(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

“Some musicians--Springsteen and U-2, for example, may feel they got their education from the streets,” Michael Jackson writes in his autobiography, MOONWALK, but “I’m a performer at heart. I got mine on the stage.”

Michael Jackson is indeed a child of show business. His father, Joe Jackson, guitarist for a popular rhythm and blues group, the Falcons, started training his older sons in music when Michael was a toddler. As soon as he turned five, Michael, playing bongo drums, joined the group.

For years the brothers entered (and won) every amateur contest within driving range of their home in Gary, Indiana. By the time Michael was ten, Motown had signed the group. Within a year, the Jackson 5 had three consecutive number-one hit records. A decade later, however, Michael and his brothers had outgrown their preteen appeal and were in danger of becoming has-beens. In a daring move, nineteen-year-old Michael encouraged the group to leave Motown for Epic, a division of Columbia records. There they made a successful comeback, with Michael eventually outdistancing the others with his solo album THRILLER, the biggest-selling record of all time. At its high point in 1984, THRILLER was selling a million copies a week.

Michael Jackson is a genuine star-- a dazzling dancer, distinctive singer, and charismatic showman. By combining the musical excitement of rock ’n’ roll with the visual potential of television, he helped create the modern medium of music video. Yet until this book, Jackson has told his fans little about himself except through his work.

MOONWALK is candid as far as it goes, but that is not very far. Jackson downplays his plastic surgery and gives only glimpses of his private life. His best friends are other celebrities, Diana Ross and Brooke Shields among them; he likes Mexican food, toys, and chimpanzees. Unfortunately, he also skims over the artistic techniques of which he is a modern master, building up track upon track of precisely controlled sound into superb pop symphonies. MOONWALK, with its big print and widely spaced lines, is aimed more at his youthful fans than serious readers. Perhaps when he is age sixty Jackson will write an autobiography that will go deeper into the heart of his accomplishments.