On Michael Jackson’s ‘Dancing the Dream’

Abstract: Michael Jackson’s words were disseminated in liner notes, magazines and even a blog. His first published book was a 1988 autobiography, Moonwalk; the second, a children’s storybook based on Moonwalker (dir. Jerry Kramer, 1988) and the last, a 1992 publication called Dancing the Dream. ‘On Michael Jackson’s Dancing the Dream’ contextualises this collection of ‘poems and reflections’ within its author’s career and positions a work which Jackson described as ‘more autobiographical than Moonwalk’ as a pivotal moment in his career. The essay poses and answers, using emerging academic study of Jackson’s art, the following questions: ‘what exactly is Dancing the Dream’ and ‘how is it significant’?

Essay by  Elizabeth Amisu, PGCE, MA, editor of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies and author of The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife.


Amisu, Elizabeth. “On Michael Jackson’s ‘Dancing the Dream’.” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies1, no. 2 (2014). http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/on-michael-jacksons-dancing-the-dream/. Originally published in Writing Eliza(2014). Published electronically 7/7/14. http://elizabethamisu.com/post/91073957802/on-michael-jacksons-dancing-the-dream-dangerous.

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On Michael Jackson’s ‘Dancing the Dream’
By Elizabeth Amisu

‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on…’1

There is a pervasive misconception that Michael Jackson did not leave much more behind than ‘a few scattered memories’.2This presumption stems from an acceptance of him as simply a commercial product, rather than an artist; a person who sold records through controversy and spectacle rather than dedication and learning.3It is a symptom of the reductions his life was plagued with. In truth, the Jackson canon consists of several released songs and albums, upwards of forty short films, three books (including an autobiography) and hundreds of unreleased songs.4

Dancing the Dream is, arguably, one of the best-kept “secrets” in Michael Jackson’s artistic back-catalogue. So secret in fact, that twenty-two years after its publication, Rolling Stone did not include it in their 2014 tribute issue.5 Nevertheless, it showcases the author’s most personal feelings on children, mortality and the human condition.

(c) E. Amisu

What is Dancing the Dream?

Dancing the Dream is not like other books. Although it has a title, pages and illustrations the similarities stop there. In order to fully appreciate the considerable aesthetic depth of the collection’s forty-six entries we must consider the title, the text’s discourse features and its content.
What does it means to ‘dance a dream’? Is the poet dreaming of dancing or is dancing his dream? The title boasts a dynamic verb, followed by a definite article and an abstract noun creating a sense that dancing is dreaming and dreaming is a dance. Both are transient, transformative and were of great import to Jackson, who regarded his dance as a ‘divine union’ between the spiritual and the physical and his dreams as integral to creativity and aspiration.6

In terms of structure, focus and layout, Dancing the Dreambears more resemblance to the early modern (seventeenth-century) commonplace book than the modern day anthology. To ‘commonplace’ is the art of taking extracts from one’s reading and placing them under specific headings.7For an early modern reader, who might frequent the playhouse for a new Shakespeare play, reading was an active experience. It was commonly said to be wasteful to read without taking notes.8This type of reading culture is very evident in Ben Jonson’s ‘Timber’ (or ‘Discoveries’), a chaotic combination of ideological matter from 1641.9

The commonplace book is a fiercely personal item; in fact its only unifying feature is usually the person who has collated it. The same is true for Dancing the Dream. Although it has forty-six works and several illustrations, it does not have a contents page and the entries, without subdivision are presented in a stream of consciousness style, like spontaneous conversation or the piecemeal expressions of a dream-state.


A contents page (Table 1) has been given here for clarification and the entries have been categorised as a) Parables, b) Philosophies and c) Poems. Much like Margaret Cavendish’s The World’s Olio(1655), this publication requires the reader to engage in an unusual way. Jackson described it as ‘thoughts’ and ‘essays’.10We are encouraged to consider congregated ideas as a form of spiritual and intellectual nourishment.
Doubtless inspired by Jackson’s incredible personal library, it has been written in low to middle lexis, enabling a wide demographic to engage with its content.11From young children, for whom there are a plethora of illustrations, to adults who can interpret the complexities of the poetry. Although Jackson’s personal religious beliefs are a unifying current which run through Dancing the Dream, they are offered in the form of universal truths rather than rigid dogmas.12

The Philosophies

A personal philosophy denotes a way of being, a mantra or a code, however the word’s etymology lies in alchemy and magic.13The predominantly philosophical entries in Dancing the Dream comprise approximately twenty-six percent (12/46) of the entire collection (Table 2).

(c) 2014 E. Amisu

Four of the philosophies are specifically about children: A Child Is a Song, On Children of the World, Children and Innocence. Extracts from Children formed Jackson’s acceptance speech in 1993 when he received his Grammy Legend Award at the 35th Annual Grammy Awards.14The illustrations in the collection also depict Jackson as father, friend and protector of children of a range of ethnicities.15
Courage, Innocence, Love, Magicand Trustextol the virtues of each as integral to living, thriving and achieving. In these panegyrics, ‘the whole world abounds in magic’, ‘trusting yourself begins by recognising that it’s okay to be afraid’. Having ‘the courage to be intimate[…] offers what we all want, the promise of love’ and love is ‘everywhere’.16

The eponymous entry, Dancing the Dream corrals imagery of the dead and the dying, the history of slavery, victory from oppression, the fight for intimacy and a search for something more than we already are. It creates a vignette of life through the metaphor of a performance, just as Shakespeare did in many of his works: ‘all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’ and ‘life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more[…]’ This ties in beautifully with, ‘dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye but the dance lives on’.17The latter quote uses the exact same phrase as the Bible when the ‘trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible[…]’18It is also repeated in the poem, Are You Listening and the song, Gone Too Soon.

The philosophies regard life as a wider experience we are encouraged to ‘step into’ and ‘join the flow’ as our collective existence speeds on.19The music, with which Jackson is so synonymous, is ‘inside and outside’ of him. It is not unique, perhaps only his ability to tap into this all-encompassing infinity is. The joy of this literary sojourn culminates with the dancer ‘merging into one wholeness of joy’ with the dance itself and leaving both the reader and himself behind.20In Dancing the Dreamdeath is presented as a smile, rapture and a cosmic reunification between the being and the universe.

The Poems

Poetry is concerned primarily with the voice, that indefinable nuance or style which characterises one person’s physical or literary self-expression as unique. One of the strongest elements in Dancing the Dreamis its seventeen poems which form thirty-seven percent of the whole collection (Table 3). Again, children are a predominant focus. However, When Babies SmileMagical Child Part 1and Magical Child Part 2can be easily interpreted as Jackson referring to himself.

(c) 2014 E. Amisu

Ryan Whitecorrelates directly with the songs, Gone Too Soonand Will You Be There on the Dangerousalbum. Gone Too Soon, written by Buz Kohan, became a requiem for the real Ryan White, who was immortalised through the short film of Jackson’s song, directed by Bill DiCicco. Ryan, a haemophiliac, contracted AIDS in the 1980s and was persecuted because of the disease. He died aged eighteen.
Are You Listeningand Will You Be Therechallenge the reader with rhetorical searching and words from the latter are spoken passionately on the Dangerous album. Through the repetition of the phrases, ‘in the depths of your anguished sorrow/Was the dream of another tomorrow’ in both Ryan White(poem) and Will You Be There(song) the works exorcise grief at losing a friend who had been a ‘symbol of agony and pain/Of ignorant fear gone insane/In a hysterical society/With free-floating anxiety/And feigned piety’.
Dangerouswas released eighteen years before Michael Jackson died but when he did, the song became his requiem too. For both Jackson and White, the words were symbols of unfulfilled promise and although they were so visible, they bore the heavy burden of being vilified instead of treated with compassion.

Heal the WorldMother Earthand Planet Earthare parts of the conservation theme where, ‘one touch of nature makes the whole world kin’.21Heaven Is Herecompliments them while Breaking Free and Ecstasy exalt freedom and flight, ‘let us fly/Into the boundless, beyond the sky’.22Quantum Leap highlights ‘songs never sung’ and an ongoing search for ‘a world where no one has suffered or toiled/Of pristine beauty never soiled/Of sparkling waters, singing skies/Of hills and valleys where no one dies’. This is Jackson reaching into the transom of his mind for a dream of the celestial and eternal. It is truly a unique, intensely spiritual outlook on the world, interwoven with fantasy, hope and reservation. It is the work of one who knows their dream is as distant as the stars but chooses to dream it anyway.
Motheris something altogether different. Accompanied by a beautiful full-page picture of a young Katherine Jackson, it is an expression of love from the poet to the one woman he places above all others, ‘if I ever change this world/It’s from the emotions you’ve unfurl’d’. It also attributes his life’s success to his mother who ‘fashioned’ his soul out of ‘fragments’.23

The Parables

(c) 2014 E. Amisu

Thirty-nine percent (18/46) of the entries in Dancing the Dreamare parables (Table 4). The Oxford English Dictionary defines a parable as ‘an allegorical or metaphorical saying or narrative’. It is synonymous with the words, ‘fable’ and ‘proverb’. Although other entries have an educational purpose (Ryan White, Heal the World, Trust), the parables in particular are allegories which utilise the familiar to exemplify the unknown. In the Bible, Jesus Christ spoke frequently in parables to teach the masses about abstract concepts like salvation and the kingdom of heaven.24

Michael Jackson was particularly fond of two biblical lessons.25The first, The Parable of the Talents was integral to Jackson’s method of working.26He often claimed that it was his duty to perform. It was, in effect, what he was ‘sent to do’.27In other words, to the artist, the very fact that he had so much talent meant he had to work very hard to create a significant return on the investment of his creator.
The second biblical lesson that recurs throughout Dancing the Dream is The Little Children.28In the biblical books of Matthew and Luke, parents arrive with babies for Jesus to bless. Those who the disciples see as least in society are elevated by Christ who, not only rebukes his disciples for turning the children away but also brings them close by declaring that his kingdom is for them. This sentiment of humility is echoed throughout the New Testament, ‘so the last will be first, and the first will be last’.29

Much of Jackson’s work elevated children above adults: in the opening sequence of Black or White(dir. John Landis, 1991), the guitar riff which Macaulay Culkin plays is so powerful it throws a belligerent adult into the African wilderness; in Moonwalker(dir. Jerry Kramer, 1988), children are Jackson’s only honest and faithful sidekicks in a world filled with vicious adults; in Badder(dir. Jim Blashfield, 1988), the diegesis from Bad(dir. Martin Scorsese, 1987) is inhabited solely by children. Jackson’s songs, Heal the WorldLittle Susie and The Lost Children highlighted the plight of the needy and millions of his hard-earned dollars would go to supporting sick and underprivileged children in remote corners of the world.30

In Dancing the Dream children are elevated from unfinished adults to the wise inheritors of everlasting paradise, ‘their natural wisdom points the way to solutions that lie, waiting to be recognized, within our own hearts’. They have not yet learned prejudice or hatred and ‘simple goodness shines straight from their hearts’.31This view of childhood is, on one level, idealistic and romanticised, a rose-tinted perspective of a playground environment where one is as likely to be punched as hugged.32

Jackson’s unique perspective of ‘this wondrous age’ is that it is one he considered himself to have been ‘deprived of’. His relationship with children stemmed from his traumatic childhood and ongoing battles with the mirror. In those extremely challenging circumstances, ‘transforming’ in the public eye from a cute cherub to a gangly teenager with chronic acne, children were the ones who saw Michael Jackson as the same person, whether he was singing I Want You Backor Dancing Machine. The fact that he had changed physically during adolescence did not change the way they treated him. He drew strength from this and would devote much of his life to helping them.33

The Boy and the Pillowand Wise Little Girlemphasise the inner wisdom of children in realising that what truly matters is the value of the heart, not material wealth. ‘In their innocence, very young children know themselves to be light and love. If we allow them, they can teach us to see ourselves the same way.’34The Fish That Was Thirstyand I Searched for My Starare about searching for important things in the wrong places, not understanding that they are within us and we are the ones who ‘miss what is everywhere’. The anthropomorphic nature of the thirsty fish is particularly aimed at children.

Each of the parables in Dancing the Dreamis unique. Angel of Lightconcerns itself with an inner greatness which has not been fully realised, ‘I have caught sight of glory, I know enough to believe’. Angels are the metaphor here and in Wings Without Me the semantic field of heavenly imagery abounds, ‘spirit’, ‘saint’ and ‘sacred’.35

Berlin 1989 personifies the Berlin Wall and, employing a third person narrative, describes what can be achieved when a ‘million hearts find one another’. But The Heart Said Nooffers a similar sentiment, arguing that the heart has a wisdom the head has not. Things that logic deems necessary, human emotion sees as barbaric, like ‘dead rabbits and deer’, ‘villagers[…] buried in rough wooden coffins’ and ‘poverty, pollution, and war’.36 Mark of the AncientsSo The Elephants MarchLook AgainBaby Seal and Enough for Today all follow conservationist themes. Animals teach humankind a lesson, or those that were here before us teach the same, encouraging us to treat our planet and its creatures with respect.

For Jackson, nature is part of the same dance as all mankind. ‘So there I was, in the middle of rehearsal, and I thought, ‘They’re killing a dance.’ And it seemed only right to stop. I can’t keep the dance from being killed, but at least I can pause in memory, as one dancer to another.’37The dance Jackson is dreaming goes beyond his stage prowess and moonwalk to a symbiotic co-existence of all living creatures.

(c) 2014 E. Amisu

Eighteenth-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge shares this Romantic notion in his lyrical ballad, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, an extended phantasm from which there is no escape. In the Mariner’s wanton destruction of an innocent albatross he seals himself and an entire ship’s crew to a terrible fate. Not until he finds respect for nature does he receive redemption, though it is still tinged with misery, ‘forthwith this frame of mine was wrench’d/With woeful agony,/Which forc’d me to begin my tale/And then it left me free.’

In The Last Tearan altercation between two leaves one bereft. Loneliness is only relieved after shedding a last tear, one made from ‘love’, not ‘frustration’ or ‘despair’. Similarly, the Mariner is unable to pray until a single moment where he recognises the beauty of nature and blesses it, ‘a spring of love gusht from my heart/And I bless’d them unaware! In Dancing the Dream, as in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, ‘he prayeth best who loveth best,/All things both great and small:/For the dear God, who loveth us,/He made and loved us all.’38

Two Birdsand The Last Tearare vignettes, drawn out of emotional conversations, many of which are showcased throughout the Dangerousalbum. In Dancing the Dreamchildren are pure, innocent and simple, while women are typically wanton, exasperating or saintly mother figures.
A third of the Dangerousliner notes comprise of content found in Dancing the Dream. In both love interests are often unnecessarily cruel, ‘she didn’t leave a letter/she just up and ran away’ and ‘the lips of/a strange woman/drop as a honey-comb’, ‘she always takes it with a/heart of stone/‘cause all she does is/Throws it back to me’. Sexually charged arguments and deceptions continue in the songs,Can’t Let Her Get AwayWho Is ItShe Drives Me WildIn The Closet and Dangerous.39

Two Birds, ‘the world hears your song in mine’ could be interpreted as requesting a revelation of a love affair, reminiscent of the love poetry of Keats. However, Stillwater and Collins discuss the birds as possible representations of two halves of the same psyche, one repressed and hidden, while the other is fully expressed.40
Dance of Life is very much about death. The writer analogises life as a dance, a sojourn that once over results in silence, ‘it’s the unheard music that never dies… silence is my real dance, though it never moves’. Once all the excitement, the ‘molecular jiggle’ and the ‘cells’ have faded, the narrator is left looking at the light cast by stars long since gone. Much like watching Michael Jackson himself on celluloid we, as viewers are aware that he no longer lives. Instead of being morose, the narrator reiterates that ‘a star can never die. It just turns into a smile and melts back into the cosmic music, the dance of life’.41

That One in the Mirroris the last parable in Dancing the Dream. It is a parting message which carries on where the songs, Man in the MirrorWe Are the World, and Heal the Worldleft off, where ‘the planet was being used up and thrown away’.42Instead of looking to others to ‘make a change’ the mythological character of Narcissus is summoned and after a radical conversation with the ‘one’ in the mirror, the narrator acknowledges they ‘never feel alone’ as ‘earth’s child’ because, ‘all of life is in me. The children and their pain; the children and their joy’. It ends with a reaching into the mirror, asking the reader, ‘Oh friend, I hear a dance. Will you be my partner? Come.’43
Lacan’s mirror stage ties in uniquely with this final parable, a fact of which Jackson was most likely well-aware. The mirror, a place of self-reflection and heightened self-awareness is where Jackson’s narrator sees the version of himself who doesn’t think ‘so much about love’. It is a battle between the basest part of the psyche which must be convinced to do what is right, without clinging to ‘personal survival’. 44

(c) 1992/1993 MJJ Productions

Dancing the Dream and Dangerous

Dancing the Dreamis synonymous with the author’s album, Dangerousas they share five of the same works: The Dance (Dancing the Dream)Heal the WorldWill You Be Thereand Planet Earth. For Jackson, as for Shakespeare, ‘if music be the food of love, play on.’45The two works of art are symbiotic. They metaphorically, semantically and lexically feed from one another. Words from the book are echoed, repeated and re-presented in the album, while songs in the album extend motifs and themes that are introduced in the book.

By 1991 and the release of Dangerous, all Jackson’s artistic and professional aspirations had been reached. He already held many of the records with which he is still synonymous: biggest selling album of all time, most number 1s from a single album and several others.46 He had also created a successful follow-up, Bad to the behemoth which was Thriller. No small feat considering the incredible pressure he had put himself under.47 Dangerous became another attempt at fulfilling a seemingly impossible dream, that of an album to eclipse Thriller’s success.

The pursuit of this new dream would spur the artist on to keep creating when materially, he had everything he could possibly want. He revelled in newly acquired independence. His new album had been created without the producer who had helped him forge Off The WallThriller and Bad; he had moved out of his family home and into a magical place Deepak Chopra called a ‘modus vivendi’ purpose built ‘to counter the tidal wave of stress that accompanies mega-stardom’.48 What he did not have was children of his own to share it all with, which had been a lifelong dream.49

Dramatic biblical imagery abounds throughout the album, with ‘two-edged swords’ and ‘honey-combs’ echoing ‘false prophets’, ‘the river Jordan’ and ‘hearts of stone’, while a respect for nature popularised by the eighteenth-century Romantic poets, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats is reinterpreted through Shakespeare’s glorious but transient stage. How else to describe the cryptic cover art of Dangerous than ‘the baseless fabric of this vision,The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,The solemn temples, the great globe itself,Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolveAnd, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind.’50

The first entry in Dancing the Dream is included as The Danceon the opening page of the liner notes of Dangerous.51On the final page of those same liner notes is the poem, Planet Earth. The poetic lyrics of fourteen songs: Jam, Why You Wanna Trip On Me, In the Closet, She Drives Me Wild, Remember the Time, Can’t Let Her Get Away, Heal the World, Black or White, Who Is It, Give in to Me, Will You Be There, Keep the Faith, Gone Too Soon, and Dangerous, are likewise nestled invisibly between pages one and five of Dancing the Dream. The world already knows this book, wearing Dangerous as its disguise, it has already made its way into the homes of millions.

(c) 2014 E. Amisu


This essay began by asking the question, what is Dancing the Dream? It is an attempt to quantify the unquantifiable, to put in written form, emotions better captured in dreams. As Shakespeare wrote, ‘We are such stuffAs dreams are made on, and our little lifeIs rounded with a sleep.52Jackson closes the book with three words, ‘The Dream Continues…’

Academic, Amy C. Billone counted the word ‘dream’ no less than forty-nine times in Jackson’s released records and argues that dreams and nightmares were synonymous with ‘Jackson’s creative universe’.53They were hopes to ‘heal the world’ and ‘make it a better place’ but they were also ‘the dread inside the dying head’. It is no secret that the poet suffered from insomnia and ironic that dreams often kept him awake. Dreams that became nightmares, dreams he was living and creating.

According to Paul Lester, Michael Jackson’s existence ‘could have been the dream of a lifetime but it ended up an American nightmare. But the soundtrack was sublime.’54The rags-to-riches rise of the Jackson 5 was the typical expression of the American Dream but as a plethora of writers have reiterated, from Steinbeck to Miller and Fitzgerald, that dream is little more than an illusion itself. So dreams are broken as easily as they are made and as likely to be expressed through delusions as prophecies. Dancing the Dream is incredibly important because, like its musical twin, Dangerous, it reveals Jackson as a poet who is acutely aware of all these interpretations.

What relevance does Dancing the Dreamhave in the wider context of Jackson’s artistic canon? Well, it points us to the trajectory his work would have taken if not for the tumultuous period that birthed HIStory Past, Present and Future Book 1, Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix and Invincible.55

Why is Dancing the Dreamso important? As the only book of its kind Jackson saw fit to publish, it is essential to how we understand his artistic intentions and personal motivations. It signifies the beginning of Jackson’s artistic self-presentation as activist. Sentiments that were alluded to in Can You Feel It, Be Not Always and Man in the Mirror are actively pushed to the fore here.

No longer does Jackson encourage his listeners to ‘make a change’, he becomes the change, maturing into a ‘voice in the wilderness’ in Earth Song five years later. Dancing the Dream puts this journey into seamless context.56It is more than a collection of early nineties ephemera or even a gift for the fans; it is an experience in and of itself.57

1. William Shakespeare, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare(ed.) W. J. Craig (Henry Pordes, 1987), p. 19.
2. Paul Lester, ‘Michael Jackson’s twenty greatest hits’, The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson(Zero Books, 2009), p. 36.
3. Joseph Vogel, ‘Second to None: Race, Representation and the Misunderstood Power of Michael Jackson’s Music’, Featuring Michael Jackson: Collected Writings on the King of Pop(Baldwin Books, 2012) – pp. 7-14.
4. List of books, notes and blogs by Michael Jackson: Invincible(Liner Notes). MJJ Productions. Epic. 2001; ‘My Childhood, My Sabbath, My Freedom’, BeliefNet.com, December 2000 <http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2000/12/My-Childhood-My-Sabbath-My-Freedom.aspx?p=1> [accessed 4 July 2014]; Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix (Liner Notes). MJJ Productions. Epic. 1997; HIStory Past, Present and Future Book 1(Liner Notes). MJJ Productions. Epic. 1995; ‘A 1994 Open Letter from Michael Jackson to his critics’, Michael Jackson: A Visual Documentary. The Official Tribute Edition(ed.) Adrian Grant (Omnibus, 2009), p. 106; ‘Nourish This Child’, Pigtails and Frog’s Legs (Neiman Marcus, 1993); Dancing the Dream: Poems and Reflections(London: Doubleday, 1992); Dangerous(Liner Notes). MJJ Productions. Epic. 1991; Moonwalk(London: Doubleday, 1988); Moonwalker The Storybook(Heinemann, 1988); Bad(Liner Notes). MJJ Productions. Epic. 1987;Thriller(Liner Notes). MJJ Productions. Epic. 1982; Off The Wall(Liner Notes). MJJ Productions. Epic. 1979; Joseph Vogel, Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson(New York: Sterling, 2011), p. 141; Michael Jackson, Simulchat. 1995 – “I wrote a book called ‘Dancing the Dream’[…] it came from my heart’; Michael Jackson, Moonwalk(Doubleday, 1988).
5. Editors of Rolling Stone, Michael Jackson(Werner Media Specials, 2014), p. 90.
6. Michael Jackson, Ebony/Jet, 1992 – “I´m committed to my art. I believe that all art has as its ultimate goal the union between the material and the spiritual, the human and the divine[…] Deep inside I feel that this world we live in is really a big, huge, monumental symphonic orchestra. I believe that in its primordial form all of creation is sound and that it’s not just random sound, that it’s music. You’ve heard the expression, music of the spheres? Well, that’s a very literal phrase. In the Gospels, we read, “And the Lord God made man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” That ‘breath of life’ to me is the music of life and it permeates every fibre of creation[…]”; Jermaine Jackson, You Are Not Alone – Michael, Through A Brother’s Eyes(Touchstone, 2011), p. 286iii.
7. “commonplace, v.”, OED Online (Oxford University Press, 2014) <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/37246?rskey=g8aFtk&result=2&isAdvanced=false> [accessed 30 June 2014].
8. Fred Schurink, ‘Manuscript Commonplace Books, Literature and Reading in Early Modern England’ in Huntington Library Quarterly(2010) Vol. 73 (3), pp. 453-469.
9. Ben Jonson, Discoveries in Ben Jonson, eds. C. H. Hereford, Percy Simpson and Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols. (Oxford, 1925-52), lns. 950-955.
10. Margaret Cavendish, The worlds olio written by the Right Honorable, the Lady Margaret Newcastle.(London, 1655), p. 119v; Jackson, Simulchat – “It was essays, thoughts and things that I’ve thought about while on tour.”
11. Vogel, Man in the Music, p. 6 – ‘His [Jackson’s] personal library contained more than 20,000 titles, including biographies, poetry, philosophy, psychology, and history.’
12. Deepak Chopra, ‘A Tribute to My Friend Michael’, Huffington Post, 26 June 2009 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/a-tribute-to-my-friend-mi_b_221268.html> [accessed 1 July 2014] – ‘The closest we ever became, perhaps, was when Michael needed a book to sell primarily as a concert souvenir. It would contain pictures for his fans but there would also be a text consisting of short fables. I sat with him for hours while he dreamily wove Aesop-like tales about animals, mixed with words about music and his love of all things musical. This project became Dancing the Dream after I pulled the text together for him, acting strictly as a friend’.
13. ‘philosophy, n.’, OED Online (Oxford University Press, 2014) <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/142505?rskey=PP1tca&result=1&isAdvanced=false> [accessed 1 July 2014].
14. Dangerous: The Short Films(MJJ Productions, 1993) [on DVD].
15. Jackson, Dancing the Dream, pp. 22, 39, 45, 51, 61, 66, 76, 77, 80, 81, 115.
16. Ibid., pp. 63, 66.
17. Shakespeare, pp. 246, 939; Ibid. p. 1.
18. 1 Corinthians 15:52, NIV.
19. Jackson, Dancing the Dream, p. 70.
20. Psalm 16:11, NKJV – ‘You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore’; Chopra – ‘I couldn’t help but write this brief remembrance in sadness. But when the shock subsides and a thousand public voices recount Michael’s brilliant, joyous, embattled, enigmatic, bizarre trajectory, I hope the word “joyous” is the one that will rise from the ashes and shine as he once did’; Jackson, My Childhood, My Sabbath, My Freedom – When I was young, my whole family attended church together in Indiana. As we grew older, this became difficult[…] I was comforted by the belief that God exists in my heart, and in music and in beauty, not only in a building. But I still miss the sense of community that I felt there–I miss the friends and the people who treated me like I was simply one of them. Simply human. Sharing a day with God[…] When I became a father, my whole sense of God and the Sabbath was redefined[…] Children are God’s gift to us. No–they are more than that–they are the very form of God’s energy and creativity and love’.
21. Shakespeare, p. 741.
22. Jackson, Dancing the Dream, p. 91.
23. Ibid., p. 46.
24. ‘Parables of the Secret Kingdom’, BibleGateway.com, <https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Matt/Parables-Secret-Kingdom> [accessed 1 July 2014] – […] Jesus’ parables of the kingdom’s present state explain why his kingdom comes first in a hidden way and why Israel’s leaders reject him[…].
25. Michael Jackson, Black Stars Magazine(1976) – ‘I just believe what’s in the Bible with regard to which religion is involved. I simply believe[…] I believe in it and I get down on my knees every night and thank God and ask Him to lead the way’; Michael Jackson, Ebony(Johnson, 1979) – ‘Each day I take time out to study the Bible, no matter where I am. The teachings of the Bible have added a new dimension to my life. It, somehow, makes me whole’; At Large with Geraldo RiveraTV Interview, 2005 – “Caring. And reading the Bible, learning about God, Jesus, love. He said, ‘Bring on the children’, ‘Imitate the children’, ‘Be like the children’ and ‘Take care of others.’ Take care of old people. And we were raised with those values. Those are very important values and my family and I we were raised with those values and they continue strong in us today[…]; Shmuley Boteach, The Michael Jackson Tapes(Vanguard Press, 2011), p. 112 – ‘I love the Sermon on the Mount. I love the story when the Apostles are arguing amongst themselves about who is the greatest and Jesus says, “Unless you humble yourself like this little child, be childlike…” I thought that was the perfect thing to say. Return to innocence’.
26. Matthew 25:14-30, NIV – The Parable of the Bags of Gold: 14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money[…] 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
27. Jackson, Ebony/Jet– ‘In one of the pieces of the ‘Dangerous’ album, I say: ‘Life songs of ages, throbbing in my blood, have danced the rhythm of the tide and flood’. This is a very literal statement, because the same new miracle intervals and biological rhythms that sound out the architecture of my DNA also governs the movement of the stars. The same music governs the rhythm of the seasons, the pulse of our heartbeats, the migration of birds, the ebb and flow of ocean tides, the cycles of growth, evolution and dissolution. It’s music, it’s rhythm. And my goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance. It’s like, my purpose, it’s what I’m here for.’
28. Mark 10:13-15, NIV – The Little Children and Jesus: 13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
29. Matthew 20:16, NIV.
30. AtLarge With Geraldo RiveraInterview. Fox News. 5 February 2005 – ‘I´ve travelled the world over eight times. I do as many hospitals and orphanages as I do concerts. But, of course, it´s not covered [by the press…] I´m doing something that brings joy and happiness to other people’; Susan Hayward, Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts (Routledge, 2000), p. 84-85.
31. Jackson, Dancing the Dream, p. 45.
32. Jackson, Ebony/Jet– ‘Well, there’s a certain sense that animals and children have that gives me a certain creative juice, a certain force that later on in adulthood is kind of lost because of the conditioning that happens in the world[…] The innocence of children represents to me the source of infinite creativity. That is the potential of every human being. But by the time you are an adult, you’re conditioned; you’re so conditioned by the things about you and it goes. Love. Children are loving, they don’t gossip, they don’t complain, they’re just open-hearted[…] adults, they lose that child-like quality. And that’s the level of inspiration that’s so needed and is so important for creating and writing songs and for a sculptor, a poet or a novelist. It’s that same kind of innocence, that same level of consciousness, that you create from. And kids have it.’
33. Jackson, Moonwalk,p. 95-97, 275.
34. Jackson, Dancing the Dream, p. 99.
35. Jackson, Dancing the Dream, p. 107, 13.
36. Ibid., pp. 92, 20.
37. Ibid., p. 31.
38. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere’, Lyrical Ballads(Penguin Classics, 2006), pp. 11, 24, 25.
39. Jackson, Dangerous, p.15.
40. Willa Stillwater and Joie Collins, ‘Dancing With Michael’s Dream’, Dancing with the Elephant<https://dancingwiththeelephant.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/dancing-with-michaels-dream/> [accessed 3 July 2014].
41. Jackson, Dancing the Dream, p. 15.
42. Ibid., p. 143.
43. Ibid., p. 143-145.
44. Jesse Schlotterbeck, ‘The ‘Split’ Biography: Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story’, Michael Jackson: Grasping the Spectacle(ed.) Christopher R. Smit (Ashgate, 2012), p. 68; Jackson, Ibid, p. 145.
45. Shakespeare, p. 323.
46. Michael Jackson, HIStory Past, Present and Future Book 1(Liner Notes). MJJ Productions. Epic. 1995, pp. 11-14.
47. Vogel, Man in the Music, p. 107.
48. Vogel, Man in the Music, p. 140-141; Chopra.
49. Editors of Ebony, Ebony Special Tribute: Michael Jackson In His Own Words(Johnson, 2009), p. 70 – ‘I always had this tug at the back of my head, the things I wanted to do, to raise children, have children.’
50. Shakespeare, p. 19.
51. Jackson, Dangerous, p. 1; Vogel, Man in the Music, p. 131.
52. Shakespeare, p. 19.
53. Amy C. Billone, ‘Sentenced to Neverland: Michael Jackson, Peter Pan, and Queer Futurity’, Michael Jackson: Grasping the Spectacle(ed.) Christopher R. Smit (Ashgate, 2012), p. 50.
54. Lester, p. 34.
55. Elizabeth Amisu, ‘Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands: Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson’, 11 June 2014, elizabethamisu.com, <http://elizabethamisu.com/post/88515649217/throwing-stones-to-hide-your-hands-the-mortal-persona> [accessed 16 June 2014].
56.Bad(Liner Notes). MJJ Productions. Epic. 1987, pp. 6-7; Isaiah 40:3, NIV; John 1:23, NIV; Joseph Vogel, Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson’s Magnum Opus(BlakeVision Books, 2011).
57. Jackson, Dancing the Dream, p. 151.

Elizabeth Amisu, author of The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife, holds an MA in Early Modern English Literature from King’s College London. She completed her teacher training at the University College London Institute of Education and has seven years’ teaching experience. She is co-founder and editor of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies online. For ‘The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies she has edited two publications, An Academic Companion to Michael Jackson Studies and Michael Jackson’s Dream Lives On: An Academic Conversation – Michael Jackson & Prince;written several articles and book reviews, most notably ”Throwing Stones To Hide Your Hands’: The Mortal Persona Of Michael Jackson‘, which has been translated into Spanish and Italian; ”The Isle is Full of Noises’: Revisiting the Peter Pan of Pop‘, available in German; ”Crack Music’: Michael Jackson’s Invincible‘, also in Italian; and ”Heard it Through the Grapevine’: Are We Losing Michael Jackson All Over Again?’, also available in Spanish.