Shaye Areheart of Harmony Books (Editor of Moonwalk by Michael Jackson) August 13, 2009 Interview
Cyrus Webb: We’re back with a special edition of “Conversations Live” with our special guest of this segment. We’re going to speaking with, actually one of the original editors of the autobiography of Michael Jackson “Moonwalk”. As I mentioned to you earlier it’s being reissued this week and we’re very glad to have Shaye Areheart here to talk to us about the working on the project and why she thinks that people, even if they’ve read the autobiography before, to give it another look so please help me welcome Shaye Areheart to the program. How you doing Shaye?
Shaye Areheart: I’m fine Cyrus how are you doing?
CW: Great, welcome to Conversations Live.
SA: Thank you very much, it’s a pleasure to be here.
CW: Now we’re here on the day that the autobiography for Michael Jackson is being reissued. I want you to talk about this project what was it like for you to be a part of this?
SA: Oh it was thrilling, it was so very wonderful. First of all Michael was so easy to work with, he really wanted to do this book. He felt that there had been a lot of misinformation and falsehoods printed about him, even up to the point that this book was published, which was 1988 as you pointed out when he was quite young, but he still felt that there was so much he wanted to say and set the record straight and so we spent four years working on that. Not all the time needless to say, but a lot of that time was spent with Michael working with me and a tape recorder. I would ask him questions, we would record the answers and we would have somebody type up — transcribe the tapes and type them up so that he could look at stuff and move it around, and I think when you read “Moonwalk” you really hear Michael’s voice because that’s who was talking, that’s who was telling the stories and it’s really quite wonderful.
At the beginning of the book he talks about how he loves to tell stories, loves to inspire people, and I think this is what this book does.
CW: One of the things that fascinated me and this was actually my first time reading the book, and one of the things that fascinated me was his work ethic, even though he was a person who was considered a consummate performer, he even seemed unsure of himself at times. In fact there’s one part of the book where he talks about that nothing he seemed to do seemed right to him and wasn’t sometime until he would get on stage that he said it was like “God speaking to him”, saying, “Yes you can do this” and “Yes you can see this”. Were you surprised at that part of him?
SA: Well, let’s put it this way, I was just delighted at that part of him because the part that worked so hard, the part of Michael that worked 100% pure artist that you know, who thought of himself as this instrument that could be made better and if he sang well, he could sing better than that. If he could dance well, he could dance better than even that and he was involved in every aspect of what he did, which I think something that people don’t know. People will say thinks like, “Oh, you know, they have handlers and this and that, these rock stars and these pop music stars, and it certainly is not the case with Michael jackson. Michael Jackson was in control of whether it was the decision to wear the glove, the pieces of tape on his finger tips, all the music videos. If you go back and look at those, every single thing about them went through Michael’s very keen eye. His sense of style, his sense of timing he was, they say James Brown is the hardest working man in show business, but I’ve put Michael Jackson up there against him any day and he was a great admirer of James Brown. He actually talks a lot about James Brown in this book.
CW: Another thing that our listeners will find fascinating was the album “Thriller” how he originally was not thrilled, pun intended…
AS: He was very upset.
CW: … about the way the album first was. What about that aspect of an album that really would become the biggest album of his career?
AS: Yeah, and one of the biggest selling album of all time, if not THE biggest selling album of all time. He was being pressured by the record company to finish the album, to get it out there and they wanted it out in a certain period of time and at the very end he was sitting there with the people that had worked on the album with him and they were listening to it, and he just got up and said “this album is just not ready to go, we’re not releasing this now. You just tell them it isn’t going to happen.” and they went back and they remixed and re-edited and they come up with the album we all know that is so absolutely striking and gorgeous and fantastic. It just shows when an artist knows something knows its not right, they know it’s not right. They need to have it done with their perspective and given their insight.
CW: Exactly, another thing that I think, especially considering all the things he did to help children all over the world was him talking about his family and there was part of the book that I found fascinating where he talked about Janet’s marriage. The first marriage, of course, not lasting a long and then started thinking about himself becoming not only a husband but also a father and there was part of the book on page 254 where he talks about this and says, “In my fantasy about having a large family, I a imagine myself with thirteen children.” and that was in the late 80’s and now we see, even to this day, one of the things he is most known for is his love of children. Seeing all this success that he had, I’m just curious from your standpoint, did it surprise you of how much he gave to people, especially to children’s organizations?
AS: No, he was so generous and you know the thing about Michael is he didn’t have a childhood. He worked from the time he was five years old and it’s not like you might think — going to music lessons after class, going to dance lessons after class, he was rehearsing full time just completely exhausting himself with his family. All of them were doing this. Their father was a taskmaster about the performance and it turned out to be something that propelled him into the success that he did have so that was great but he talks about a very short, non-existent childhood he had so he had a great affinity for children, he loved children, he felt like they were just the best people on earth. People who didn’t lie, were innocent and kind, and he was a great father. I think he would have loved to have more children.
CW: Exactly, and here you have it reissued as of today. His autobiography on his own life in his own words. The title of the book which has a brand new introduction by Barry Gordy and afterward by our guest for today Shaye Areheart. Shaye, thank you so much for coming on to talk about this project and we want people to know it’s in book stores nationwide and also available at Amazon.com., you can get it there as well, but Shaye thank you for taking out this time to be with us today.
AS: Thank you Cyrus it was a great pleasure.
CW: Again that was Shaye Areheart talking about the life that was Michael Jackson and the new book that is being reissued “Moonwalk” from his autobiography that he released back in the late 80’s.