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

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

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by Joseph Vogel

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An unprecedented look into the creative world of Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson's brilliance as an artist has often been overshadowed by the tabloid frenzy that surrounded his unusual life. Now author Joseph Vogel returns to to the albums, songs and videos that made the King of Pop a cultural force in the first place. From Off the Wall and…  See more details below


An unprecedented look into the creative world of Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson's brilliance as an artist has often been overshadowed by the tabloid frenzy that surrounded his unusual life. Now author Joseph Vogel returns to to the albums, songs and videos that made the King of Pop a cultural force in the first place. From Off the Wall and Thriller to Bad, Dangerous, HIStory and beyond, Vogel takes us deep inside Jackson's vast musical catalog. Each song is carefully considered, from well-known classics like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" to lesser-known standouts like "Stranger in Moscow" and "Who Is It."
Meticulously researched and documented, Man in the Music draws on hundreds of sources, including news archives, reviews, Jackson's own words, and interviews with key collaborators. With each chapter, Vogel takes the reader back in time, placing the music in its social and historical context, discussing its relation to Jackson's personal life, and revealing never-before-heard stories from the studio. Featuring a foreword by Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis and a wealth of color photos, this unique book provides the first comprehensive assessment of the "man in the music."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Vogel, a Huffington Post writer, immerses readers in a chronological exploration of Michael Jackson's remarkable solo career. Chapter by chapter and literally song by song, he discusses Jackson's albums, videos, dances, cinematic influences, musical heroes, idiosyncrasies, and artistic transformations from the inception of Off the Wall, Jackson's 1979 solo debut, through 2001's Invincible, his last studio album. In a final chapter set after Jackson's notorious child abuse trial, Vogel reconstructs the performer's plans for a series of comeback concerts and the worldwide shock following news of his death. Vogel has produced a smart—if at times academic—study of Jackson's creativity and musical legacy. Based on interviews (none with Jackson himself), articles, and reviews, he achieves moments of intimacy and insight: a glimpse of Jackson, an ambitious perfectionist, in the studio relaxing his vocal cords with a hot drink poured over cough drops. By astutely contextualizing Jackson's cultural impact and relevance, Vogel bolsters his premise that media sensationalism continues to denigrate Jackson's artistic integrity without sounding vindictive. Strangely, Vogel occasionally undermines his hard work by giving Jackson a makeover as a romantic hero rather than a unique, complex multimedia celebrity. Jackson may have agreed; readers will enjoy. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"The many fans of the King of Pop are going to love this book. Huffington Post writer Vogel began it in 2005, long before Michael Jackson's untimely death, and he wisely focuses on the music and groundbreaking recordings of Jackson's solo career. Scandals and eccentricities are relegated to the background in this critical musical analysis, which will delight even the most knowledgeable Jackson fan. Each track on each record, fr om 1979's Off the Wallthrough 2001's Invincible, including posthumously released recordings, gets a thorough analysis, with listings of the involved writers, producers, and musicians. There is plenty of contextual biographical detail, and Vogel describes the cultural and political backdrop that makes Jackson's achievements all the more remarkable. VERDICT A thoroughly enjoyable analysis of the music and life of the most popular musician of an era."--Library Journal 

"Vogel produced a of Jackson's creativity and legacy. He achieves moments of intimacy and insight: a glimpse of Jackson, an ambitious perfectionist. Vogel occasionally undermines his hard work by giving Jackson a makeover as a romantic hero rather than a celebrity. Readers will enjoy."- Publishers Weekly  

Library Journal
Still lots of noise about Michael Jackson (note Frank Cascio's November title, My Friend Michael). But this book focuses not on the life but on the music, giving an often blow-by-blow analysis of Jackson's solo albums, individual songs, and videos.
Kirkus Reviews

An attempt to offer critical perspective on music that the author loves uncritically.

Vogel's goal is worthy: to rescue Jackson's artistic legacy from the distortions of the tabloid press, a celebrity-obsessed culture and the aftershocks of his shocking death. Terming his subject "the archetypical misunderstood artist," the author provides comprehensive context, detail and analysis of every Jackson solo album and every individual track (sometimes pages worth on a single song), as well as cuts that have remained unreleased. Vogel admits that he "frequently felt out of my depth" and "quickly realized that my role would necessarily be as much editor as author." The research is impressive, but the book would have benefited from better editing and more critical nuance. As he quotes a half-dozen or more reviews of an album (or track), he embraces those that are positive and discredits anything negative as an inability to listen "objectively," whatever that might mean in the field of criticism. His own escalation of superlatives and comparisons approaches delirium: "Off the Walldid for R&B what the Beach Boys'Pet Soundsdid for rock"; " 'Man in the Mirror' stands with classics such as John Lennon's 'Imagine,' Marvin Gaye's 'What's Goin' On," and the Beatles' 'Let It Be' as one of the great social anthems of the modern age." By the time readers reach this statement—"HIStorymakes a strong case for being Jackson's magnum opus—and one of the best albums by any artist in the 1990s"—the author's perspective has become increasingly difficult to trust; it's as if Vogel feels that overstatement is a necessary corrective to the critical slights the artist has suffered.

Some fans will appreciate the author's seriousness of purpose (which others will find tedious), but the book has more value as a reference work than a critical study.

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Man in the Music 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
MichelleYGiwerc More than 1 year ago
It's genuinely amazing to see the amount of time, effort, and research (hundreds upon hundreds of resources among countless interviews) that must have gone into creating this comprehensive account: song by song, album by album, entailing both a historical and critical perspective on the works of Michael Jackson. Vogel approaches the legacy of Michael Jackson with a deep sense of nostalgia; Michael Jackson was a hero among people of all colors, religions, nationalities, and ages. Vogel should not be reprimanded for avoiding the media-evoked, outrageous, and outlandish views that portrayed Jackson in such a negative light. Instead, he should be praised! Never before has there been such a deep piece of literature on the King of Pop that celebrates the genius of his anomalous life, the depth of his music (in terms of both composition and content), and the aspects of Jackson that ascertain the fact that there will never be another human being like him. I can't put into words how much this book spoke to my heart. Vogel afforded me a completely new side of Jackson that I had longed to know for so long - a side that was essentially buried and concealed by the onslaught of media coverage that intentionally exploited any of Jackson's behaviors or actions in attempts to cast him aside as a freak; a weirdo; an outsider. This goal was successfully achieved. Sadly, no one really seemed to care that Jackson was attacked virtually every day by the media until immediately after his demise. Only then did we start to criticize how pernicious the world of popular culture truly was. As Vogel describes, Jackson suffered immensely from every single blow that continued to mar his image and detract from his music. It certainly leaves one wondering how much of an impact this had on Jackson's ultimate demise. Vogel provides the historical background, contributions by influential figures and artists, and an in-depth analysis of every single song and album that Jackson ever produced. There was so much intelligence, grace, and raw emotion that went into each and every work of art produced by MJ, and I am so thankful that there is finally a meticulously researched, flawlessly written, and comprehensive account of the creations of his life. In the Foreword, Anthony DeCurtis (editor of Rolling Stone) equates Vogel's raw drive and creative talent to the focus and passion he witnessed in Jackson's performances. If you are a lover of music, have ever been touched by or a fan of any of MJ's songs, or have ever been curious about the mysterious, complex man that Jackson was, this book is for you. It will bring you back in time to the moments you first heard his songs. It will teach you things you never knew before nor ever imagined in your wildest dreams. It will show you just how human each and every single one of us truly is. It will prove to you that Jackson's most sought-after goal in his life was to touch the hearts of his fans.
EditorVO More than 1 year ago
Man in the Music is a moving and articulate embrace of the music, and the man within it, Michael Jackson. It takes us inside Michael's creative works and gives us another rare insight into his mind and soul. To say that Joe found his own personal connection to the artist and his music, to me, is an understatement, because it is clear in every chapter-Joe has forged his own path for us to reach that same level on which he met Michael, through artistic expression and truthful interpretation. In a sense, the book is a journey undertaken by the author in order to provide us passage to a place only before, visited by him. Indeed, Joe has created a gateway-he has opened the door to inspiration through well-defined expression, bringing us to that same perception of Michael and his artistry that Joe himself gained in the writing of his book.
Isalap More than 1 year ago
If you want to know who was the REAL Michael Jackson, this is the book to read. If you want a journey through a genius's mind, understand Michael's music, and have your breath taken away by the surreal life this legend had, "Man in the music" is for you. Based on true facts, strong professionnal researches and the ethical will to make a REAL reference book about Michael Jackson, Joe Vogel achieved the most interesting book there is to read about the icon. Not only will you learn plenty about Jackson, but you will laugh, cry, and be astonished by his stories; you will truly understand his pure talent and humanity. I was amazed by the way he works, on how he was inspired, how his music changed the world. Michael's humanitarian side and his wish to make this world a better place, along with his good actions, will leave you why such a beautiful, rare soul had to go so soon. Michael Jackson is, at last, honored with a book that respects the true facts, his life, his family, his hard work and the magic he brought to this world. Thank you, Joe Vogel, this book was a pure joy to read.
Kim11 More than 1 year ago
When I heard about this book, I couldn't wait to receive it. Mr. Vogel has written a very comprehensive and compelling book about the creativity, genius and inspiration of Michael Jackson. I find this book refreshing, because of the extensive research that went into the content of this book. Mr. Vogel connected with various people who worked directly with Michael Jackson throughout the years, thus he was able to document the moments where we see Michael's creativity at its highest level. You feel like you are there witnessing the genesis of something so very special. It's one thing to hear a song and like it. It's something different when you understand what inspired the song and know what steps were taken to bring it to final completion. Mr. Vogel's book takes you on a journey where you feel like you are right there along with Michael and his team during the creative process. I highly recommend it regardless if you are a fan of Michael Jackson or not. This book represents the truth of who Michael Jackson was, which is completely contradictory of what the media has been saying for many years. I applaud Mr. Vogel's courage for approaching Michael Jackson's work in a very authentic and respectful manner. May he be the first of many. Thank you Mr. Vogel.
layne_4 More than 1 year ago
I found this extremely well researched and documented discussion of Mr. Jackson's artistic product very engrossing and illuminating. We hear from those people who worked closely with Jackson for many years who are able to speak first hand about this remarkable musical genius. His music, dance and short films are an integral part of cultures worldwide. Finally, with minimal reference to his tumultuous personal challenges, the focus is purely on the music. No matter how many times one may have heard 'Black or White', 'Billie Jean' or any one of the remarkable tracks released over many decades, the reader will discover new facts about each track. I found myself returning to 'Off the Wall' to identify layered sounds accompanied by that familiar vocal instrument. I highly recommend 'Man in the Music' to anyone with an interest in the intellectual and musical legacy that Mr. Jackson gifted to the world. Quite remarkable.
Constance-Pierce More than 1 year ago
Huffington Post writer and academic scholar, Joseph Vogel, not only provides an enthralling read, but a gateway into a revised perception of one of the most iconic and massively influential artists of our time. Vogel skillfully guides the reader through the remarkable chapters of Jackson's solo career, capturing the cultural vibe of the '80s and '90s, while analyzing Jackson's creative process from inception to aesthetic fulfillment. Vogel's narrative unfolds in a unique album-by-album mode revealing intricately woven stories chronologically linked with the creation of Jackson's music. Throughout this process, the author explicates Jackson's lyrics, performance art, cinematic short films, and aesthetic incarnations, as well as exploring his myriad eclectic influences. The reader experiences firsthand the gentle singer-songwriter's coming of age, his groundbreaking musical prowess, and his emergence as a humanitarian emissary for the disadvantaged 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. The author offers a Joycean sensibility, as he paints with a discerning eye his "portrait of the artist as a young man." He shares Jackson's life long love of books, recounting that the artist's personal library grew to over 20,000 titles including numerous 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's interviews document a plethora of Jackson's musical collaborators, technical producers, and artistic associates. Included among the recollections are those of musical giants Quincy Jones, Rod Templeton, Teddy Riley, Bruce Swedien, Rodney Jerkins, Buz Kohan, Brad Buxer and many others. Also interesting to note, Vogel began research for this book five years ago. This was a time when Jackson, due to specious media distortions, was often treated by 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. The author's insight and rigorous research do much to relieve the ignominy this artist suffered in life. Vogel 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 irrevocably raises the bar for future critical analysis of Jackson's art and transformative cultural import. 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 rather than mystifies. Perceptive, metaphoric, and humane, Vogel's book is certainly the defining biographical work on this artist to date. The revelatory nature of Jackson's art, as well as his under reported global humanitarian initiatives for social justice, surely deserve this over due literary retrospective. (Constance Pierce, NY)
RevB More than 1 year ago
Well finally! A long time coming but finally an author takes a look at the creative genius of Michael Jackson. Josepth Vogel, professor at Rochester is an actual researcher who spent years (begun before his untimely death) compiling this work about the musical legacy of Michael Jackson. Not influenced by the tabloid constructed caricature that bullied Jackson for many years, Vogel actually examines the music, the creativity and the mental prowess of this iconic figure of the twentieth century. Vogel speaks to the meat of the matter in revealing the cultural and personal influences that informed the compositions by Jackson. While I am sure this is completely unintentional, the reader is left with a haunting sadness about what was missed or lost because Jackson was not taken seriously as an artist. Vogel reveals what has long been a suspicion-- there is more to Michael Jackson and his contribution than meets the eye. Thank goodness someone has captured it for all time. No matter what you think you know about Michael Jackson, you don't. No matter how you may have catagorized his music, it's not accurate. No matter how much you may have disliked him or dismissed him, you were wrong. What an amazing read. Thanks Vogel for the enlightenment not found anywhere else. Brava!
NancyJensen More than 1 year ago
Michael Jackson said "Who wants mortality? Everyone wants immortality. You want what you create to live be it sculpture or painting or music or composition. Michelangelo said: I know the creator will go but his work survives. That is why to escape death I attempt to bind my soul to my work. That's how I feel. I give it my all. Because I want it to just live and give it all that I have." Michael Jackson has succeeded in achieving his goal! Although the fabulously talented, creative King of Pop Michael Jackson is no longer with us, his spirit remains alive through his beautiful and unique music, inspiring and entertaining generations to come. Now Joe Vogel's incredible book Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson gives us a clear inside view of Jackson's creativity, focus and spirit as he describes the making of each song starting with Jackson's Off The Wall album. Vogel even covers unreleased songs in order to show the full range of Jackson's artistry. Jackson was multi-talented and THE artist that changed the world of music videos forever with his innovative approach. He inspired the world of dance with his sheer magical gravity-defying moves. Joe weaves these elements into the stories about each song, as they are inseparable elements. This book is unlike most other books you will read about Michael Jackson. It is not a tabloid-style unauthorized biography that tries to generate sales by sullying and distorting the life of Michael Jackson. While covering all important points in Jackson's personal life, the book focuses on the Man and his Music, pure and simple, and shows us the true nature of this creative genius. Vogel states, "As an artist, then, Jackson's work was about liberation. He wanted to free what was bound; transform what was petrified, and awaken what was dormant. He wanted to break through any obstacle that constrained the imagination, any chains-psychological, social or political-that imprisoned the body or mind. This is what art meant to him personally, and it was his intended effect on his audience as well." Read in Vogel's book about "They Don't Care about Us", "Scream", "Earth Song", "Black or White", "We've Had Enough" and other songs in which this liberation theme is evident. What was so unique about Jackson was that, as Vogel states, "The standard for Michael Jackson, of course, has always been himself". While other artists were busy chasing the achievements of Elvis, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra, Jackson had broken all album-selling records at an early age with Thriller, and this would be the album he would have to attempt to surpass throughout his life! You can read Joe's blogs about music on the Huffington Post to get a taste of his wonderful style of writing and his expansive knowledge of the music world. I'm sure that you will be inspired, as I have been, to read and enjoy Man in the Music. Vogel's book is well-written, thoroughly researched and a must read for Michael Jackson fans and all music fans. ENJOY!
LizB3 More than 1 year ago
A refreshing look at Michael Jackson during his brilliant musical career. The anecdotes accompanying the detailed song descriptions help the reader understand the context with which Mr. Jackson wrote and created his music. If you are curious to learn about a real master of his craft, this is a must read. Everyone can appreciate this honest depiction of Michael Jackson as not only a true artist who paid the highest attention to every minute detail, but as a genuine human being who truly cared.
pumatamer More than 1 year ago
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.
pendragonPD More than 1 year ago
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book, as this is much more than just a fan book. In a project started long before Jackson¿s death, Joe Vogel, leaves sentiment at the door and explores Michael Jackson through his music, resulting in an objective and insightful resume of his musical life . More than just a coffee-table book, this will be of interest not only to the die-hard fans, but also to anyone mildly interested in Jackson¿s musicality and his impact on modern culture. With so many ¿tell-all¿ tomes being published by so-called friends and family, it¿s refreshing to find a book which is not telling more stories about Jackson, but simply appreciating him as an artist who undoubtedly was in a class of his own. Recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a joy to find a positive book about a positive man. How great that Mr. Vogel had the courage and desire to write an honest book about the genious of Michael Jackson and focus on his work. This book is a must have for all Michael Jackson fans and for those who just want to learn the real story behind the creations of a brilliant mind.
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I just baught this book hope its good so far just the cover looks goood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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I love this book
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