MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson
By: Steve Knopper
Publication Date: 10/6/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
The ultimate critical biography of the King of Pop: a panoramic, vivid, and incisive portrait of Michael Jackson that explores and celebrates his influence in music, dance, and popular culture, drawing on 400 interviews. From the moment in 1965 when he first stepped on stage with his brothers at a local talent show in Gary, Indiana, Michael
Jackson was destined to become the undisputed King of Pop. In a career spanning four decades, Jackson became a global icon, selling over 400 million albums, earning thirteen Grammy awards, and spinning dance moves that captivated the world. Songs like “Billie Jean” and “Black and White” altered our national discussion of race and equality, and Jackson’s signature aesthetic, from the single white glove to the moonwalk, defined a generation. Despite years of scandal and controversy, Jackson’s ultimate legacy will always be his music.
Rolling Stone contributing editor Steve Knopper delves deeply into Michael Jackson’s music and talent. From the artist’s early days with the Jackson 5, to his stratospheric success as a solo artist, to “Beat It” and “Thriller,” “Bad” and “The Man in the Mirror,” to his volatile final years, his attempted comeback, and untimely death, Knopper explores the beguiling and often contradictory forces that fueled Michael Jackson’s genius.
Drawing on an amazing 400 interviews—ranging from Jackson’s relatives, friends, and key record executives to celebrities like will.i.am and Weird Al Yankovic—this critical biography puts all the elements of his career into perspective, and celebrates his triumph in art and music. This is a rare and panoramic view into the genius and influence of an incomparable talent.
A special thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Nice Cover. O U T S T A N D I N G ! Steve Knopper, contributing editor of Rolling Stones Magazine,delivers an insightful, “inside look” at the pop icon’s life journey; well researched (450+ sources), The King of Pop, MJ THE GENUIS OF MICHAEL JACKSON —from childhood, to his untimely death, the bitter end--from years of scandal and controversy—a rare view into the genius, and influence of an incomparable talent. From Michael’s early years trapped in a constrictive frame of reference, growing up in segregated Gary, Indiana, surrounded by abusive father, an enabling mother, and mocking brothers. As Steve tells Michael’s story, a star is born, later using these talents to expand his boundaries to an almost impossible degree of freedom and creativity—at times too far, succumbing at times to megalomania, surrounding himself with sycophants, eventually persuading a succession of reputable doctors to push their legal and ethical rules to accommodate his whims. A perfectionist working tirelessly, and expecting nothing less of those around him. From the highs to the lows, and the decline beginning in 2001, when MJ applied this no-limits philosophy to his lifestyle-- no longer using it to pioneer music, dance steps, or shows. Unfortunately, approaching fifty, he continued pushing himself, with continued demands----after his pain and other health complications. For nearly three decades the king of pop was supernaturally graceful, the Renaissance man who could sing, dance, and write songs—from his famous white glove, moonwalk, to his millions of albums sold. From Thriller, Billie Jean, Beat It, Man in the Mirror, the early days, to his volatile final years, his health, family, his attempted comeback and his death. Even in the five years after his death, he once again became one of the world’s biggest music stars. From young to old-- he attracted fans of all ages. The book delves into Michael’s personal and professional life. From early years of abuse, the Jackson 5, to the surgeries, concerts, the Hollywood bidding wars, his illnesses, the spending, the debt, his homes, his lifestyle, the child molestation charges, his children, his marriage, celebrities, business managers, to his death in 2009, and after. Michael Jackson had written a fictional vision of his death, in prose form, back in 1992: “A star can never die. It just turns into a smile and melts back into the cosmic music, the dance of life.” Jackson fans will find this an excellent portrait of MJ's life, legacy, and talents celebrated with his influence, music, dance, and popular culture—often misunderstood; defining a generation with his signature-- All His Own. Despite years of scandal and controversy, Jackson’s ultimate legacy will live on, with a career spanning four decades, a global icon, selling over 400 million albums, earning thirteen Grammy awards which captivated the world! Knopper explores all aspects, from the secrets, talents, pressure, control, to the influences. Well written and researched. So engrossing, you find yourself thinking you are reading a fictional book, versus non-fiction. Highly Recommend! “Michael, a man who refused to let race, gender, musical styles, family, even his own facial structure constrict him. Every time somebody tried to define him, he shifted his shape, altering his music, clothes, image, and his nose.”
About the Author
Steve Knopper, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, is the author of a biography of Michael Jackson, due in October 2015 from Scribner/Simon & Schuster.
His previous book, Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age (Free Press/Simon & Schuster), is the definitive account of the modern music business, from the adoption of the CD in the early 1980s through the Napster-induced crash and the iPod/iTunes revolution of the early 2000s. The Village Voice called the book "fantastic," and The Boston Globe declared it "an enthralling read, equal parts anger and regret," adding: "Knopper's writing is sharp, his approach sharper."
Steve has profiled pop star and songwriter Sia Furler for the New York Times Magazine; spent four years researching the story of forgotten 1950s New Orleans boxer and civil-rights hero Joe Dorsey; covered the tragic Indiana State Fair stage collapse for Rolling Stone; tried to kill his cheapo PC with viruses for Wired; bought and sold concert tickets as if day-trading stocks; explored reggae history in Jamaica; traveled to Sophiatown, the bohemian South African town razed by apartheid in the 1950s; and documented astronauts' musical tastes in space. He has also written for GQ, Fortune, Men's Journal, the Wall Street Journal and National Geographic Traveler.
Steve was the subject of a 45-minute interview with NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross and has been a guest on NBC'sLast Call with Carson Daly and appeared on the NBC Nightly News. He has lectured to several corporations and college classes, including New York University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Colorado and Syracuse University, among others, and appeared on panels at music-business conferences South by Southwest, The Great Escape and Eurosonic Nooderslag. Steve lives in northwest Denver with his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Rose. Website