Thriller, The Musical Life of Michael Jackson
(Da Capo Press)
Author: Nelson George
Review By: Melody Charles
Whether you were a fan or not, you will never forget where you where, what you were doing and how it utterly paralyzed you when the news of Michael Jackson ‘s death hit the airwaves. No matter what happened in his personal life, one couldn’t help but marvel at his charisma and supernatural ability to create hits decade after decade. It’s this magical quality that lauded music critic Nelson George expounds on in “Thriller, The Musical Life of Michael Jackson.”
Many writers try to keep a sense of distance from the subject at hand, but it’s impossible for Mr. George to do, since he and Mr. Jackson were born a year apart and, since both grew up in poverty, he came to hang his aspirations on the reality that Michael’s phenomenal success had become. Over the years, Mr. George had met members of the Jackson family, wrote of their triumphs and tribulations and luckily, had a front row seat to the evolving wonder that was Michael’s voice, from its sweet, pubescent beginnings to the rich, resonant tenor that became his trademark style.
This is what emcompasses the majority of the book: outlines of his seminal recordings, anecdotal background info about the journey and how his voice, as well as his perferectionist work ethic and undeniable talent, shaped the entire music industry and a generation of performers in the process. At the same time, Mr. George offers points about his own life and illustrates how, at times, they even ran parallel to Michael’s.
It should go without saying that, although the book is vividly written and offers fascinating glimpses into the mechination and politics of music as a whole, people who aren’t ride-or-die MJ fans will probably find its exhaustive analysis of his hits and qualities to be a bit much. But, for those who adored the entertainer and feel enriched by the legacy he left behind, Thriller…. Is a must-have and documents what truly matters —Michael Jackson’s unique artistry—for a world that will never see the likes of it again in this lifetime.
Thriller takes us back to a time in 1982 when Michael Jackson was king of the charts, breaking the color barrier on MTV, heralding the age of video, and becoming the ultimate representation of the crossover dreams of Motown’s Berry Gordy, who helped launch Jackson’s career with the Jackson 5. In this incisive and revealing examination of the making and meaning of Thriller, Nelson George illuminates the brilliant creative process (and work ethic) of Jackson and producer Quincy Jones, deftly exploring the larger context of the music, life, and seismic impact of Michael Jackson on three generations. All this from a groundbreaking journalist and cultural critic who was there. George questions whether the phenomenon Jackson became is even possible today. He revisits his early writings on the King of Pop and examines not only the stunning success of Thriller but also Jackson as an artist, public figure, and racial enigmaincluding the details surrounding his death on June 25, 2009.