Further Reading

There have been dozens of books written on the King of Pop over the years. Here are a few of the ones Zack found most interesting.

Man In The Music by Joe Vogel

A thoughtful, well-researched look at Michael Jackson’s life and work.

For those who want a clear, fair view of the King of Pop and a serious, thoughtful analysis of his work—without a tabloid taint—look no further than Joe Vogel’s excellent book, Man In The Music.

Vogel sheds some badly-needed light on the body of work left by one of the world’s most brilliant, mysterious and misunderstood figures, making the reader feel as though he or she is right there in the studio with Jackson (where he was actually quite efficient early in his career, always arriving immaculately prepped and ready to record).

Throughout the book, Vogel mentions Jackson’s well-publicized tribulations, but they’re clearly not his focus. More than anything, Vogel argues that these events affected the mainstream perception of Jackson so deeply that much of his music, particularly the vastly underrated HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1, was never given a truly fair shake by most observers.

Man in the Music is a must-read for any Michael Jackson fan, and it should be required reading for anyone who cares to render an opinion on the King of Pop and his work.

***

Moonwalk by Michael Jackson

The King of Pop’s definitive autobiography.

Long before chronicling Michael Jackson’s life and career in book form became commonplace, he released this autobiography. Published by Random House’s Harmony Books in 1988, Moonwalk offered a peek into Jackson’s life at a time when only tabloid guesswork was available.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Shaye Areheart edited the book; the latter actually flew to Australia to bring Jackson a final draft for approval during the Bad Tour (she sat at the edge of his bed every night for two weeks; he’d dictate changes). Moonwalk chronicles Jackson’s youth and early career, and is one of the first places he publicly acknowledged some of the more painful realities of his childhood.

The book was massively popular with mainstream audiences, rocketing to the top of the bestseller list shortly after its February 1988 release. Even its critics found value in some of the flaws they perceived—the New York Times noted that Moonwalk “could be dismissed as an assiduously unrevealing, frequently tedious document. Ultimately, however, these are precisely the qualities that make it fascinating.”

Whether or not the book revealed enough, it still stands as one of the largest troves of personal information ever released by the notoriously private Jackson. For that reason alone, it should be worth a read for any student of his career and pop culture.

***

Defending A King by Dr. Karen Moriarty

A psychologist’s take on Michael Jackson.

Dr. Karen Moriarty’s Defending A King may not be a traditional biography, but it offers an intriguing—and humanizing—perspective on the King of Pop.

A trained clinical psychologist, Dr. Moriarty’s most interesting contribution is her professional analysis of Jackson’s actions throughout his life, especially those deemed “strange” by the tabloid media. Of particular note is her “Bizarre Behavior” chapter, in which she points out that “bizarre behavior is normal in bizarre circumstances” and then thoughtfully explains how and why.

Dr. Moriarty delves into the psychology of what it was like to be Michael Jackson, outlining the sort of effects an abusive childhood and a life in the spotlight can have on the human psyche—and underscoring how incredible it was, from a therapist’s perspective, that Jackson turned out to be such a kind and gentle human being (at least outside of the boardroom, where Jackson was quite tenacious) given his upbringing.

The material from Dr. Moriarty’s interviews with Tom Mesereau and Michael Jackson’s bodyguards is also compelling; other parts of her book could have benefitted from more of that sort of primary source research and a bit more editing. But her professional perspective on the inner workings of Michael Jackson alone made the book a worthwhile read for anyone looking to gain new understanding of the King of Pop.

***

More to come…

Leave a Reply