‘American Idol’s Longest-Running Judge Randy Jackson, Then and Now

Jill O'Rourke
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Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell on 'American Idol: The Farewell Season'Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Randy Jackson is known for being the longest-running judge on American Idol, starting with the very first season back in 2002. Jackson has had an impressive career in the music industry, and he’s still going strong. Let’s take a look at where he came from, and where he is now.


Randy Jackson Played Bass Guitar in the 1980s

Jackson was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1979, he graduated from Southern University with a degree in music. In the 1980s, he played bass guitar as a session musician for a number of artists, including the rock band Journey, as well as Kenny G, Tracy Chapman, and Bruce Springsteen.

The musician also worked as an A&R executive at Columbia Records and MCA Records. He’s worked with a number of famous artists over the years, including Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion. He even played bass on Madonna’s album Like a Prayer, released in 1989. Jackson recently shared a throwback photo with the iconic star.

In 2002, Jackson joined the first season of the talent show American Idol as a judge, alongside Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. He remained on the judging panel for 12 seasons until 2013, even after Cowell and Abdul departed. Jackson became an in-house mentor on the show before leaving for good in 2014.


Jackson produced the MTV talent competition series America’s Best Dance Crew, which ran from 2008 to 2012. In 2008, he also released a self-produced album titled Randy Jackson’s Music Club, Vol. 1, featuring artists such as Paula Abdul, Katharine McPhee, and Brian McKnight.

SEE ALSO: RANDY JACKSON, RYAN SEACREST REMINISCE ABOUT THEIR TIME ON ‘AMERICAN IDOL’


Jackson Appears on ‘Name That Tune’

In 2020, Jackson was rehired by the band Journey as a bass guitarist, replacing founding member Ross Valory. Earlier this year, the band released the new single “You Got The Best Of Me” ahead of their new album Freedom, due out July 8.

In 2021, Jackson started appearing as the bandleader on FOX’s revival of Name That Tune, hosted by Jane Krakowski. A second season of the show, featuring celebrity contestants such as Kelly Osbourne and Vernon Davis, aired earlier this year.

Jackson has been open about his health journey over the years, since his type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2002. In 2003, he underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 100 pounds. In 2019, he founded the wellness brand Unify Health Labs.

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