Saturday, January 15, 2011

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk – Book Review

Moonwalk is the only autobiography of his life in his own words. It was first published in 1988 with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Shaye Areheart as editors at Doubleday Publishing Company.
It is said that Michael agreed to this project because of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. He was fascinated by her and had her promise to write the forward to the book. This new edition  includes a new introduction by Berry Gordy (Founder of Motown) and a new afterword by Shaye Areheart. The afterword provides a glimpse of what it was like to work with Michael, how the book was produced, how Michael almost changed his mind to allow the book to be produced after over 4 years of working on it, and how the book was received.
Moonwalk of course is a snapshot in time because Michael was under 30.  His hopes, dreams and aspirations both past and future are clearly indicated in the book. Knowing what we now know about what would become his future, there is a sadness to this book but that is short lived by the clear joy and insight it provides.
It is a simple read. Later in the afterword it is explained that Michael met with Shaye for many conversations that were recorded, transcribed and then revised once Michael reviewed the material. Knowing that, it explains the casual manner to which the book is written. It really is more in a style like a conversation. The topics move from topic-to-topic in a way that would occur during a conversation.
Michael describes his childhood, rise to fame, stresses of showbiz, love for children and peace and his hopes for the future. He breaks the silence in a candid and courageous way considering this was the first time he put these down in print. Although much has now been said about his past, his childhood, etc. we must remember the timing of this publication.
We hear about his difficult relationship with his family over the years. He talks candidly about his music, dance moves and his drive to become the biggest star. He shares his thoughts about his friends including Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul McCartney, Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, Katherine Hepburn, and so on.
He offers us his thoughts about his isolation, plastic surgery, gossip reporting, and life in a bubble. Remember, this is the first time he tells us that he roamed the streets in search of a real friend and that he sees himself as the loneliest person in the world. These were remarkable admissions which provide a rather sad insight to his life.
Michael contributed many pictures and personal drawings to this book it is said because he wanted his fans to feel like they had a signed copy.
It is clear throughout the book of his genuine love and respect he had for his fans.
It has been said by Berry Gordy that he felt the power of Michael’s talent immediately seeing the Jackson’s first audition. It can not be disputed that he was a child protege unlike any our lifetime had seen. Berry was a master and he recognized this immediately resulting in him signing the act the very next day. His closing remarks about Michael are telling and have been heard many times since MJ’s death.
“I mean Michael was awesome! Totally in charge. In fact the more I think and talk about Michael Jackson, the more I feel the “King of Pop” was not big enough for him. I think he was simply “The Greatest Entertainer That Ever Lived.”
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wrote, “To many people Micheal Jackson seems an elusive personality, but to those who work with him, he is not. This talented artist is a sensitive man, warm, funny, and full of insight.
It was I must say the afterword by Shaye Areheart, however, that offered an insight to how this book was produced, Michael’s fears at revealing its content and reflection of the man that were the most insightful. Included in the afterword were quotes such as:
Michael Jackson had an infectious laugh and a wonderful sense of humor…..He was sweet and funny and a little shy, but it was obvious he was honored to have Jackie in his home and pleased that she and I wanted him to write a book”.
Over the four years I intermittently worked and travelled with Michael while he was creating his book, I saw his delight in the world, his fresh perspective on what most of us would call reality. Michael was an artist, and artists are not like us; they don’t work to work in an office, to live conventionally, to never ruffle feathers.”
Michael lived music, he breathed music. While walking down the stairs or riding in a car, he would open his mouth and a bit of song he was working on ….and all within hearing range would feel quite amazed to be in the company of someone who was so obviously a musical genius.”
Michael loved being in the company of children, because, as he told me many times, “Children don’t lie to you. Children are pure and innocent and good. Being with children is like being blessed, like being with angels. ”
“He was an extraordinary man. I have never met anyone like him, and I doubt I ever will.”
Although much has been said about the man in the mirror, and the future was unknown to him or the reader when this book was first put to press, it is a worthwhile read to hear him share what he wanted to share, provide his opinion and hurt about the coverage of him and to know he provided the signoff of what would be included. Unlike other books written about him or printed from his words but without his edits, this one is the true version of what he wanted produced. For that and that alone it is worth the read.

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