Michael Jackson - The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story 1958-2009 (Book Review) (2009)

Michael Jackson
MJBook.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

THE MAGIC, THE MADNESS, THE WHOLE STORY, 1958-2009, BY J. RANDY TARABORRELLI

It's a chapter that authors universally dread and delight in: The End. No matter how fascinating the subject or the characters may be, there is no such thing as a never-ending story, so it was fitting and expected that J. Randy Taraborelli, the renowned celebrity biographer who penned 1991's definitive Michael Jackson opus, The Magic and the Madness, would dig beyond the tawdry tabloid elements and, in an updated version of ....Madness, employ the same probing, yet principled style that only a true fan and professional would be capable of.

THE MAGIC, THE MADNESS, THE WHOLE STORY, 1958-2009, BY J. RANDY TARABORRELLI

It's a chapter that authors universally dread and delight in: The End. No matter how fascinating the subject or the characters may be, there is no such thing as a never-ending story, so it was fitting and expected that J. Randy Taraborelli, the renowned celebrity biographer who penned 1991's definitive Michael Jackson opus, The Magic and the Madness, would dig beyond the tawdry tabloid elements and, in an updated version of ....Madness, employ the same probing, yet principled style that only a true fan and professional would be capable of.

Given his lengthy personal history with the late superstar (two years apart in age, the two met as youngsters in 1970) and the multiple interviews he's conducted with him, family members and other close associates over the years, Mr. Taraborelli had access to Michael Jackson in a way that few others would, able to chronicle in detail his meteoric rise, his devastating descent into drug addiction and the personal triumphs, trials and tribulations in-between.  

Whether they considered themselves fans or foes of the Jackson musical dynasty, few will ever forget where they were and how they felt after learning of his sudden demise: after all, Michael Joseph Jackson was a tenaciously talented performer, blessed with a melodic multi-range tenor, gravity-defying dance moves, an electrifying stage presence and the ability to write songs that became anthems to his followers and inspired dozens of new artists in the process. Unfortunately, it's also true that many of Mr. Jackson's personal quirks mushroomed into alarming eccentricities that, at times, disenchanted even the most devoted of his fans.  In the prologue, Mr. Taraborelli acknowledges all of the above while illuminating the challenges that plagued the late entertainer from the moment he entered the spotlight:

"....Ask yourself: if your entire life had been played out under heavy and unyielding scrutiny, made even more torturous by an abusive father, what would you be like? What if you were infantilized by an adoring public who celebrated you primarily as a talented youngster? Do you think you might, over time, be compelled to infantilize yourself? Out of frustration and desperation, might you revolt and begin to do whatever you wished without considering the logic of your decisions, the common sense of your choices, or the propriety of your behavior? What if you also had an inordinate amount of wealth, giving you the power to redress your deepest insecurities and desires by any means at your disposal, no matter how extreme, and with no one around daring to challenge you? ....How does he see himself, anyway? As The King of Pop, a trailblazing, misunderstood musical genius whose career spans an entire lifetime? Or an insecure, basically unhappy adult with enough money and power to do whatever he likes and get away with it? Perhaps only one thing is certain: if you were an unfettered combination of both, chances are you would be like....Michael Jackson."

Totaling 713 pages, ...Madness is an exhaustive, yet absorbing read, often parallel to the first edition but with more one-on-one conversations with the subject, less ‘unnamed sources' and less of a focus on his Motown peers; curiously, he also reveals through unabridged quotes that the man had quite a ‘potty mouth.' Also, where the first edition of ....Madness chronicled his brothers and sisters personal lives in great detail, its updated version just skims.

No matter which version the reader encounters, their perception of Michael Jackson will be altered forever; no one is perfect, after all, and throughout the book, Mr. Taraborelli meticulously peels back the superficial layers (soft voice, slight build, fey appearance and shy demeanor) to reveal a man who may not have been as physically intimidating or abusive like his father, but did go on to adapt his elder's cunning, confidence and cut-throat personal and professional standards. And when those traits combined with his incomprehensible wealth and fame, Michael Jackson, just like many of his celebrated peers, developed a sense of reckless entitlement that made him vulnerable to the yes-men and opportunists that helped to hasten his heartbreaking end.              

Backed up with extensive firsthand knowledge and authenticated eyewitness accounts of friends, family and associates, .....Madness reveals practically everything the curious would want to know (and honestly, some things they'd probably not) about MJ: how he felt about his brother's groupies ("Don't meet him," he tells one that caught Jackie's attention in the J5 days. "My brothers don't treat girls too good.") , what Joseph did that hurt him more than the abuse ("My father has hurt my mother," he once told Diana Ross regarding Joseph's many affairs. "...Joseph is a bad man.") , the price they paid to break their recording contract with Motown for Epic in the 1970's (surrendering all royalties to their biggest hits), how his brothers outvoted him on practically every aspect of The Victory Tour and turned him off to future tours in the process ("This is going to be my last tour with the guys. I'm very serious....I'm just one vote out of six. Let them do their thing. This is their last shot.") and the real reason he resorted time and time again to plastic surgery ("First of all, he strove for some ideal of physical perfection, or his version of it, anyway. As well as improving his appearance....Michael did everything he could to destroy the resemblance {to Joseph}.") . And if anyone ever wondered how authentic his marriage was to Lisa Marie Presley, if it was ever consummated or how Debbie Rowe came to mother his children (months before his first divorce was final at that), that's in here too.  What's also fleshed out, in astonishing detail, is how Michael Jackson's wholesome affection for children, coupled with arrogance and the inability to heed common sense, led to the multiple charges of child molestation ("I remember interviewing Michael right after the settlement was made and telling him that I was extremely disappointed ....I told him that from that moment on, people would always believe he was guilty as charged. It was the first time I'd ever heard Michael swear. ‘I don't give a {expletive deleted} what people think,' he told me angrily.).  Even though he was eventually acquitted of all wrongdoing, Mr. Taraborelli, who witnessed the trial from beginning to end, confesses that he felt the man had been irreparably broken by then ("For a moment, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with Michael....I smiled at him. He forced a smile back, but his expression was vacant , his eyes empty. ....It should've been one of the happiest days of his life, but it was as if he wasn't even present to enjoy it. For all intents and purposes, Michael Jackson was gone.").

To sum it up, this updated edition of .....Madness is as essential to any biography lover's library as the first. If one is just a casual fan of Michael Jackson, then any cold summary of facts and figures from the internet would probably be enough, but for those who love him, mourn him and hope to better understand the complexity of the real brother, son, husband, friend and father beyond the "Wacko Jacko" label, this book does it with affection and integrity. Enthusiastically recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
Video of the Month - Kea Michaels - "Not My Friend"
Choice Cut - Chris Jasper - "Have I Told You Lately"
Song of the Month - Tracy Cruz - "Your Love's Everything"

Leave a comment!