in 1986, she signed with Jive Records in a deal that produced four albums and resulted in further R&B Top Ten hits with "Hot! Wild! Unrestricted! Crazy Love" and "Love Is a Dangerous Game". She appeared on an Elton John track in 1985, "Act Of War", which was a Top 40 hit in the UK, but failed to chart in the USA. In 1991, she wrote, produced and starred in the successful touring play Young Man, Older Woman, based on her album of the same title for Jive.
On November 24, 1994, Jackson appeared in the Thanksgiving episode Feast or Famine of Martin as Florine.
In 2000, her voice featured in "Am I Wrong" by Etienne de Crécy, sampled from her performance in "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right".
Jackson may be most famous in the internet age for her album covers, which frequently appear on "worst ever" lists. E.S.P. (Extra Sexual Persuasion) features Jackson peering into a crystal ball that accentuates her cleavage; Back to the S t! depicts Jackson sitting on a toilet.
Jackson now runs her own record label, Weird Wreckuds. After a lengthy hiatus from recording, she released her 2001 album, Not For Church Folk, which marked a return to her "tell-it-like-it-is" lyrical style with an Urban contemporary sound. The album features the singles "Butt-A-Cize" (a dance song) and "Leave Me Alone" (a ballad). The album also features a collaboration with rapper Da Brat on the song "In My Life."
Jackson had her own radio show in Dallas, Texas for 13 years. Broadcasting via remote from her home in Atlanta, Jackson worked in afternoon drive-time from 3-6 pm on KKDA 730 AM, until January 6, 2012.
In 2006, five of Jackson's best-selling albums – Millie Jackson (1972), It Hurts So Good (1973), Caught Up (1974), Still Caught Up (1975), and Feelin' Bitchy (1977) – were digitally remastered and released on CD with bonus tracks. All of Jackson's Spring Records-era albums are available from Ace Records in the UK.
An Imitation of Love was re-issued on CD in 2013 by the Funkytowngrooves label in a remastered, expanded edition. Other albums released on the Jive and Ichiban labels remain out of print, though some of those songs appear on compilation CDs.
On February 6, 2012, the documentary, Unsung - The Story of Mildred 'Millie' Jackson aired on the TV One network.
Jackson performed at Washington, D.C.'s historic Howard Theatre on August 3, 2012, and at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York on August 4, 2012. On June 6, 2015 Jackson was inducted into the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in Clarksdale, MS.
She has two children: Keisha Jackson, born in the 1960s before she was married, and son Jerroll born in the late 1970s. She is not related to the Jackson family of singers and musicians from Gary, Indiana."A Little Bit of Something"
"A Child of God (It's Hard to Believe)" (US: #102)
"Ask Me What You Want" (US: #27)
"My Man, A Sweet Man" (US: #42), (US R&B: #7) (UK: #50)
"Breakaway" (US: #110)
"It Hurts So Good" (US: #24), (US R&B: #3)
"I Miss You Baby"
"How Do You Feel the Morning After" (US: #77)
"I'm Through Trying To Prove My Love To You"
"I Got to Try It One Time"
"(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right" (US: #42)
"Leftovers" (US: #87)
"A House for Sale"
"Feel Like Making Love"
"There You Are"
"I Can't Say Goodbye"
"If You're Not Back in Love By Monday" (US: #43)
"A Love of Your Own"
"All The Way Lover" (US: #102)
"Sweet Music Man" (US R&B #33)
"Keep The Home Fire Burnin'" (US R&B #83)
"Never Change Lovers In The Middle of The Night" (US R&B: #33)
"We Got To Hit It Off" (US R&B #56)
"A Moment's Pleasure" (US R&B #70)
"Kiss You All Over"
"Do You Wanna Make Love" feat. Isaac Hayes (US R&B #30)
"This Is It (Part I) (US R&B #88)
"You Never Cross My Mind"
"I Can't Stop Loving You" (US R&B #62)
"Anybody That Don't Like Millie Jackson"
"I Had to Say It"
"It's Gonna Take Some Time This Time"
"Special Occasion" (US R&B #51)
"I Feel Like Walkin' In The Rain" (UK: #55)
"Sister in the System"
"Hot! Wild! Unrestricted! Crazy Love" (US R&B #9) (UK: #99)
"Act of War" feat. Elton John (UK: #32)
"It's A Thang" (US R&B #79)
"Love Is A Dangerous Game" (US R&B #6) (UK: #81)
"An Imitation of Love" (US R&B #58)
"Something You Can Feel" (US R&B #45)
"You Knocked the Love (Right Outta My Heart)"
"Will You Love Me Tomorrow"
"Young Man, Older Woman"
"Living With A Stranger"
"Taking My Life Back"
"Check in the Mail"
"Chocolate Brown Eyes"
"Breaking Up Somebody's Home"
"The Lies That We Live"
"Did You Think I Wouldn't Cry"
"Leave Me Alone"
"Black Bitch Crazy"