Michael Jackson & the Music That Was

Non-Fiction - Music/Entertainment
151 Pages
Reviewed on 05/24/2016
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Author Biography

The Voice of One

    Book Review

Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite

Michael Jackson & the Music That Was by The Voice of One traces the trajectory of Michael Jackson’s career from his days as the youngest member of the Jackson Five to his tenure as the undisputed “King of Pop.” Written from an industry insider/number one fan point of view (we never know which, as the author does not identify him/herself by name), Michael Jackson & the Music That Was offers a cogent, carefully considered accounting of the reasons for Michael Jackson’s unprecedented rise and inevitable fall from grace – most often, through the sociological lens of the “Pop Ascension” which took place under Berry Gordy at Motown and which disenfranchised Black musical artists from their authentic voices (rooted in spirituals and best represented in modern times by R&B), often with tragic results.

One of the most compelling aspects of the narrative the author has crafted is an unwavering attention to detail. Every conceivable aspect of Michael Jackson’s rise and subsequent fall is examined from all sides, chronicled and cataloged with a historian’s eye for detail and a journalist’s dedication to truth. While a lesser author might have settled for eulogizing the man who became the myth, The Voice of One is singularly focused on presenting an extraordinary musical artist as he truly was – or at least as he seemed to be. If the workings of the industry ‘machine’ upon Michael Jackson’s soul and career played out as this book would have us believe, there has never really been a chance for the general public to develop any sense of the man – the artist – as he actually was: only the reflection survives.

Michael Jackson: artistic genius and master manipulator or long-suffering victim of relentless industry pressure to conform to an ideal he could not possibly embody in any authentic sense? Whichever side of the equation you, the reader, fall on, Michael Jackson & the Music That Was offers a fascinating glimpse into the life, music, and soul of one of our culture’s most unforgettable artists and a stunning manifesto for change in an industry that deprives its superstars of cultural, ethnic, and personal identity in the relentless quest for dominance and profit.

Carla Trueheart

Michael Jackson & the Music That Was by The Voice of One follows the life and struggles of entertainer and pop music icon, Michael Jackson. The book opens with a critique of the music business, exploring how the author feels that music has lost its way. The introduction also explains the rise of Motown and the evolution of the spirituals of early African American music. The Jackson Five, as a black group, had to become “pop” music in order to sell records such as The Beatles were doing, or any other pop music acts. Basically, The Jackson Five and Michael Jackson had to become the sound of young America — and that sound was not identifiable as black music. In succumbing to a record industry catering to a white audience, Michael Jackson lost his own identity. From there, his career would climax in the late eighties and early nineties and then plummet before his untimely death. In addition, the book discusses Michael’s family, his many lawsuits and the allegations against him, and the altering of his appearance that made him unidentifiable as the Michael Jackson most of us grew up with and loved.

While much of Michael Jackson & the Music That Was is based on the author’s beliefs and opinions, there are facts and quotes to back up most of what the author is trying to relay to the public. Michael Jackson, one of the greatest entertainers of our time, struggled with identity issues and with topping album sales time and time again. It was the industry that ruined him, the need to be something that he wasn’t, or possibly he was not consciously aware that he was indeed involved in this struggle. Being a Michael Jackson fan who grew up with his music and followed him until the end, I learned much from this book and appreciated the author’s passion for the topic and their views on Michael’s life. I agree with the author that the price was too much to pay, and that Michael Jackson died way before his time, way before he did all he could have done. This book is highly recommended to Michael Jackson fans or music fans in general.

Mamta Madhavan

Michael Jackson & the Music That Was by The Voice of One is a revelation about the music scene, and how it influenced the music recording industry and threatened to damage the future of music to a large extent. The author hopes that through this book he can rebuild pop culture and music. The book also speaks about the state of music as a whole and the factors contributing to the demise of its leading presence, and the season of peril that has ruled the recording scene for the past quarter of a century. The author speaks about the pop ascension gaining momentum in the 1980s and how Black culture shaped the music which listeners would later come to enjoy. Although Black people brought in a lot of music, it gave rise to racial indifference.

The author exposes the music scene that existed with the ascent of Black artists, especially Michael Jackson and his rise to superstardom. The book also speaks about Michael Jackson’s introduction to plastic surgery where he underwent a transformation that showed a need to move beyond his blackness. The complexes that bothered Michael Jackson from his childhood to his adulthood, and his transformation, are chronicled in the book that also witnesses the loss of the real Michael Jackson and his decline as a pop star where he was criticized, ridiculed, and shunned. It is a revelation of what happened to Michael Jackson and music; the music where he incorporated jazz, blues and spirituals while creating the ultimate masterpiece. An entertaining read.

Viga Boland

Michael Jackson & the Music That Was is a mysterious book, though it's not classified as a mystery. Why do I say that? Primarily because the reader doesn't know who the author is, or anything about him or her. There is no bio supplied. The author is identified as The Voice of One, and that fact alone was enough to catch my interest. Once inside the pages of Michael Jackson & the Music That Was, which is nicely laid out in short paragraphs with large spaces between them and delivered via short chapters, I became more and more intrigued by just who is The Voice of One.

The reason I was intrigued had to do with the authority and knowledge of Michael Jackson, and the machinations and manipulations of the music industry about which The Voice of One writes. His ideas about how Michael Jackson became "The King of Pop," and the subsequent slide in his career after the success of Thriller are even more intriguing. The Voice of One loves Michael Jackson. But at the same time, he is deeply hurt, if that's the right word, by his belief that Jackson yielded to industry pressure to be seen as more white than black. He cannot understand nor accept the lengths to which Michael Jackson went to become physically white i.e. the plastic surgery to create a slimmer, more sculpted nose, and ultimately the rather ghastly pale face fans saw when Bad was released. You can almost hear The Voice of One pleading to know why, yet knowing there is no answer because the only one who can answer is Michael and he's no longer with us.

The author states: "This book is written with two goals in mind; to explain what really happened to music's leading voice over time and how his story highlights the many conflicts that have directly impacted the recording industry as a whole, while jeopardizing the future of what our music should be."

I believe The Voice of One has achieved his goals with Michael Jackson & the Music That Was. But, readers will have to decide for themselves if his statements about Michael Jackson and what events shaped his career and ultimate demise are accurate, since we don't know how The Voice of One knows what he shares with us. Hence, Michael Jackson & the Music That Was and the issues raised in it remain as mysterious as the author himself/herself. Is that moniker, The Voice of One, a double entendre representing both Michael Jackson AND the author? Read Michael Jackson & the Music That Was and decide for yourself.

Vincent Dublado

Michael Jackson & the Music That Was by The Voice of One is a profound examination of the life and times of the iconic king of pop, Michael Jackson. The book is not much written in a biographical vein, but it hinges more on a commentary level, delving into the anatomy of Jackson’s rise and fall. It opens with how music seemed to be losing its way and the start of a creative movement called the Pop Ascension. Here, Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, is said to play a pivotal role in articulating the sound of a new generation. Enter Michael Jackson, the “Chosen One” to represent the crossover ideas of race and assimilation in contemporary American sound. Sadly, the Pop Ascension mold proved to be a weighty matter for a gifted talent like Jackson in that it caused him to cloak his authentic persona in exchange for acceptance.

Michael Jackson & the Music That Was is a well-written piece about the mystery and enigma surrounding Michael Jackson. As the book is mostly written based on opinions, you cannot help but develop curiosity about The Voice of One as the author. The way the author handles the subject sounds like he/she either knows the king of pop on a personal level or is simply a passionate follower of MJ’s career. Whatever the case may be, this critical take on the rise and fall of a great music talent is an enlightening read for anyone who has been touched by the music of Michael Jackson. This book does not glorify its subject. Rather, it tries to put matters in perspective by showing the human side of a stellar artist.

Edith Wairimu

Michael Jackson & the Music That Was by The Voice of One provides a thought-provoking perspective on the life and choices of Michael Jackson. The work asserts that before The Pop Ascension of the 1980s, black music was founded on culture, providing a voice for the voiceless and becoming a powerful contributor in the forming of a culture within a society established on racial division. Before 1987, Michael Jackson was part of the powerful voices that represented real black music that carried on the values of their predecessors. However, the rise of pop music demanded a different set of ideals: indifference to culture, assimilation, and inclusion. Consequently, Michael Jackson, who was the leading voice of music at the time, internalized the racial conflict around him, transformed himself, and denied his identity in the hope of achieving greater success.

Michael Jackson & the Music That Was closely follows Michael Jackson’s music career from his time with The Jackson 5, the beginning and height of his solo music career, and his later decline. It contains an eye-opening analysis of the changes and decisions that later led to the decline of his music career and personal life. The book tracks the effects of racism on the music industry. It explains that racial animosity caused Michael to change his identity and assimilate, a move that caused him to marginalize and become alienated from the very fan base that had been critical in propelling him to stardom. In addition, physical alterations not only caused him physical pain but also resulted in an internal conflict within him. While many books have been written on Michael Jackson, The Voice of One’s Michael Jackson & the Music That Was offers an in-depth and concise analysis of his life and the music industry prior to and beyond 1987.

Dr. Jordan Alexander

Michael Jackson & The Music That Was by The Voice of One offers an important perspective on the life of The King of Pop, tracing his humble beginnings in Gary, Indiana and Motown Records with the Jackson Five, to his last, This is It tour. The author speaks from the heart and is driven to enhance understanding of the bigger context around the rise and reign of Michael Jackson - “to paint the entire picture rather than taking a snapshot.” I found the book and its messages very thought-provoking. It is not your average music history book. Your thoughts will linger long after the “tired man” finally steps “down from the throne” and his 35-year career.

I am a fan of Michael Jackson and richer for reading Michael Jackson & The Music That Was by The Voice of One. A lot of the scenes and media hype surrounding Jackson and his family over the decades are explained by the author through a different lens. He refers to Pop Ascension (the rise of an artist) as designed not to embrace genuine Black expression or real R&B music. His claim is that it led Michael Jackson to seek validation from ‘the system’ and rise, requiring him to “obscure his true identity,” which led to his ongoing physical transformation. I enjoyed the challenge the author sets for readers to reconsider the myths around Jackson’s life. For example, his whole family was subjected to different forms of hostility and hatred. Yet, many were great artists in their own right. Why so much controversy? I recommend Michael Jackson & The Music That Was by The Voice of One to anyone who thinks they know this great artist’s whole story. It will make you think twice about the rise of Michael Jackson and why “a man with no identity: no lineage, no culture, no nationality, and no place to call home” might end up where he did. More importantly, you will be offered a perspective on how this all happened and why we cannot afford to let it happen again as a society.

Pikasho Deka

Michael Jackson & The Music That Was by The Voice of One follows the tumultuous life and career of pop legend Michael Jackson while providing poignant commentary on the commercialization of mainstream pop music, leading to the decline of music as a cultural force in recent years. The author believes 1987 was the momentous year that started its slow decline. There was a gradual shift where talented artists started being kept in the background to make room for mass-marketed formulaic artists to promote their brands and sell more records. According to the author, Michael Jackson was systematically forced to transform himself and turn his back on his true identity to gain a wider audience. From a cultural perspective, the significance of his transformation can be seen with the release of his video, Bad.

The Voice of One provides an in-depth analysis showcasing the rise and fall of Michael Jackson and the overall decline of music in general as a cultural force following the Pop Ascension since the 80s. The narrative opens with a beautiful poem titled "Where Have I Heard This Song Before", which encapsulates the themes of the book perfectly. There is a feeling of nostalgia and innocence lost embedded in the narrative that strongly parallels the career of a young Michael Jackson. The author's commentary on how the music industry executives promoted formulaic mass consumption tracks in favor of music that felt like an expression of one's soul is more relevant than ever. If you're a music lover, Michael Jackson & The Music That Was is a must-read for you.

Tammy Ruggles

Michael Jackson & The Music That Was, by The Voice of One, is an amazing work of non-fiction focused on the music of Michael Jackson. You don't have to be a fan of Jackson to find this book intriguing, and it does cover more ground than just a biography or Jackson's impact on the music industry and pop culture. It becomes an honest expose, interestingly raising questions in some places, giving possible answers in others. No doubt the world of music and its entertainers have their fair share of controversy and superstars that died way too soon, but The Voice of One goes one step farther into exploitation, compromise, greed, culture, image-building, and racism. The book's messages include what Michael Jackson could have been, if not for forces, including himself, working against it.

The author calls Jackson a leading presence in pop music and he was, and you may be surprised to hear what this book lays out for readers regarding the explanations for Jackson's transformation. The Voice of One also covers Michael Jackson's family members and dynamics. This author writes with an insider's authority, making the book another source of information and revelation. The book doesn't really flatter or put Jackson on a pedestal - neither does it tear him down - and that is refreshing. Among the statements the author makes is that the state of musical entertainment began to decline in the year 1987, offers reasons for it, and gives a brief history of the roots of black music. If you like reading about the behind-the-scenes machinations of the entertainment industry and have an interest in reading a unique take on one of the most talented and controversial entertainers in modern history, do yourself a favor and read Michael Jackson & The Music That Was by The Voice of One.

Cassie Widjaja

Michael Jackson & The Music That Was by The Voice of One is a captivating story about the origin of pop music and the factors that led to the current state of music that we listen to every day. Its author also emphasizes the then King of Pop, Michael Jackson's story, and what caused his untimely demise. This story was written with the sole purpose of contributing to the rebuilding of our culture and our music.

'A star can never die. It just turns into a smile and melts back into the cosmic music, the dance of life.' This quote by Michael Jackson perfectly describes the legacy he has left behind, which led to the creation of Michael Jackson & The Music That Was. The author, The Voice of One, did an incredible job of articulating his views about the struggles behind the music industry and the injustice done to black music that had lost its authenticity. I love how the author developed his arguments, and it never felt as though a part of the reasoning was missing. The book is very well researched, and it shows in the detailed account of Michael Jackson's life and career. I also fell in love with how the author drew attention to the main issues in the star's life, like being forced to change himself entirely to be accepted. Many can relate to this as we have all changed bits and pieces of ourselves to fit in. For anyone looking for a mind-blowing book about one of the most influential figures in pop music, this book is for you!

Natalie Soine

Michael Jackson & The Music That Was, written by The Voice of One, records the author's perspective of the life of Michael Jackson and his rise to fame and fortune, as well as some of the factors that contributed to Michael's decline in his health and his success. The author shares their feelings, views, and opinions on Michael's beliefs, values, and principles, his family, his music producers, and his fans. The book begins by telling the story of Michael and his family as young children and continues through to his untimely and tragic passing. Michael gave everything he could to his music and will continue to influence future artists and be adored by his millions of fans. The King of Pop, his singing, and his dancing will remain etched in history for many years to come.

While reading Michael Jackson & The Music That Was, I was taken back to my younger days when his first albums were released and their impact on the music industry. When Michael recorded and released Off The Wall and Thriller, the world went crazy – it was like he had invented a new color. I enjoyed being reminded of all his music and dancing, which many of us still enjoy today, as well as getting to know the members of his family a little better. The book is especially informative for people who are interested in musicians and the challenges they face. The author's opinions are interesting and could be seen as controversial, so I suggest that anybody who reads this book researches and forms their own opinions. Michael Jackson & The Music That Was is a good book. It makes for an interesting read and is suitable for all ages.