Whatever Happened To Randy Jackson?

American Idol was TV's biggest hit of the early 21st century. It offered an irresistible format: Unknown, fresh-faced singers performed each week, and fan votes whittled them down to a winner over the course of the season. Offering their support and criticism was the show's panel of judges: the delightfully blunt English music industry stalwart Simon Cowell, the supportive and cheerleading ex-pop star Paula Abdul, and music business veteran Randy Jackson.

Jackson was the least known of the three judges, but his bona fides gave the show much needed credibility: He'd worked in just about every area of music, from songwriter to producer to session musician to executive. His constructive criticism always felt honest but kind. Jackson was the last of the original judges on the show, and he finally left American Idol in 2013. Here's what he's been up to since then, dawg.

Randy Jackson may be a star, but he hasn't created any

Randy Jackson has worked in the music industry long enough to know that the real power and money is behind the scenes. While still working on American Idol, Jackson formed a record label and management company called Dream Merchant 21. He's spent a lot of time there signing, recording, and promoting singers and bands. The first artist he signed: American Idol contestant Kimberly Locke. Other acts he's worked with include a band called He's My Brother She's My Sister, dance/club artist Grace Valerie, and a group called Brunette, which Billboard called a "Pussycat Dolls knockoff." However, none of those acts (or any others, for that matter), released anything via Dream Merchant 21 since Jackson left his hit TV show to focus on music.

Randy Jackson briefly managed Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey's term as a judge on American Idol was tumultuous, as she often butted heads with colleague Nicki Minaj, but at least it was only for a single season of the singing competition. Carey wound up on the show with an $18 million paycheck for her trouble, thanks to the machinations of her then-manager — Randy Jackson. 

Carey hired Jackson in 2011, but they parted ways professionally just two years later because both parties' workloads were "too hectic," according to Showbiz 411. Jackson and Carey go way back, all the way back to the beginning of Carey's career. He was an executive at Columbia Records when Carey was signed to the label in the early '90s, and Jackson produced, co-wrote, and played bass on a bunch of Carey's albums. 

In his official capacity as her handler, Jackson did get Carey that big American Idol payday, but that was seemingly about all he did for her. He didn't have much managing to do during those two years, a period in which Carey didn't release any albums

He's got his own line of glasses

Randy Jackson is a fashionable guy, and he lets his style shine through most prominently with his glasses. Jackson almost always appears on TV or in public wearing a fresh set of frames. Zyloware, one of the oldest and biggest eyewear companies in the U.S., noticed, and in 2007 approached Jackson about launching a series of branded glasses. The company and the musician worked together to create Randy Jackson Eyewear. Jackson gave his name and approval to a few separate lines, including the Randy Jackson Signature Collection, the Randy Jackson Limited Edition Collection, and the Randy Jackson Sun Collection.

Dying to hear Randy Jackson perform? You're in luck.

Jackson's first successes in the music industry came as a bass player. As a teenager in the late '70s, Jackson played the guitar's low-end cousin on a variety of soul albums, as well as percussion on Michael Jackson's massively successful Off the Wall. While racking up credits as a studio musician, Jackson also spent two years in the '80s as a leather pants-wearing bassist for arena rock idols Journey

American Idol put him into the limelight in a way he'd never been in it before, which in turn put him back in demand as a studio musician. With his Idol run over, he's had a lot more time to lay down tracks for other artists in a variety of genres. Jackson and his funky but workmanlike bass appeared most recently on Nick Cannon's White People Party Music, Smokey Robinson's Smokey & Friends, and former Eagle Don Felder's Road to Forever.

He opened a recording studio

Randy Jackson makes his own music, of course, but he's also proven his affinity for helping others grove out with his history as a label manager, artist manager, and producer. To that end, in 2017 Jackson, along with two partners, launched a massive music production complex called Starwest Studios. It's far more than a booth with good acoustics and a soundboard, however.  According to Variety, the Burbank, California facility boats recording areas along with a live broadcast studio and a 3,800-square-foot open space that serves as a dance floor and a place where mass auditions for big entertainment projects can take place.

Randy Jackson added movie producer to his impressive resume

Randy Jackson is branching out beyond music and music-related TV shows — he's making movies now. Jackson is credited as an executive producer on a movie called Jena Six, which, as of this writing, is still in production, according to IMDb. According to VarietyJena Six is based on the true story of six African-American teenagers charged with beating a white classmate at Jena High School in Louisiana, and the racial tensions and civil rights marches that followed. 

Why he's not a part of the American Idol reboot

Randy Jackson is obviously most famous for his long tenure on American Idol. He served longer than anyone else, outlasting Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, and weathering flashes-in-the-pan on the Coke-adorned judges table, including Kara DioGuardi, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban. The famed singing contest series returned in 2018 with a whole new panel of judges: pop star Katy Perry, country singer Luke Bryan, and music legend Lionel Richie. So where was Jackson? 

He actually wasn't asked to be a judge — producers wanted him to host the thing. "They wanted me to take Ryan Seacrest's job," Jackson told Entertainment Tonight. He said he could only do it if he did with his old friend and coworker, not instead of him. Producers clearly took Jackson's suggestion (or he was joking): As of this writing, Seacrest is still hosting American Idol 2.0.

Randy Jackson's second divorce took a while

More than for years after Randy Jackson's second wife, Erika Riker (above), filed for divorce, the couple officially ended their marriage in 2019. According to TMZ, Riker "filed in September 2014 after 18 years of marriage." The pair shares two adult children, but no prenup. However, TMZ believes Riker "made out well considering" the cash Jackson made during his American Idol run.

Why did it take so long for the divorce to be finalized? Well, per The Blast, it took four years for Jackson to respond to his estranged wife's petition. According to court documents obtained by the site, "Jackson is willing to pay up spousal support" but wanted "each side to pay their own legal fees."

No public details of the settlement are available at the time of this writing. But what we do know is that Jackson is reportedly not happy about the dissolution of his marriage. "Randy is bummed out," an insider told People. "It's not the way he wanted it to happen or end." Third time's a charm?

He was sued for an unpaid AMEX bill

Divorce can be expensive. And in Randy Jackson's case, it may have taken a toll on his AMEX. According to documents obtained by The Blast in 2019, the American Idol star racked up $42,472.37 on his American Express card and hadn't made a payment "since 2017." The credit card company sued, demanding the full amount owed "plus 10% interest."

The monthly minimum payment at the time was a whopping $7,019.00. That would be a no from us, dawg. Luckily for Jackson, American Express dropped the case three month later. Per The Blast, Jackson "had not responded to the lawsuit and it would appear their issues were resolved outside of court." The outlet didn't provide details on how the matter was handled, but "the company asked for the suit to be dismissed without the option of refiling it in the future." That has to be a good sign, right? 

He's been battling serious health issues

Randy Jackson is noticeably thinner from the beginning of his American Idol days, and that's due to gastric bypass surgery and a lifestyle change that caused him to shed over 100 pounds after being diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes. In a 2019 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Jackson claimed he ignored all the warning signs and ended up in the emergency room a month after his dentist told him "that based on the health of his gums," he possibly had high blood sugar.

"My diet before diabetes was horrific. It was basically anything I wanted. If someone threw a doughnut party I'd have 14 doughnuts. Landing in the ER was a huge rude awakening but it had a silver lining because it forced me to get my life together," he said. "You have a choice — do you want to feel good or do you want to feel bad?"

However, he found a secret weapon in his battle against the disease — airplane food. "I've been vegan and vegetarian and tried all sorts of diets. To me, the airplane meal is the perfect meal because of the portion," he explained. "You have a piece of meat the size of your palm. Everything is portioned out, and it's a little bit of everything. You shouldn't be eating more than that."