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Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson

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This is the book that serious Michael Jackson fans crave--one that forgoes sensationalism in favor of an insightful look at Jackson's work and creative process. Man in the Music meticulously tracks Jackson's solo career--from 1979's groundbreaking Off the Wall to 2001's Invincible to his yet-to-be-released material. Vogel analyzes every song and album, placing the music in This is the book that serious Michael Jackson fans crave--one that forgoes sensationalism in favor of an insightful look at Jackson's work and creative process. Man in the Music meticulously tracks Jackson's solo career--from 1979's groundbreaking Off the Wall to 2001's Invincible to his yet-to-be-released material. Vogel analyzes every song and album, placing the music in its social, historical, cultural, and even personal context. The result is an in-depth assessment of one of the most compelling, influential artists in popular music history.


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This is the book that serious Michael Jackson fans crave--one that forgoes sensationalism in favor of an insightful look at Jackson's work and creative process. Man in the Music meticulously tracks Jackson's solo career--from 1979's groundbreaking Off the Wall to 2001's Invincible to his yet-to-be-released material. Vogel analyzes every song and album, placing the music in This is the book that serious Michael Jackson fans crave--one that forgoes sensationalism in favor of an insightful look at Jackson's work and creative process. Man in the Music meticulously tracks Jackson's solo career--from 1979's groundbreaking Off the Wall to 2001's Invincible to his yet-to-be-released material. Vogel analyzes every song and album, placing the music in its social, historical, cultural, and even personal context. The result is an in-depth assessment of one of the most compelling, influential artists in popular music history.

30 review for Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson

  1. 5 out of 5

    Constance

    Joseph Vogel Returns the Conversation to Jackson’s Art: Scholars, fans, and even on-the-fence doubters will find the upcoming release of Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson by Huffington Post writer Joseph Vogel, not only an enthralling read, but a gateway into a revised perception of one of the most mysterious and massively influential artists of our time. This is definitely not another run of the mill sensationalist work. Vogel skillfully guides the reader through the Joseph Vogel Returns the Conversation to Jackson’s Art: Scholars, fans, and even on-the-fence doubters will find the upcoming release of Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson by Huffington Post writer Joseph Vogel, not only an enthralling read, but a gateway into a revised perception of one of the most mysterious and massively influential artists of our time. This is definitely not another run of the mill sensationalist work. Vogel skillfully guides the reader through the remarkable chapters of Jackson’s professional career, fully capturing the cultural vibe of the ‘80s and ‘90s, while analyzing the particularities of Jackson’s creative process from inception to aesthetic fulfillment. It seems the author desires to move beyond exclusively “preaching to the choir” of Jackson’s loyal fan base, and has an even more expansive and restorative intention in mind. Jackson’s solo career is revealed through intricately woven stories that are chronologically linked with the creation of his music. This album-by-album odyssey reminds one of a mythic “hero’s journey,” as it evokes the visceral emotion of artistic conquest. Throughout the process, Vogel explicates Jackson’s music, performance art, cinematic short films, and aesthetic incarnations, as well as exploring Jackson’s myriad eclectic influences. The book’s success is due, in large part, to a trilogy of strengths the author possesses as an academic scholar and also a writer on popular culture. Vogel manages to fuse a penchant for research with an engaging gift of journalistic storytelling. Rare, however, is the sense of spiritual exegesis he provides. This literary alchemy gives the reader an entirely fresh and valuable comprehension of Jackson as a culturally transformative artist. The book also illuminates the voluminous breadth, depth and influence of his oeuvre. The reader experiences firsthand the gentle singer-songwriter’s coming of age, his groundbreaking musical prowess, and his emergence as an emissary for the marginalized and alienated. We are reminded that Jackson (a voracious reader of Emerson) was a transcendental visionary who called for healing the world through compassion, community, and environmental stewardship. Jackson's massive audiences became entrained participants in this vision. His concerts in cities such as London, Sydney, New York, Yokohama, Munich, Bucharest, Moscow, Copenhagen, New York and Rome - among others - often engender the intensity of ecstatic religious revivals, especially during his iconic performances of "Earth Song" and "Man in the Mirror." On a more intimate scale, the author offers a Joycean sensibility as he paints with a discerning eye his archetypal “portrait of the artist as a young man." When he shares Jackson's life long love of books, he recounts that the artist's personal library grew to more than 20,000 titles including numerous classics in rare first editions. Vogel writes, "When he wasn't creating, he was reading voraciously: everything from the verses of Emerson and Wordsworth, to the biographies of Michelangelo and Beethoven, from the psychology of Freud and Jung, to Sufi poetry ..." Vogel irrevocably raises the bar for future critical analysis of Jackson’s art and cultural import, as he portrays his subject as an artist of stature amidst a constituency of the most influential and prescient artists of all time. One can only hope the sincerity of Vogel’s efforts will prompt inchoate scholarship on this subject to burgeon. Vogel’s extensive interviews document the rich and sundry details offered by a plethora of Jackson’s musical collaborators, technical producers, and artistic associates. These remembrances add surprise and synchronicity to the more familiar aspects of Jackson’s complex life history. Included among the recollections are those of musical giants Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, Teddy Riley, Bruce Swedien, Rodney Jerkins, Buz Kohan, Brad Buxer and many others. Vogel, a Huffington Post writer on politics and popular culture, is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester where his scholarship focuses on 18th century poets Blake and Wordsworth. Since he emerges out of an academic perspective on the history of literature and the arts, he is able to credibly position Jackson amidst a much broader contextual background than the many apocryphal works by authors who leapt too eagerly onto the greed-bandwagon following the artist’s untimely death. It is interesting to note that Vogel began research for this book almost five years ago. This was a time when Jackson, due to specious media distortions, was often treated by publishers and much of the public as a social leper. Vogel wanted to correct what he perceived as a terrible injustice and return the conversation to the genius of Jackson’s art and his global transformative cultural import. Vogel later made a conscious choice to refrain from publishing his material immediately following Jackson’s death. Hence, his biography includes analysis of Jackson’s posthumously released works, as well as reflections on the nature of the artist’s ultimate legacy. Vogel’s insight and impeccable research do much to relieve the ignominy this artist suffered in life from a rapacious media. Vogel expresses his purpose when he writes, " ... my objective was to recover Michael Jackson, the artist. The scandals and eccentricities had been covered ad nauseam (and most often in very speculative, superficial ways). His actual creative work, it seemed to me then and now, was infinitely more interesting and compelling. That's what I hoped to bring back into focus." Vogel utilizes a Picasso-like construct in his ability to see his subject from multiple angles simultaneously, thereby rendering a multidimensional portrait. Formulaic tabloid stereotyping and long-standing racial binaries are finally exploded and cast aside. Vogel’s readers will experience Jackson anew as a fine artist, cultural troubadour, and shamanic performer, because he is perceived through a lens that clarifies instead of mystifies. Perceptive, metaphoric, and humane, Vogel’s Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson is certainly the defining biographical work, as well as the first comprehensive assessment, of this artist to date. The revelatory nature of Jackson’s art and his under reported international initiatives for social justice surely deserve this long over due literary retrospective. The book’s stunning photographs make this volume attractive to appreciators of all art genres. It is interesting to note that the author has dedicated his book to Jackson’s three children. One imagines they will be grateful, for Vogel offers respect and appreciation to the father they loved. Constance Pierce ~ October 7, 2011 (copyrighted material)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Michael Jackson may be one of the most underrated artists of all time. It might strange when you think about it – after all, he is one of the most famous and successful artists of all, only coming second to Elvis and the Beatles. Yet most of discussion revolving around Jackson is centred mostly on his personal life and there in an "omg-isn't-he-weird" flavour. The focus on his music has taken a backseat since Thriller. You'll often find the claim that Michael Jackson peaked commercially and arti Michael Jackson may be one of the most underrated artists of all time. It might strange when you think about it – after all, he is one of the most famous and successful artists of all, only coming second to Elvis and the Beatles. Yet most of discussion revolving around Jackson is centred mostly on his personal life and there in an "omg-isn't-he-weird" flavour. The focus on his music has taken a backseat since Thriller. You'll often find the claim that Michael Jackson peaked commercially and artistically with Thriller, and it's been a long downhill run since then – and you'll often find fans claiming that it's simply not true. Vogel indeed adds considerable weight to this claim, showing Jackson branching out creatively and improving on what he had done before. Reading about the often over-looked Invincible (Jackson's only "flop" album) was particularly pleasurable. The focus on Jackson's private life is minimal, provided only to give context to his music, and while it didn't try to redeem him, it also didn't pass judgement. This book is a testament to both Jackson's talent and professionalism. A wide range of resources are used to provide a strong backdrop to Vogel's commentary. This includes critical reviews, interviews with those who worked on the records, biographies and the words of Jackson himself (apparently Jackson was to be interviewed for this book, but died before it could take place). Because Jackson was such a visual artists, the commentary extends to the music video (or "short film") for the songs. This makes for an interesting and sound analysis of Jackson's life work. All in all, Vogel's beautifully presented volume is a very welcome addition to my library.

  3. 4 out of 5

    L

    A book recounting the wonderful creations of one of the most innovative minds of the 20th century. Vogel explores Michael Jackson's discography in an all-encompassing way, diving into details about every song on every album. Before dissecting a record, Vogel briefly introduces the eras themselves. For example, he'd briefly discuss Michael's life/whereabouts/challenges/creative visions in accordance to the period in which an album was released, which gives a semi-complete picture of many things s A book recounting the wonderful creations of one of the most innovative minds of the 20th century. Vogel explores Michael Jackson's discography in an all-encompassing way, diving into details about every song on every album. Before dissecting a record, Vogel briefly introduces the eras themselves. For example, he'd briefly discuss Michael's life/whereabouts/challenges/creative visions in accordance to the period in which an album was released, which gives a semi-complete picture of many things such as the relevancy of certain songs, short films, etc. I suggest you prepare your MJ playlists and Vinyls before embarking on this creative journey, each new page and listen will reveal something new about the Man in the Music. "Jackson loved experiencing art for its own sake (what he often called "the magic"), but he also wanted to understand its "anatomy." He wanted to understand everything about the way it worked, its history, what had withstood the test of time, what its possibilities were. Quincy Jones described him as a "sponge." 'He wanted to be the best of everything- to take it all in.'"

  4. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    Mr. Vogel has written an in-depth, moving book that is a credit to Mr. Jackson and his musical genius. This book focuses on what made Mr. Jackson such a legend, his extraordinary talent that shaped the world of music. Any fan of Michael Jackson should adopt this book as the foremost source of Michael Jackson music history. EXCELLENT.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kerry Hennigan

    This is an excellent reference work on the origins, recording, re-recording, production and release of Michael Jackson's songs. Joseph Vogel takes an in depth look at each of the artist's albums and the tracks featured, plus those on special editions and compilations which appeared no where else. Illustrated with photographs reflective of each stage of MJ's incredible 4 decades-long career we read of when he first conceived of a song and the work he and his collaborators put in to fine tuning it This is an excellent reference work on the origins, recording, re-recording, production and release of Michael Jackson's songs. Joseph Vogel takes an in depth look at each of the artist's albums and the tracks featured, plus those on special editions and compilations which appeared no where else. Illustrated with photographs reflective of each stage of MJ's incredible 4 decades-long career we read of when he first conceived of a song and the work he and his collaborators put in to fine tuning it until he deemed it ready for the world to hear - often years after it was first written or committed to tape. This is a serious, scholarly book which is also thoroughly readable and a MUST for any Michael Jackson fan. The narrative that introduces each stage of his career provides biographical information that helps the reader appreciate the decisions Michael made with respect to his creative output, but manages to avoid most of the sensationalism exhibited by the mass media and the tabloids. In the end we are once again left mourning Michael's untimely demise, and wondering what unreleased treasures still lie waiting to be heard and appreciated by his global audience of devoted fans.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Oh, how I wanted to love this book. It's a great concept: Let's get away from the tabloid Michael Jackson and focus instead on the songs, the stuff that made his music so great. Reading the credits behind each tune gave me a new appreciation of how hands-on he was in everything and how talented he was. I spent a lot of time on iTunes as I read "Man in the Music," listening to snippets of songs I didn't own. So why only 3 stars? First, it's really 3.5, but we can't give half stars. My main problem Oh, how I wanted to love this book. It's a great concept: Let's get away from the tabloid Michael Jackson and focus instead on the songs, the stuff that made his music so great. Reading the credits behind each tune gave me a new appreciation of how hands-on he was in everything and how talented he was. I spent a lot of time on iTunes as I read "Man in the Music," listening to snippets of songs I didn't own. So why only 3 stars? First, it's really 3.5, but we can't give half stars. My main problem? The editing. The lack of fact checking, especially as the book went on, jarred me as much as an off-key Michael would. "Billy Jean?" Two songs listed as the final track released from "Thriller?" Mary J. Blige listed as an up-and-coming artist along with J-Lo in 2001? That last one hurt the most. Mary J. Blige is a Queen! Heck, she had classic albums in the 1990s! To lump her in the same parenthetical with a woman who barely sings is blasphemy. If this book ever comes out in paperback, perhaps it could be run through an editor first.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rinia Li

    fascinating work by Joe Vogel. I had to listen to each song on my I-pod while reading about the song to hear the different instruments/elements that he described that I missed earlier. No other artist conveys so much emotion in his voice like MJ did. The more I learn about him, the more I admire him.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Evans

    One of my favorite MJ books.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Asia Brown

    A fascinating, well-researched analysis and history behind Michael Jackson's creative process and musical genius! A fascinating, well-researched analysis and history behind Michael Jackson's creative process and musical genius!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed Sharkawy

    llll

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nicola Cox

    This book is a must read for any Michael Jackson fan. It focuses solely on his music and the creative process he went through to create his masterpieces. It’s so refreshing to read a book on Michael Jackson without all the garbage tabloid stories being rehashed. I’ve actually read this book twice now as it’s so informative. Deffo a good read!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Arielle

    I was hooked from start to finish!! A really interesting look into the creative process of a genius from the very start of his career as a soloist, until his tragic death. Overall, a must read if you are a fan of Michael's. I was hooked from start to finish!! A really interesting look into the creative process of a genius from the very start of his career as a soloist, until his tragic death. Overall, a must read if you are a fan of Michael's.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Cooke

    At last.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sheedharth Mili

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Nice

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    The definitive work about all of Michael Jackson’s music, it’s creation and the process to completion. It’s also a fair yet reluctant biography. Read the revised 2019 paperback edition.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nigel Carroll

    A well produced book and its clear Joe is a big fan. Surprised less is said about the 3 Cascio tracks and the controversy. I do feel Joe misinterprets a few things, and at times it feels like he is reviewing a song rather than discussing it, but a great sidekick to go with the tunes

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    I've just started reading this book, but I am amazed by the detail, the meticulous research, and the writing. I know I'm not going to be able to put this down. I've just started reading this book, but I am amazed by the detail, the meticulous research, and the writing. I know I'm not going to be able to put this down.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maame

    Because this book is one of the few written works respectfully written about the creative life and work of Michael Jackson I already had in mind to give it five stars. I read a lot of good reviews on it that made me anticipate its read. Now reading the book, although impressed on the work and effort Joseph Vogel put into it, after much thought I disappointedly have to give it four (really 4.5) stars. Invincible is the weakest of the chapters written in the book due to the typo errors and misdate Because this book is one of the few written works respectfully written about the creative life and work of Michael Jackson I already had in mind to give it five stars. I read a lot of good reviews on it that made me anticipate its read. Now reading the book, although impressed on the work and effort Joseph Vogel put into it, after much thought I disappointedly have to give it four (really 4.5) stars. Invincible is the weakest of the chapters written in the book due to the typo errors and misdates of the "emerging artists" mentioned in that period. This was a hard book to rate because this is one of the best history books we have of Michael Jackson so far, however, Man in the Music is a music history book so the misdates cannot be ignored. The Invincible chapter unfortunately shows a lack of research on the authors part for other artists during that time period in the music industry. Besides the errors of other artists in the Invincible chapter, this book was an incredible, nostalgic read. The research was very intellectually written to where it could be a textbook for a music business/artist development college course. I enjoyed how the process of Michael's work for each track was thoroughly written. It was a very inspiring read to me and gave me even a better understanding of Michael's creative process. My favorite chapters throughout the book were HIStory, Blood On The Dance Floor, and The Later Years. HIStory is one of Michael's most political and autobiographical works. Most of the tracks on that album he produced himself, which is really impressive to me. It debunks the belief that Michael was just a singer-songwriter/dancer. He was so much more than that. Whoever reads that book will find out even more about Michael's skills and genius when they get to the last chapter called The Final Years. It shows that Michael definitely was looking into the future and he had so much more to contribute to the world with his art. As Akon said: "[S]some artists think regional, some think national, I was thinking international. He thinks planets. It's on another level."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elise

    4.5 stars. It's refreshing to read a book that focuses solely on the music rather than Michael Jackson's personal life. There are too many books out there that don't cover the music at all or just gloss over it, especially the later albums. This book is very well organized. Each chapter covers each album chronologically starting with "Off the Wall" and ending with the posthumous album, "Michael." Each chapter starts off with an examination of the cultural climate at the time the album was releas 4.5 stars. It's refreshing to read a book that focuses solely on the music rather than Michael Jackson's personal life. There are too many books out there that don't cover the music at all or just gloss over it, especially the later albums. This book is very well organized. Each chapter covers each album chronologically starting with "Off the Wall" and ending with the posthumous album, "Michael." Each chapter starts off with an examination of the cultural climate at the time the album was released, as well as an introduction to the album and how it came into fruition. Then at the end of each chapter is an analysis of each song track by track. Also included are outakes of songs that didn't make it on the albums. There are also plenty of high quality photos throughout the book. I find this book an enjoyable read with plenty of interesting facts about the albums for fans and non-fans alike. There are also a few interesting tidbits that even hardcore fans may not know about. This book is nearly close to perfect a book about the music I've read. It is of course not without a few flaws however. That is why I would give it 4.5 stars rather than 5. For example, I appreciated having a notes section that points out all the references of quotes from other books and research and personal interviews Vogel did. However, there were a few occasions where I read about a fact, but there was no reference as to where the fact came from, and I would have liked to have known. There are also a few instances of minor factual errors, and one instance of using a source whom isn't too reliable in his information on Michael Jackson. Many fans know this. But other than those points, which can mostly be overlooked, it is a well researched and pays great respect to the artistry of Michael Jackson.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Loveland

    This is the kind of book I've been waiting for for so long. A book which doesn't gloss over the incredible music, the personal achievements and charitable endeavours in favour of scandal and unfounded condemnation. The introduction is particularly moving and paints a picture of a tragic genius who the world has lost much too such. I am a big Michael Jackson fan and I thought that there wasn't much more I could learn about my hero, but even I learnt quite a few interesting things about Michael wh This is the kind of book I've been waiting for for so long. A book which doesn't gloss over the incredible music, the personal achievements and charitable endeavours in favour of scandal and unfounded condemnation. The introduction is particularly moving and paints a picture of a tragic genius who the world has lost much too such. I am a big Michael Jackson fan and I thought that there wasn't much more I could learn about my hero, but even I learnt quite a few interesting things about Michael which I did not know. Includes some beautiful photographs, insightful commentary and some poignant messages from friends, family and Michael himself. I would have liked a little more elaboration on some of the later albums, like Invincible and the Michael album, but overall this is one of the best books I have read about Michael and am set to buy Vogel's other book about Earth Song immediately! (When reading this book, I would read the song commentary and then go on to listen to that song, which really makes you appreciate them a lot more. Give it a try!)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Cole

    Really excellent review of Jackson’s musical and visual work. Special attention is paid to the cultural impact of Jackson’s work. Post thriller work is given the same if not greater analysis—-a true rarity when it comes to anything Michael Jackson.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    One of the best book that describes the musical genius of the King of Pop! Vogel did a great job detailing the creativity of how Michael Jackson put the song together to change the face of Pop culture forever. I am forever grateful to purchase this book and I recommend this book to all the Michael Jackson fans around the world, to honor his legacy and truth.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Sweet!! I'm so excited to have won this! I've always thought Michael Jackson was an awesome performer and an entirely misunderstood person. I'm excited to be able to read all about him! Thanks Goodreads! Sweet!! I'm so excited to have won this! I've always thought Michael Jackson was an awesome performer and an entirely misunderstood person. I'm excited to be able to read all about him! Thanks Goodreads!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lora Osborn

    What a collection of information about Michael Jackson! I think this would be of great use for a college course studying Michael. Of course, anyone who loves Michael Jackson will love this book!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kassel

    A fascinating read and treasure trove of information for Michael Jackson fans.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    This is the book I wanted in the months following Michael's death. This is the book I wanted in the months following Michael's death.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    p. 131

  28. 5 out of 5

    Casey Rain

    Fantastic, one of the best MJ books out there.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eilonna

    A very thorough account of all of Michael's work. It's interesting to find out all the stories behind the songs that i love so much. A very thorough account of all of Michael's work. It's interesting to find out all the stories behind the songs that i love so much.

  30. 4 out of 5

    janie love

    yea

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