JJ Offender Jacobson (1965-2018)
So, unfortunately for me, I moved to Austin in 1986…the year that the Offenders disbanded (not to date myself or anything)…meaning that I never got to see the original lineup. That being said, I was turned onto them right after moving here via punk rock friends that shall remain anonymous. I was introduced to the Endless Struggle LP by my roomie at the time, and the 1984 song I Hate Myself and I felt like I had FOUND myself. I’m not sure why I was so angry, but felt a bond / alliance with the Offenders tortured frontman JJ “Offender” Jacobson.
Although not a friend of JJ’s, I was and still am a huge fan. When I heard of his passing it kind of felt like the end of an era. The Offenders were here in Austin during the early punk rock days…days of the Big Boys, Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, MDC…bands that made a giant footprint in Austin as far as punk rock goes. They are one of the bands that made Austin the alleged Live Music Capitol of the World.
Originally hailing from Kileen, TX, the Offenders replaced the original singer, Mick Buck, in 1981 with JJ, an alleged street thug with a history of abuse and juvenile detention halls. JJ brought an angst to the band that fueled the Offenders into Punk Rock Hall of Fame history.
Unfortunately, JJ passed away on Jan. 4th at the age of 52.
J.J. Jacobson, scrappy frontman for Eighties punk aggressors the Offenders, died Jan. 4, at 52. “J.J. Offender,” who had mostly lived in a South Austin homeless encampment during recent years, was found unconscious last Thursday in a parking lot by police and died shortly after, confirmed bandmate Pat Doyle. Cause of death has yet to be disclosed.
Jacobson revolutionized the Offenders when he replaced original singer Mick Buck in 1981, around the same time the formerly Clash-inspired Killeen transplants discovered D.O.A.‘s Hardcore 81 and saw Black Flag at Raul’s on the Drag.
J.J. Jacobson (r) screaming with the Offenders at Esther’s Pool in 1982 (Photo by Bill Daniels)
“When J.J. came in, he brought nothing but his attitude and a cool-sounding voice,” remembers Doyle, the Offenders’ drummer who considered Jacobson a little brother. “He made it all come together.”
Center stage in a band comprised of unique and arresting characters, Jacobson looked like a juvenile street tough and boasted a rabid scream complementing the quartet’s roaring brand of hardcore. The widely touring group’s essential releases, 1984’s “I Hate Myself” 7-inch and 1985’s Endless Struggle LP, cemented the Offenders as legends of Texas punk before disbanding in 1986. In the ensuing years, Jacobson got increasingly entangled with hard drugs, petty crime, and homelessness.
“J.J. was hustling his whole life,” offers Doyle. “I think he liked it. I hate to characterize it that way, but a lot of people offered him places to stay and he never stuck around long.”
The Offenders reunited at Emo’s in 2002 and, following the deaths of bassist Mikey Donaldson (2007) and guitarist Tony Johnson (2012), Jacobson fronted a lineup featuring Craig Merritt, Jeff Martin, and Doyle. The band was offered a national tour in 2014, but turned it down after Doyle tried in vain to get the singer an ID card. That’s how off-the-grid he was.
“I really thought I’d be the first to go,” Jacobson told “Playback” in 2014, regarding his departed bandmates. “I did a lot more hard living and hard partying than anyone.”
Friends host a memorial for Jacobson at the Lost Well on Sunday, Jan. 21, at 2pm.
“I saw a lot of hardcore bands in the early- and mid-’80s, at least 50, probably significantly more than that,” tells Jeff Smith of the Hickoids and Smart Dads, who messaged me after sharing his thoughts with Doyle. Smith is a longtime fan of the “blistering….pioneering” unit. He also roadied a few times for the band, later played in a band with original singer Mick Buck, and even shared a drug dealer with Jacobson a decade and a half back. “A lot of [the bands then] were flat out shitty, most were entirely unmemorable and musically derivative. Some were a little slicker but full of nauseating political poseur-isms. The Offenders were none of that. The music was top-notch, original and powerful. And J.J. was as real as it gets. His struggle was real. He was genuinely as hard as the music. I don’t think he cared what the words were to the anthems he sang because that came from his heart. He was born into a world of chaos and he didn’t need to fantasize about hard times or downward mobility, he lived it.” He continued, in earnest, “Some singers are real and good. Some singers are good because they’re real. That was J.J. Rest in chaos.”