Original MTV vee-jay J.J. Jackson dies. The radio and video jock, who was one of MTV's first personalities when the channel launched in 1981, was 62

By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
Updated March 19, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

News to make Gen-Xers feel old: Original MTV VJ John ”J.J.” Jackson died Wednesday at age 62. Jackson helped launch the channel in 1981 as one of MTV’s five initial video jockeys. He had a long career in radio both before and after his MTV years, and he was due to start working at Sirius satellite radio, alongside his former MTV colleague Mark Goodman. Driving in Los Angeles Wednesday night, he apparently succumbed to a fatal heart attack in his car but managed to pull over without causing a wreck, MTV News reports.

As an MTV pioneer, Jackson offered a low-key, comfortable presence that helped popularize the then-novel idea of a TV channel devoted to nothing but music videos. Jackson and his colleagues gained instant nationwide status as music and fashion tastemakers, and he also claimed such precedents as the first TV interview with Bruce Springsteen and the first televised glimpse of the members of Kiss without their face paint. ”J.J. was really a gentle man,” Goodman told MTV News on Thursday. ”He was smart. As I think of him, I think of him laughing. The guy had this huge laugh. He was a rabid music fan. Rod Stewart was a friend of his, guys in Led Zeppelin were friends of his.” He added: ”For the five of us, he was the wise DJ. He was the guy who had been through it all and was able to always put a mature perspective to things. He wound up handling the spotlight that was thrust on us better than any of us.”

MTV marked Jackson’s passing by issuing a statement, saying: ”J.J. Jackson’s deep passion for music, his ease and good humor on air, and his welcoming style really set the tone for the early days of MTV. He was a big part of the channel’s success and we are sure he is in the music section of heaven, with lots of his friends and heroes. We are fortunate to have had him as a part of the MTV family. He will be greatly missed.”