Looking Back at Michael Jackson’s Dancing the Dream

Michael Jackson considered Dancing the Dream, a collection of his own poems and reflections, to be one of his most personal works. It was also one of the first Michael Jackson collector’s items I’ve ever purchased. When I realized that this was the 25th year anniversary of the books publication, I wanted to share some things about it.

Dancing the Dream Michael Jackson

I’ll be the first to admit that as a teenager, one of the things I looked forward to most after school was getting lost on the internet. I loved learning about different subjects, reading, and exploring on the World Wide Web. The internet was also my all access pass into the world of Michael Jackson.
I started high school in 2001, during the Invincible era. Though I had been a fan throughout childhood,  I had a lot of catching up to do. When I first heard about Dancing the Dream, all I knew was that it was one of the only books that Michael Jackson had written. And that gave me enough reason – I HAD to have it.

Today, as we see the 25th anniversary of the release of Dancing the Dream, I want to share some interesting tidbits about the book and my favorite poems too.

The Facts 

Dancing the Dream was released on June 18th, 1992- 25 years ago. Within the 148 pages, you will find 45+ poems, reflections, and short essays all written by Michael Jackson.

The inside cover of the book features full text of the first poem in the book, also entitled Dancing the Dream and a brief description of the books content from the publisher.

 “Dancing the Dream, bestselling author Michael Jackson’s second book, is one man's hauntingly beautiful, provocatively personal view of the world around us and the universe within each of us. Whether his prose or poetry are focusing on creativity, the children of the world, or the plight of the noble elephant, Michael Jackson's observations and concerns make us see that trust and love and faith are the foundation stones for a life well lived.

Some people wonder how they can make the world a better place, while other people have dreams that are so powerful that they have a vision that can touch us all. Dancing The Dream was written by Michael Jackson, a man with a vision. Come experience the dream".

The Real Autobiography 

According to Michael, Dancing the Dream was more personal than “Moonwalk,” the autobiography he wrote just four years earlier (1988). A 1992 article in the Chicago Tribune, “Determined to Dream” by Glenn Plaskin, calls Dancing the Dream “a fanciful collection of poems, reflections and photographs that champions kids, endangered species, the homeless, AIDS victims and planet Earth”.

Michael has been quoted as saying, “The book is just a verbal expression of what I usually express through my music and my dance” (Plaskin, 1992).

He addresses so many themes and the book as a whole really speaks to who Michael was as a person, the things he cared deeply about, and his thoughts on the human condition.

In 1995, Michael participated in a simulchat held at the MTV arena, where he sat behind a laptop computer and answered questions that fans sent into the chatroom, where he briefly mentioned the book.

Before there was Facebook or Instagram live, this was one of the best ways to try and connect personally to the celebrity that you loved. I recall joining in on many celebrity chats when I was a preteen, typing question after question and hoping that my inquiry would make it through the chat host filter.

But, Michael was a pioneer, participating in the simulchat that was broadcast live on MTV as well as online on AOL, Prodigy, & Compuserve, & the WWW. At the time, this was new and exciting technology! There is some footage of the chat here, if you're interested in taking a trip back to '95.

Below, is the excerpt where Michael briefly mentions the book:

Question: It is rumored (and I know you hate that word) that you are doing another book. Do you plan on another book, if so, what will it contain?

Michael: “I wrote a book called Dancing the Dream. It was more autobiographical than Moonwalk, which I did with Mrs. Onassis. It wasn't full of gossip and scandal and all that trash that people write so I don't think people paid much attention to it, but it came from my heart. It was essays, thoughts, and things that I've thought about while on tour. I'm not planning to write another book anytime soon…”

I totally understand the sentiment that Michael expresses above. Although I love Moonwalk, I know that it doesn’t dig as deep as people expected it to at the time of publication. Reading it now that Michael has passed on, I can recognize and appreciate it more than ever. It gives us a window to his heart and his mind that we may not have had otherwise.

"The Last Tear" is one of the poems that I see circulating around the internet a LOT. I suppose it is one of the only ones in the book with an seemingly romantic theme and that's why it's gained popularity. But, to me, it also is something that has helped me feel better when I start missing Michael's presence here on Earth. It's no surprise that he is still sorely missed- it's just there are times when the hurt is more prevalent than others. There's a frustration that comes along with the pain of loss, even when it's a celebrity or an artist that you've never met. "The Last Tear" always reminds me to think of the GOOD TIMES (shameless plug for my fave Jacksons song). No... but seriously, I find that when I am grateful and I open my heart up to the universe with gratitude instead of sadness, I feel much better. I feel appreciative for all that Michael left us with- instead of just being sad that he left in the first place.

My Favorite Poems 

Most people that know me know that Michael Jackson has influenced me in a very personal way. For me he has always been a pillar of strength, someone who wasn’t afraid to stand up and speak out against injustice, and his sensitivity and willingness to be vulnerable have inspired me to do the same. My favorite selections from Dancing the Dream are two that remind me of that-.

"Innocence" and "Courage".

In the first edition copy, "Innocence" appears on page 58 and "Courage" on page 63. In the first selection, Michael addresses something that I’ve always believed in strongly. He writes “there is a deep truth in innocence”. As we get older, we so often become jaded, spending energy on protecting our hearts and guarding our feelings. Instead, Michael suggests that living with an open mind and heart, allows you to appreciate life’s moments in a different way.

“…When you get right down to it, survival means seeing thing the way they really are and responding. It means being open. And that’s what innocence is. It’s simple and trusting like a child, not judgmental and committed to one narrow point of view. If you are locked into a pattern of thinking and responding, your creativity gets blocked. You miss the freshness and magic of the moment. Learn to be innocent again, and that freshness never fades”.

– Michael Jackson

The next poem, "Courage" is my favorite reflection in this book and perhaps, the most relevant to me. Michael references the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz- (which is my favorite film of ALL time).

What takes “real courage,” to Michael? Not performing on stage in front of thousands but, revealing ones true self and building an intimacy with another person. I’ve taken heat in my personal life for being what some would consider too “open”. Others might call it “weak” and some may even call it naïve. But I think there’s beauty and strength in vulnerability and opening yourself up to another person. And you might be judged for it but, so what? When you face your fears head on, there’s a feeling of contentment that you have because, you know you’ve made peace with what’s inside your heart.

Below, I have posted the selection in its entirety:

"Courage" by Michael Jackson

It’s curious what takes courage and what doesn’t. When I step out on stage in front of thousands of people, I don’t feel that I’m being brave. It can take much more courage to express true feelings to one person. When I think of courage, I think of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. He was always running away from danger. He often cried and shook with fear. But he was also sharing his real feelings with those he loved, even though he didn’t always like those feelings.

That takes real courage, the courage to be intimate. Expressing your feelings is not the same as falling apart in front of someone else — it’s being accepting and true to your heart, whatever it may say. When you have the courage to be intimate, you know who you are, and you’re willing to let others see that. It’s scary, because you feel so vulnerable, so open to rejection. But without self-acceptance, the other kind of courage, the kind heroes show in movies, seems hollow.

In spite of the risks, the courage to be honest and intimate opens the way to self-discovery. It offers what we all want, the promise of love.

Dancing the Dream – in other forms

Many of the poems and reflections found in Dancing the Dream have been published in other forms, including in the album booklets of the Dangerous album and elsewhere.

The title poem “Dancing the Dream” and “Planet Earth” can both be found in the Dangerous album booklet. Planet Earth (read by Michael) can also be found on the This Is It soundtrack.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my post last month about the poem Michael wrote for his mother, Katherine Jackson. Entitled “Mother,” this work was first published in her book My Family: The Jacksons.  I won’t go into too much detail here but, it’s one of my favorite books about the Jackson family and it’s interesting to hear the story of their success from the one who literally started it all (with the help or Mr. Jackson too, of course).

Lastly, Dancing the Dream contains an extended version of the lyrics for the song “Will you Be There” and a reprint of “Heal the World”.

Although, the book didn’t do as well as expected in the mainstream, 60% down in total sales at its release in 1992, it has since become a coveted collector’s item among the fan community. I purchased my copy in the early 2000’s and even then, it was almost $30 (nearly double the $17.50 list price) for me to get my first edition copy. After Michael’s death in 2009, the book was republished in hardcover and can now be found online at any bookstore like Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com.

I recently went to the Hollywood Walk of Fame to visit Michael’s star again. When I arrived, it was just around dusk. People were just walking down the street until I stood on top of his star and started taking photos.

Thank goodness for patient friends- they must have snapped hundreds for me to get one I was satisfied with, haha!!

It’s been almost 8 years since Michael’s death and although times goes by, somehow it also stands still. For the last 7 years, I have dealt with a loss that never really feels real, until the moments when it does. I’ve always been very passionate about sharing my love for Michael but, all these years later, it’s finally shifting.

somewhere in Hollywood :)

My passion is now slowly becoming more about educating the next generation about his music, his accomplishments, and moments that are often overlooked.  Michael Jackson means more to me than just the moonwalk, more than the hundreds of items I have in my collection, more than the dozens of MJ t-shirts I've purchased over the years.

Michael always talked about how he wanted to be remembered and often, how he thought the focus should be on his art. The music, the dance, the short films, the shows, the writing… and Dancing to Dream is a reminder of all of those things for me.

I don’t know for a fact how many books have been written about Michael Jackson, how many movies have been made, or interviews given about Michael. I don’t even know how many blog posts I’ve written about him. But, I do know that whenever I want to get closer to Michael’s energy, I go to his music.

I go to his poetry.

I go to him.

Michael Jackson always said if you want to know more, if you want information- “go to the source”.

Dancing the Dream is so much more than just a book of poems and reflections; it is a source of so much of what was inside of Michael’s heart and on his mind. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about who Michael was not only as an artist, not only a personality, but as a PERSON.

'Cause isn't that important too?

Have you read Dancing the Dream?
What is your favorite selection from the book?

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