Dancing the Dream

Dancing the Dream
Dancing the Dream  
Front cover of book showing a man under a spotlight in front of metal stairs. He wears black trousers, a black shirt and a black fedora. Under his shirt is a white T shirt, which matches the color of his socks, right armband and right arm brace. The man is striking a pose: legs apart and to the left, he looks down to the ground, as his braced right hand holds his hat atop his head. His left hand covers his crotch.
Author(s) Michael Jackson
Country United States
Genre(s) Poetry
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date 1992
Pages 148
ISBN 9780385422772
OCLC Number 25248203
Dewey Decimal 818/.5409 20
LC Classification ML420.J175 A3 1992
Preceded by Moonwalk

Dancing the Dream is a 1992 book of poems and reflections by United States recording artist Michael Jackson. His second book, it followed his 1988 autobiography Moonwalk. Dancing the Dream was dedicated to his mother, Katherine, and has a foreword by Jackson's friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor. The book also contains an assortment of around 100 photographs of Jackson.

Dancing the Dream was published by Doubleday, on June 18, 1992. The book's content and prose received negative reviews and was not a significant commercial success. The book was reissued by British publisher Transworld in July 2009 following Jackson's death the previous month.



Jackson dedicated Dancing the Dream "with love" to his mother Katherine, and has an introduction written by his longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor.[1][2]

The volume consists of 46 pieces of poetry and essays. The subjects Jackson writes about are primarily children, animals and the environment. For example, one specific poem titled Look Again, Baby Seal promotes environmentalism as Jackson imagines anthropomorphic seals who brood about the fate of being killed by hunters. Another poem (So the Elephants March) presents elephants that refuse to be killed in order for ivory pieces to be made from their tusks. A third piece (Mother Earth) describes a struggle to cope with the discovery of an oil-covered seagull feather. To stress the theme of environmentalism and the necessity for action, Jackson writes in the essay: "We've been treating Mother Earth the way some people treat a rental apartment. Just trash it and move on."[1]

Jackson also writes about the degree to which the 1990 death of AIDS sufferer Ryan White effected him in a poem titled after the youth, and as he presents in the poem, Jackson believes the teenage boy suffered through general ignorance of the disease.[1][3] The poem Mother was written for his mother Katherine, whom Jackson loved deeply.[4] In one stanza Jackson writes "No matter where I go from here/You're in my heart, mother dear".[4] The poem had previously been published by his mother in her 1990 autobiography My Family, and was not the only material in Dancing the Dream to have appeared elsewhere. The poems Dancing the Dream (titled as The Dance) and Planet Earth were included in the sleeve notes for Jackson's 1991 Dangerous album. Furthermore, the lyrics to the songs "Will You Be There" and "Heal the World"—also from the 1991 album—were included in Dancing the Dream.[4]

Dancing the Dream includes approximately 100 photographs. Although the volume was promoted to include previously unreleased photographs of Jackson, some of the photographs had been previously published, such as those that were published in the 1985 Jackson calendar, and others that had been published in magazines such as Ebony and People. Furthermore, the volume included photographs converted from stills of Jackson's music videos "Black or White" (1991) and "Remember the Time" (1992), in addition to images of his 1991 performance at MTV's tenth anniversary celebration.[1] Jackson commissioned artwork for Dancing the Dream from Nate Giorgio, whom Jackson met in the 1980s and the two subsequently developed a professional relationship.[5]

Publication history

Dancing the Dream was first published on June 18, 1992, by Doubleday.[6] It followed Jackson's 1988 autobiography Moonwalk, which was also published by the American company, and which discussed the entertainer's childhood, rise to fame, personal relationships, appearance and thoughts on plastic surgery.[7] Moonwalk became a bestseller upon its release and was well-received critically.[7][8][9][10] Prior to publication, Dancing the Dream was hailed by the publishers as being a book that would "take us deep into [Jackson's] heart and soul", as well as "an inspirational and passionate volume of unparalleled humanity".[11][12][13] In his only interview to promote Dancing the Dream, Jackson described the book as being "just a verbal expression of what I usually express through my music and my dance."[14] After the entertainer's death in June 2009, the British company Transworld reissued the book the following month.[15]

First-printing numbers for Dancing the Dream were not issued by Doubleday. A representative for the firm (Marly Rusoff), however, revealed in March 1993 that the company shipped 133,000 copies of the book, and took around 80,000 returns and 3000 reorders. Thus, the project was close to 60% down in total sales. Rusoff stated that the commercial performance of Dancing the Dream was low because an anticipated Jackson tour of the US never occurred. He commented, "The reviews—and there were some—were rather discouraging. He did do a Europe tour and the British edition did quite well. This kind of book depends on celebrity visibility."[16]

Suzanne Mantell of Publishers Weekly listed Jackson's book as one among several that "were published with great hype and hope, and [fell] far short of the publisher's expectations".[16] She added, "Using the rule of thumb that hardcover returns in the 20% to 30% range are acceptable, in the 30% to 50% range very high, and 50% or more a disaster, most of [the books listed] performed poorly, even if they somehow managed to recoup their costs and even make an impact on the bottom line."[16] Mantell felt that Dancing the Dream did not create the "important buzz that gives a book a life and saves it from cultural oblivion".[16] She concluded, "Jackson may draw an audience of 65 million when he appears on Oprah, but the consensus among booksellers is that bookbuyers don't care, and that this one was a dog."[16]


The American publication Deseret News described Dancing the Dream as being a "fanciful potpourri of [Jackson's] poems and prosy reflections".[17] Glenn Plaskin of the Chicago Tribune expressed a similar view, and called the book "a fanciful collection of poems, reflections and photographs that champions kids, endangered species, the homeless, AIDS victims and planet Earth."[14] Chris Morris of the music magazine Billboard conveyed his dislike of the book in a 1992 review. He insisted that the book was as revelatory as Jackson's autobiography Moonwalk: "not very".[18] Morris stated that the only thing one could learn from the book was that Jackson liked animals, children, believed in God and in angels. He added that Jackson's "unenlightening thoughts" were placed amongst "strangely idealized" artwork of himself.[18] Morris concluded that the book lacked what made Jackson exciting; motion and song. He felt the book was best recommended to diehard fans of the singer.[18]

Jackson biographer Lisa D. Campbell expressed in her Michael Jackson: The King of Pop (1993) that, as the singer rarely released photographs of himself, new ones were "always a treat". She stated that those in Dancing the Dream were no exception.[1] In the 1994 publication Lord Gnome's Literary Companion, a compilation of anonymous book reviews from Private Eye, Dancing the Dream was negatively appraised. It was stated by an unnamed critic that the collection of poetry and reflections became a bestseller, but would reveal to any reader that Jackson was "irreversibly, undeniably, as completely barking, daffy as a duck, a very long way around the bend. Off the wall, like." The anonymous writer pointed to several lines being "duff", though "wonderfully so":[19]

I looked for you in hill and dale
I sought for you beyond the pale
I searched for you in every nook and cranny
My probing mind was at times uncanny...[19]

The anonymous author felt such compositions gave an insight into Jackson's "fantasy life" and that they showed that the singer thought of himself as God. They concluded their analysis of Jackson's work by calling it "spooky", while mockingly thanking God that "none of his fans can read".[19] Upon review of the book following Jackson's death in 2009, Mick Brown of The Daily Telegraph stated that Dancing the Dream was a "poignantly revealing collection of writings on the subjects that were apparently close to his heart". The journalist expressed that a "painful personal truth" lay within Jackson's poem Children of the World, in which the singer explains that the destruction in the world is largely due to emotionally deprived childhoods. The illustration that accompanies the poem shows Jackson leading children through an ethereal paradise. Brown stated that the artwork explained that the musician thought of himself more as a pied piper than as Jesus Christ.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e Campbell (1993), p. 324
  2. ^ Jackson, Michael (1992). Dancing the Dream. New York City: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385422772. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Dirk (April 9, 1990). "Ryan White Dies of AIDS at 18; His Struggle Helped Pierce Myths". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE1DB123AF93AA35757C0A966958260. Retrieved March 14, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c Campbell (1993), p. 325
  5. ^ Moyer, William (November 29, 2009). "Vestal native's artwork to be the cover of Michael Jackson tribute book". Press & Sun-Bulletin. 
  6. ^ Grant (2009), p. 149
  7. ^ a b Campbell (1993), pp. 195–197
  8. ^ Grant (2009), pp. 112–113
  9. ^ Andersen (1994), p. 208
  10. ^ Pinkerton (1998), p. 24
  11. ^ Landis, David (April 29, 1992). "Benny tribute" (Payment required to access full article). USA Today. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/USAToday/access/56200514.html?dids=56200514:56200514&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Apr+29%2C+1992&author=David+Landis&pub=USA+TODAY+(pre-1997+Fulltext)&desc=BENNY+TRIBUTE&pqatl=google. Retrieved December 6, 2009. 
  12. ^ Blowen, Michael (October 14, 1991). "Names and faces a first for Chris Evert" (Payment required to access full article). The Boston Globe. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=BG&p_theme=bg&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EADDF882AA95F3A&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  13. ^ Spin patrol. Spin. July 1992. http://books.google.com/books?id=_hQxGHrtDC0C&pg=PT25&dq=%22michael+jackson%22+%22dancing+the+dream%22&cd=8#v=onepage&q=%22michael%20jackson%22%20%22dancing%20the%20dream%22&f=false. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Plaskin, Glenn (August 16, 1992). "Determined to dream An effusive Michael Jackson doesn't dance all around his idealism" (Payment required to access full article.). Chicago Tribune. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access/24343320.html?dids=24343320:24343320&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Aug+16%2C+1992&author=Glenn+Plaskin%2C+Tribune+Media+Services.&pub=Chicago+Tribune+(pre-1997+Fulltext)&desc=Determined+to+dream+An+effusive+Michael+Jackson+doesn't+dance+all+around+his+idealism&pqatl=google. Retrieved March 26, 2010. 
  15. ^ Pauli, Michelle (July 7, 2009). "First 'instant' Jackson biography hits shelves in China". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jul/07/first-instant-jackson-biography. Retrieved November 14, 2009. 
  16. ^ a b c d e Mantell, Suzanne (March 1, 1993). "The crying game: when the public doesn't share publishers' enthusiasm". Publishers Weekly. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-13566433/crying-game-public-doesnt.html. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Recording stars toot own horns, and so do others in new books". Deseret News. (December 20, 1992). http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=NewsLibrary&p_multi=DSNB&d_place=DSNB&p_theme=newslibrary2&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0F3606762F3EAF0D&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM. Retrieved December 12, 2009. 
  18. ^ a b c Morris, Chris (July 18, 1992). In print: Dancing the Dream. Billboard. http://books.google.com/books?id=lxAEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA38&dq=%22michael+jackson%22+%22dancing+the+dream%22&lr=&ei=Lu_9SojXKoWIygSHn73oDg#v=onepage&q=%22michael%20jackson%22%20%22dancing%20the%20dream%22&f=false. Retrieved November 13, 2009. 
  19. ^ a b c Wheen (1996), pp. 192–194
  20. ^ Brown, Mick (June 27, 2009). "Michael Jackson, death by showbusiness". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/michael-jackson/5659778/Michael-Jackson-death-by-showbusiness.html. Retrieved November 29, 2009. 


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