Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson (Anglais) Relié – 23 juin 2010
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Mr. George touches on the Jackson5/Jacksons timeframe. He gave a little different point of view about Joseph Jackson's actions which I found to be very reasonable and definitely put it into the historical context of a black man in America at that time.
I did enjoy the song by song descriptions of the Thriller album. It gave more detail on where the inspiration came from for each, who wrote the songs, who played on the songs. It did focus on the creative team that was assembled for this historic endoeavor. I think this could have been taken even further. I did learn a little more about Prince's early career from parts of this book.
There was a reference to keeping the company of boys which I felt was not needed. Although, later in the book when talking about Chuck Berry as an early black rocker, Nelson George referenced the unfair application of the Mann Act that derailed Chuck Berry's career. It seemed to be an attempt put events that happened to Michael Jackson in a racial context which many people believe to have been the reasons for the lynch mob mentality for the last 15 years of Michael's life.
Mr. George obviously had issues with MJ's skin problems. He discusses it in the book but doesn't really talk about the reasons for the skin lightening (ie. vitiligo).
The author does discuss the relationship between Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. Quincy Jones served as a mentor to Michael. When Michael was ready to update his sound and move on to new things, Nelson George suggests that Michael had reached a point in his life where he wanted to be a mentor. Then, the author goes on to discuss the Dangerous album produced by Teddy Riley. I had often thought this myself as all young people outgrow their mentors and want to move on to a different role for themselves.
Overall, it was a quick read and kept my attention. There were many editing mistakes especially getting the names of Michael's two wives incorrect. I expected the book to be mainly about the Thriller album and it was. The author should have spent more time on this album and not even tried to look at others. It would have been a better book. But, the author clearly admires Michael as a gifted singer, dancer, choreographer, producer, songwriter, and creative genius.
Nelson George writes that this is not a biography. It's not. Nor do I think it's about MJ's musical life. In the introduction it is 1971 and George is 14 going to a Jackson 5 concert. He successfully describes the dynamics of MJ as a performer and how watching him gave him hope for his own future. Later, he reflects that writing a quickie book biography on Michael Jackson in 1984 is when his career began to take hold. In Thriller, he does brief you to certain facts about Michael Jackson, his childhood for example, but there is nothing new and if you already know the details, you should be fine with this. George proves that you don't often need many words to make your point and he successfully does this with Joe Jackson, the man that he has the most contact with. He explains Joe Jackson and in my opinion, nails MJ's father with his analysis. There is not a lot of personal judgement going on here, but George does say that he was disturbed by Michael's physical transformations. Still, the purpose of this book is to honor the music.
If you're going to critique Michael Jacksons music, you're taking on a huge committment. I really wanted these songs to be dissected. Since Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson, really is just about the Thriller album, I don't understand why a more in depth examination wasn't done. If you ask me, these are just notes on the songs, little drops in the bucket, little musings. In other words, tell me something about these songs that I don't already know. Perhaps, I'm being too greedy. Maybe there is nothing more to say about Thriller. Maybe everything has already been said, every quote already been taken. Maybe it would have been better if more information came from Michael himself, (via personal interviews, quotes etc...) than others, (tiresome anecdotes that we've heard over and over) perhaps, that would have given the book more depth. I'm not saying that Nelson George doesn't offer up anything insightful about these songs, he does manage to serve up some information on background players who may have written a particular song. And then, there is his perception of them. There IS other filler in this book. If it were solely about MJ's Thriller, it would be an even thinner volume.
Should you read this book? If you're prepared to accept that the author did the best that he was capable of doing. His work reveals that he held respect for MJ and his musical career. There are a few things that make you go "ahhhh" and "what if?" I just don't think George is the best choice for what this book should have been. Inside, the author states that his book is more of a blend of memoir, cultural history and music criticism. That's what it is, written in that quickie, bio style format.
Don't buy it. There are better books out there about Michael. If you still want to read, get it from the library if it is available in your area. That way you haven't lost any money. Just my two cents.
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