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Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 8, 2010

14 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, June 8, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Originally this book was to be about the “enduring influence of Thriller,” but after Jackson's death, George decided to be more comprehensive. The result is a brief if heartfelt assessment of Jackson's career and life. Positing that it is unlikely that Jackson's meteoric rise to pop-music dominance could be repeated today, George reappraises his own earlier writings about Jackson and reinvestigates the incredible work ethic that defined Jackson and producer Quincy Jones in the days when they produced Thriller, Jackson's magnum opus and one of the most successful and influential recordings in pop-music history. As one would expect from George, the narrative goes beyond surface concerns about mass sales to consider how Jackson's superstardom affected black artists' entry into the then-significant realm of MTV playlists, mainstream music culture, and popular culture at large. Although George's analysis and insight are laudable, he mentions the charges of pedophilia that dogged Jackson in his final years only in passing. That omission is keenly felt, but this is still a more than useful retrospective on the man and his music. --Mike Tribby


Kirkus, May 2010
“[A] reverent—but not wholly uncritical—blend of memoir, music journalism and pop sociology to commemorate the untimely death of the controversial but immensely gifted pop icon…A worthy postmortem tribute that admirably avoids both easy sensationalism and knee-jerk sentimentalism.”

Booklist, June 2010
“A brief if heartfelt assessment of Jackson’s career and life…George reappraises his own earlier writings about Jackson and reinvestigates the incredible work ethic that defined Jackson and producer Quincy Jones in the days when they produced Thriller…As one would expect from George, the narrative goes beyond surface concerns…George’s analysis and insight are laudable…A more than useful retrospective on the man and his music.”
Milwaukee Shepherd Express, 6/24/10
“[George] offers many penetrating insights in the space of this succinct biography”
Newsweek, 6/25/10
Thriller is like having a refreshing and fascinating conversation with a man who’s spent far more time thinking about Jackson’s music than his demons.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (June 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818787
  • ASIN: B005FOEVU6
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,917,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nelson George is an author/filmmaker who specializes in documenting and celebrating African-American culture. As an author he's written several classic black music histories, including Where Did Our Love Go?: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound, The Death of Rhythm & Blues and Hip Hop America. He also edited The James Brown Reader, an anthology of articles about the late Godfather of Soul. His current novel, The Plot Against Hip Hop, has a musical theme. He contributed major articles on the films The Help and Pariah to The New York Times Arts & Leisure section in 2011. As a filmmaker George has directed the HBO film Life Support, and has two documentaries debuting in 2012: Brooklyn Boheme on Showtime and The Announcement: Magic Johnson on ESPN. George's web site is

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Music Moves Me on May 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The author's strengths lay in his history as a music critic, and in that vein, he offers some helpful and insightful commentary about Michael Jackson's history in music. However, for someone who supposedly has a longstanding knowledge of Michael Jackson (given that he wrote about him in the 1980's) it was really a surprise and disappointing that he got many basic facts wrong - referencing some of the names of Michael's family members as well as his wives, for example. His reviews of other aspects of Michael's career are glaringly innacurate as well, for example his review of the Jackson's TV show from 1976 where the author says that Michael Jackson stood out only for his role as the lead singer among his brothers and he calls the guest stars TV "hacks", notible names from the time such as Joey Bishop, Sony Bono, and Dom Deluise. For anyone who has actually seen the show, it would be more than clear that Michael's performace stood out as more than just a lead singer, as "the camera loved him" as they say, and his skill as an actor, his stage presence and dance ability made him seem like a natural in comparison to the rest of the family (and there was also no mention in the author's comments about the show regarding the now very infamous short scenes with Janet Jackson as a young Mae West). Other editorial flaws are seen in examples such as typos which refer to "A&R" records (rather than the correct "A&M"), referring to "Billie Jean" and "Human Nature" as songs that Michael did not write himself, when in fact he did write "Billie Jean", and a minor innacurracy in the author's reference to the famous "scat" transition on the Jackson's Live album wherein Michael cries out "I think I wanna rock!Read more ›
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sukicat on June 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had higher expectations for this book. I was hoping for a deeper examination of Michael's musical career. The book, indeed, does focus on the music and the context of Michael within the music world in the 70s, 80s and a bit beyond. It also provides an interesting examination of Michael's race in the context of how he was perceived by the black community. However, the content of the book is rather thin. It almost seems hastily created even though it clearly wasn't something dashed off to cash in on Michael's death. The glaring mistakes such as getting the names of both of Michael's wives wrong (he refers to Michael's brief marriages to "Priscilla Presley and Debbie Rows"), although not central to the purpose of the book, are inexcusable and seem almost deliberate, either as a publicity stunt or as a snub to these women. If not deliberate, how could such a mistake slip through the editorial process? Such things diminish the author's efforts to be taken seriously. That said, the content that is there is well-written and provides some insights I have not seen elsewhere. It is also a very quick read. I just wish it delved deeper into more of Michael's music.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By tabccb on June 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, Nelson George gives a little insight into black music history of the time...50's, 60's, 70's. He sets the stage well for the entrance of Thriller on the world stage...poised between the analog and digital age.

Mr. George touches on the Jackson5/Jacksons timeframe. He gave a little different point of view about Joseph Jackson's actions which I found to be very reasonable and definitely put it into the historical context of a black man in America at that time.

I did enjoy the song by song descriptions of the Thriller album. It gave more detail on where the inspiration came from for each, who wrote the songs, who played on the songs. It did focus on the creative team that was assembled for this historic endoeavor. I think this could have been taken even further. I did learn a little more about Prince's early career from parts of this book.

There was a reference to keeping the company of boys which I felt was not needed. Although, later in the book when talking about Chuck Berry as an early black rocker, Nelson George referenced the unfair application of the Mann Act that derailed Chuck Berry's career. It seemed to be an attempt put events that happened to Michael Jackson in a racial context which many people believe to have been the reasons for the lynch mob mentality for the last 15 years of Michael's life.

Mr. George obviously had issues with MJ's skin problems. He discusses it in the book but doesn't really talk about the reasons for the skin lightening (ie. vitiligo).

The author does discuss the relationship between Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. Quincy Jones served as a mentor to Michael.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. Hastings VINE VOICE on June 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book on the strength that Nelson George was its author. I've read some of his articles and music writings and even a couple of his fiction novels; though with the novels, I wasn't as impressed. I devoured this little book very quickly which wasn't hard to do at only 216 pages, excluding the index. With Thriller: The Musical Life Of Michael Jackson, while not a bad book, I'd say George leaves a lot to be desired.

Nelson George writes that this is not a biography. It's not. Nor do I think it's about MJ's musical life. In the introduction it is 1971 and George is 14 going to a Jackson 5 concert. He successfully describes the dynamics of MJ as a performer and how watching him gave him hope for his own future. Later, he reflects that writing a quickie book biography on Michael Jackson in 1984 is when his career began to take hold. In Thriller, he does brief you to certain facts about Michael Jackson, his childhood for example, but there is nothing new and if you already know the details, you should be fine with this. George proves that you don't often need many words to make your point and he successfully does this with Joe Jackson, the man that he has the most contact with. He explains Joe Jackson and in my opinion, nails MJ's father with his analysis. There is not a lot of personal judgement going on here, but George does say that he was disturbed by Michael's physical transformations. Still, the purpose of this book is to honor the music.

If you're going to critique Michael Jacksons music, you're taking on a huge committment. I really wanted these songs to be dissected. Since Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson, really is just about the Thriller album, I don't understand why a more in depth examination wasn't done.
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