Written in 1984, this book about Michael Jackson is very interesting. Mark Bego spent a lot of time around the icon and the J5 back in the day and his mode of storytelling is quite addictive. He keeps things moving with descriptive language and lots of details.
Bego describes Michael and the J5’s early years, covering their big break, fan mail, narrow escapes after concerts, and endless practice coupled with constant photo shoots. Bego also explores the “then accepted” idea of Diana Ross discovering the J5. He writes about Gladys Knight’s comments and gives Bobby Taylor only production credit. He goes on to detail the move to Epic Records, the Studio 54 years, and provides lots of back room stories regarding discography choices and leftover songs.
He brings up the Peter Pan movie planned by Steven Spielberg, even though it never materialized due to his inability to obtain the rights to produce it. There are some great interviews in this book, too: Jill Klein (gave Michael his original designer “look” insights), John “Jellybean” Benitez (number one disco mixer of the 1980s) and Paul McCartney (co-collaborator on “Say Say Say” and “The Girl is Mine”) are briefly touched upon, but are given word for word.
Also seen in this book are 50 fairly-rare photos of Michael with the likes of the Village People, John Travolta, Rex Smith, and Olivia-Newton John. It’s interesting to see how many well-known celebrities of the day worked with Michael and spent “hang out” time with him. Bego describes Michael’s meeting with Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, and Fred Astaire as great moments in Michael’s life (these were some of his idols at the time).
The final chapters discuss the people Michael considers his best friends: people like Diana Ross and Quincy Jones, and Liza Minnelli, because he learned so much from them. Michael talks about his musical influences like James Brown, Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson, and Chuck Berry – according to MJ, “they got rock ‘n roll really going”. Michael also talks about his belief in God, favorite movies (“they’re magic!”), and vaudeville. Bego states that the success of Michael and the J5 proves “you can have success…no matter what your background.”
The book culminates in a 7-page, detailed discography beginning with 1969’s first hit, “I Want You Back”, through the Thriller years’ hits in 1983. J5 Singles, J5 and Jacksons albums, and Michael’s Solo Years are included.