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Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson’s Environmental Anthem

EarthSong_frontReleased in 1995, Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” was in many ways anachronistic. In both theme and sound, it was like nothing else on the radio. It defied the cynicism and apathy of Generation X. It challenged the aesthetic expectations for a pop song or even a protest song, fusing blues, opera, rock and gospel. It demanded conscience in an era of corporate greed, genocide and environmental indifference. A massive hit around the world (reaching #1 in over fifteen countries), it wasn’t even offered as a single in the United States. Yet nearly eighteen years later, this six-and-a-half minute lamentation stands as one of Jackson’s greatest artistic achievements. In this groundbreaking monograph, author Joseph Vogel details the song’s evolution from its inception in Vienna in 1988, to its long gestation in the recording studio, to Jackson’s final live performance in Munich in 1999. Based on original research, including new interviews with the song’s key participants, Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson’s Magnum Opus offers a fascinating reassessment of this timeless work of art.

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“Vogel’s voice is dignified and powerful. I very much respect what he has to say.” —BILL BOTTRELL, Grammy-winning Producer, Songwriter and Collaborator of Michael Jackson

“To my mind, Vogel’s analysis of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” represents the very best of what art criticism can be: it educates and enlightens us, and leads us to a deeper appreciation and understanding of Jackson’s art.” – DR. WILLA STILLWATER, author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson’s Art of Connection and Defiance

“Terrific! It was totally engaging to finally hear the complete story of ‘Earth Song.’ Vogel’s perspective is amazing. What true insights he has uncovered.” – MATT FORGER, Technical Engineer for ThrillerBadDangerous and HIStory

“To my mind, Joe Vogel’s analysis of Michael Jackson’s Earth Song represents the very best of what art criticism can be: it educates and enlightens us, and leads us to a deeper appreciation and understanding of Jackson’s art. This is especially important with Michael Jackson because his work appears deceptively simple but is surprisingly complex, with layer upon layer of sound and meaning. Most critics have either failed to see that complexity or have simplified it down to make it easier to write about. Vogel doesn’t. He revels in that complexity and shares his love with us, so that we too can experience the full richness of Jackson’s achievement. Vogel also isn’t afraid to cross that rather artificial divide between high art and popular art. Jackson himself crossed that boundary repeatedly in his work, and Vogel has the tools necessary to cross that boun-dary with him and fully explore both spheres. Vogel takes us on a tour not only of Jackson’s creative process but of the cultural terrain that gave rise to it, and I personally loved having Vogel as my tour guide.” – Dr. Willa Stillwater

“No pop culture journalist or music critic with one column to fill and ads to sell could possibly make the connections that Joseph Vogel is providing nor illuminate the entire scope of this incredible man’s art and the mind and soul that led him to it… Michael Jackson was clearly a man ahead of his time and perhaps out of sync with it through no fault of his own. His wisdom often fell upon deaf ears because he offered large thoughts to small minds. Vogel, however, has arrived at exactly the right time and his efforts are providing a new lens through which Jack-son’s work may be viewed and appreciated anew.” –  Chris Kohler

“It is such a pleasure to read such a well-written work by someone who is uniquely qualified in his knowledge of music, art, and Mr. Jackson—and to write in such a way as to make it accessible to both musicians and laymen alike! Undoubtedly, ‘Earth Song is one of the most beautiful and haunting songs ever written, and Vogel’s background- details about the thought and musical process as well as the emotions behind the song make me appreciate it more than ever.” –  Nancy Jensen

“Vogel’s piece offers a revelatory experience for fans and scholars alike…The emotive power in his distinctive writing style reveals a coupling and mastery of both literary criticism and spiritual exegesis…[Earth Song] fully succeeds in illuminating Jackson’s music, lyrics, and performance by leading us through a fascinating journey from inception to completion of the creative process…The author establishes Jackson, not only as a musical savant, but also positions him as a fine artist of stature among a constituency of greats (an eclectic and profound milieu of such artists as Blake, Picasso, Michelangelo, poet Wordsworth, and composer Beethoven, among others). This innovative approach challenges the reader to expand his or her understanding of the artist’s work and of his significant place in cultural history. The piece triggers the reader to step over the threshold of prior literal limitations and into a much more expansive consciousness of Jackson’s art as it is situated amidst the panoramic landscape of centuries of art, literature, and music.”   – Constance Pierce

“To the ordinary layman, and perhaps even some musicians, “Earth Song” might be perceived as the ultimate ‘vanity vehicle.’ But in the hands of Vogel, these thoughts rapidly fall away. Earth Song takes the reader on a journey through the innermost workings of Jackson’s artistic process … Richly descriptive and informative, Vogel’s prose punches with poetical and religious references as diverse as Job, Abraham, Wordsworth and Beethoven, while co-existing with quotes and fresh recollections from people who were actually there with Jackson on tour and at key moments in the studio. Yet Vogel’s multi-layered work is never stuffy. Small details like Jackson’s preference for Gatorade as a between-song beverage on tours jostle happily with complex analysis of the recording techniques and microphone choices of a notoriously perfectionist artist … [Earth Song] sets new heights and defines new possibilities for how Jackson’s work and music can and should be appreciated.”   – Deborah Ffrench