Saturday 9 June 2012

Michael Jackson autobiography… the ultimate untold story

By Tajudeen Sowole 
About three weeks to the third year of Micheal Jackson's (August 29, 1958 - June 25, 2009) death, I was going through some souvenirs on him such as albums (vinyls), CDs, books, magazines e t c,, few days ago, and found the legend's autobiography titled Moonwalk, the most interesting of all.
Michael Jackson in a 1987 picture
 In fact, if there was anything as the right period for the late king of pop music, to tell the world his story, he got it right when he published the book during the peak of his career.
 Out of 39 years of his discography, from 1972 when he did the single, Got To Be There,  Jackson's achievement from three albums in eight years – between 1979 to 1987 – dwarfed the rest of his years in music. The works were his first solo album hit, Off the Wall (1979); the highest selling album in history, Thriller (1982); a 1987 release and his second largest selling album, Bad.

The artiste maximised his success of the eight years, coalescence   in the theme Moonwalk, a tribute to his dance technique, which he expressed with film and an autobiography. While the film titled Micheal Jackson: Moonwalker, a 1988 theatrical release in Europe and South America, was a documentary on the making of
music videos of Bad album, the book, Moonwalk also published in 1988 was Jackson's story from cradle to stardom. 

    Significantly, the central theme of these two works focused the improved dance technique christened Moonwalk, made popular by Jackson.
  It was also to correct "misconception" about his image. He wrote in the last chapter of the book that it was an opportunity for him to counter what he explains as his image being "distorted in the public's mind."
  After Jackson died, quite a number of writers came up with different versions on the life of the artiste. Apparently, noboby could have told the story of the artiste better than himself. And that he was able to write an autobiography at the period was also visionary on his part; he never wrote another one after Moonwalk.
 Like everything in his name, publishing of the book was surrounded with controversies. According to sources, it took off as a biography with the first manuscript written by a popular music
critic, Robert Hillburn, but was rejected by the publishers. The second manuscript, this time written by Jackson himself with the help of Shaye Ayrehart also suffered sudden death as report had it that the writer fell out with the musician, midway. 

  Finally, the former wife of the assassinated U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who married the popular Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, edited Jackson's autobiography, Moonwalk.
Cover of Moonwalk, 1988
  Published by Doublesday, and in the U.K., 1988 by William Heinemann Ltd, it was later acquired by Kennedy Onassis. A Los Angele Superior Judge, Mitchell Backloff, in 2009 reportedly approved a request by the administrators of Jackson's estate to re-publish the book.
  The last paragraph of the editor's introduction, perhaps, was important to explain her views of her subject. Kennedy Onassis wrote: "To many people, Micheal Jackson seems an elusive personality, but to those who work with him, he is not. This talented artist is a sensitive man, warm, funny and full of insight. Micheal's book, Moonwalk, provides a startling glimpse of the artist at work and the artist in reflection."

With a heading, Just Kids With A Dream, the first chapter of the
book was on the emergence of the popular family band known as Jackson 5 and their kid music star. Jackson wrote that as a kid artist he had no understanding of why or who takes certain decision concerning his life, but he just worked, sometimes overworked as a child. His narration, indeed, would be of interest to child right activists; quite a case of child abuse. He recalled: "I remember singing at the top of my voice and dancing with real joy and working too hard for a child. Of course there are many details I don't remember at all. I do remember that Jackson 5 really was taking off when I was only eight or nine."

One of the pics from the book

And as the group grew, there were moments of insecurity - especially for a child - such as jealous kids in the neighbourhood "who threw rocks at our windows while we rehearsed yelling that we will never make it."

And out there during performances, a family brought up as Jehovah Witness adherents were exposed to nightclubs life as nine years-old Jackson performed between strippers and other performers. His mother, he said, was concerned, but didn't have to bother much because "just one look at some of those strippers wasn't going to get me that interested in trouble- certainly not at nine years old."

The road to fame for Jackson 5 actually began when they joined Motown Records in 1968. However, there were events that led to that period. Contrary to widely held belief that the American diva, Diana Ross discovered the group for Motown, Jackson said Ross came in much later after their audition at the studio. The group had won an amateur contest, Apollo Night Competition which earned them a recommendation to the then popular TV show, David Frost Show in New York. Jackson had enthused "We were going to be on TV, that was the highest thrill we'd ever had." But at the last hour, the trip was cancelled. And rather than brood over that, the bigger one came: Motown invited the group for audition.

Young Micheal Jackson on The Ed Sullivan Show in late 1960s

After the audition, Berry Gordy of Motown promised them that their first three albums would hit the charts. "This was almost unheard of in those days, but he was right; we turned around and did just that. Three in a row."
This success made the group moved to South California where they lived with Ross and also shared apartment with Gordy for more than one year. As at the time of publishing this book, it was a common knowledge that the relationship between Jackson and his mentor Ross, was not what it used to be. And when Jackson, in his album, Bad sang Dirty Diana, a track that contains lewd and unprintable lyrics, some people believed it was an extension of the crack in their relationship.
However in the second chapter of the book, which focused on the early Motown days of Jackson 5, Jackson maintained that, "I am crazy about her. She was my mother, my lover, and my sister all combined in one amazing person."
With fame setting in, Jackson and his brother were further denied basic things their peers enjoyed. For example going to school became difficult and they settled for a home tutor, Suzanne de Passe, who eventually became the manager of the group.
  Again, Jackson, in the opening pages of chapter 3 revisited the prize of being a kid star. Disturbed by what he described as the media "distortion of the truth" about his person, he noted that most young artistes who engaged in drugs were forced into it to get an escape route from longer period of stress. And as it was a common knowledge that he was linked with drugs at that period of his career, the book was an opportunity to state a side of the story the press hardly mentioned. He said: "I myself have never even tried drugs - no marijuana, no cocaine, nothing. I mean, I haven't even tried these things.
  "Forget it. This isn't to say we were never tempted.
We were musicians doing business during an era when drug use was common. I don't mean to be judgemental - it's not even a moral issue for me - but I have seen drugs destroy too many lives to think they are anything to fool with. I am certainly not angel, and I may have my own bad habits, but drugs aren't among them."

From Jackson 5 to The Jackson, the events that led to that change of name had to do with a breakup from Motown, a development that also separated one of the brothers, Jermaine from the rest of the group. The issue, Jackson said, started sometime in 1974 when the group noted that there was a need to change their music to stand competitive edge with other groups. Their request that Motown allows them to write and produce their own songs was turned down. "They not only refused to grant our requests, they told us it was taboo to mention that we wanted to do our own music."

Although it was a trying moment for the family, but no one,
including his father wanted to utter the final words. So, he (Micheal) took up the challenge to meet Gordy and told him that, "we - the Jackson 5 - are going to leave Motown." But there were prizes to pay for leaving Motown. Jermaine, already a son-in-law to Gordy remained with Motown; the label claimed that Jackson 5 was a registered trademark. That led to The Jacksons, a change, which left out Jermaine.

Under their new label, Epic, the debut titled The Jacksons, he said, proved their agitation for change right. However with the help of Ross, Jackson once again worked with Gordy on the set of the movie, The Wiz a remake of The Wizard of Oz.

Jackson, during one of his 1988 world tour performances
In addition to the experience gained working on the set of a movie for the first time, his meeting with Quincy Jones on the same set led to the planning of his first solo album, Off the Wall. The family group, The Jacksons were doing well, no doubt, particularly with their Destiny album, but he had to settle for Jones because "I didn't want Off the Wall to sound like outtakes from Destiny."
Despite the success of the album, he suddenly realised that something was missing in his life. "I was so lonely that I used to walk through my neighbourhood, hoping that I'd run into somebody that I could talk to, become friends with."

He disclosed that his first date was with actress, Tatum O'Neal, but added that the affair was "after Diana." On his emotional attachment to Ross, he admitted that the news of her marriage to another man hurt him "because I have always loved her and always will."

Seen by the public as an eccentric showman who constantly altered his face through plastic surgical method, Jackson could not comprehend the position of those who had such opinions, saying that he never went beyond nose job. "I never had my cheeks or eyes altered. I have not had my lips thinned, nor have I had dermabrasion or a skin peel." Years after, however, the truth about the artiste's adventure into plastic surgery was obvious.

Among other issues, Jackson, in the last chapter of the book, disclosed that the idea of writing Moonwalk came, basically, to have his views on what he called unfair representation of his person in the media. "I don't like giving interviews or appearing on talk shows. When Doubleday approached me about doing this book, I was interested in being able to talk about how I feel in a book that would be mine - my words and my voice. I hope it will help clear up some misconceptions."

Jackson with a team of security during his world tour in Europe, 1988
  After selling more than 61 million albums in the U.S. and having a decade-long attraction open at Disney theme parks, Jackson died the at age 50 and rumoured to have left behind about $400 million in debt.
    In 1982 his hit album, Thriller emerged as the second best-selling U.S. album of all time. Five years later, Bad sold 22 million copies; in 1991, he signed a $65 million recording deal with Sony; acquired ATV Music at $47.5 million in 1985.
  Jackson bought the sprawling Neverland ranch in 1988 for $14.6 million, a fantasy-like 2,500-acre property nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara County's wine country.
   Signs of his dwindling financial status started emerging when son of Bahrain King, Al Khalifa, 33, in his lawsuit, claimed he gave Jackson millions of dollars to help shore up his finances, cut an album, write an autobiography and subsidize his lifestyle. The lawsuit was settled last year for an undisclosed amount. Neither the album nor book was ever produced.

And the legend in him continues, even after death 
ABOUT 24 hours after his death, his worth was measured at an auction just as the issue of his huge debt remained a source of concern to his family and fans.  
  A Las Vegas based auction house, Julien's Auctions sold photos of Jackson, autographed albums and other memorabilia beyond expectation at Planet Hollywood, Los Angeles.
  Jackson's lot was expected to gross $10,000 to $30,000, but it brought in $205,000, said the source.
  Meanwhile there was a controversy on the auction: when Julien's offered the lots for sale, bidders were informed that they were personal collections of the late superstar's close friend, David Gest. But Gest filed a lawsuit against the auction house.
He was quoted: "I never consigned any of these items to Julien's Auction House in L.A. I have instructed my legal representatives Sheridans solicitors to sue the auction house and let buyers know this was not my auction. I think it is terrible that the auction house would carry out a sale of items belonging to a man who had not been buried yet. Even if I once owned any of these items this should not have been misleadingly portrayed as my personal auction to the press and buyers. I received no money from this sale."
   Responding, a spokesman for the auction house said the items were consigned to Julien by a third party who got them from David Gest at some time in the past. "This is an auction that we had planned back from the spring. When we heard Michael had passed away we did toy with the idea of pulling the 21 items but this was an important part of history and we decided to go on."
   At the sale, one signed Jackson 5 album sold for a staggering $33,750 while an image of Mickey Mouse and Pluto that Jackson painted as kid fetched $25,000. It was expected to go under the hammer for $1,000. A mysterious handwritten letter Jackson wrote to a pal called Greg, but never posted, sold for $18,750 more than estimated. "He's back on top. He's shining with the stars in heaven," said one of the buyers. 
Michael Jackson's famous glove sold at auction, shortly after his death.
    A Jackson 5 album signed by the band won $27,000. Vintage photos: $2,200. A Victory Tour costume shirt of his: $42,000.
A letter from Jackson to Liza Minnelli also made the sale. It reads verbatim: "Greg thanks for a Magic Moment in my life, I hope it was the same for you, please come to visit me at Neverland. Let's hope this is the Beginning of a long friendship and never lose your Boyish Spirit; it's immortal. Love always."
Stone plans to frame the mash note and hang it in a new Hard Rock wing. Stone finds it is sad but true that it takes dying to put Jackson's value "back on top".
Another buyer said of the musician, "I don't want to be thought of as the cynic, but it does."
His equity has been sealed," Stone said - meaning the late Jackson can no longer create new memorabilia, nor cause fluctuations in his market.
Young Michael Jackson

   Before his death, there was an issue between him and the auction house over the auction that was scheduled for April. Jackson sued, but he and Julien's reached a deal which plan to sell three Rolls-Royces, then he changed his mind - he wanted someday to give the cars to his three kids as wedding gifts, said Martin J. Nolan, executive director of Julien's.

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