Publisher: Atria Books, 2013
My Source: Amazon for Kindle
I was deeply saddened by the death of Prince earlier this month. That may sound crazy to some since I didn’t actually know him, but his music has been such a big part of my life. I imagine that this is how an earlier generation felt when Elvis and John Lennon died.
I was in middle school when I first heard “Little Red Corvette.” Certain songs of his bring back specific fond memories of my adolescence. I was lucky enough to see him in concert last year (thanks Paul.) It was an amazing show. He sang all of his hits, danced, and flirted with the audience as only Prince could do. An autopsy was conducted, but the official results are not yet available. The press has reported that his death was due to an overdose of Percocet prescribed for hip pain. I also heard a rumor that he had an addiction to opiate pain pills. It is such a tragedy when someone so talented is gone too soon.
On the day of his death, MTV played his music videos and aired the movie, “Purple Rain.” Social media blew up with pictures, videos, and sentiments of disbelief and sorrow from fans and celebrities. Then within the next few days there were Prince tribute specials on the Today show, Dateline, and Saturday Night Live. It was during the Dateline special that this book was mentioned. I made a note of the title and ordered it from Amazon for my Kindle.
Prince was a very private person and did not contribute to this book himself, but many people who knew and loved him did contribute their thoughts, insights, and memories. The first chapter defines Generation X and describes the zeitgeist of the 1980’s and how the combination contributed to his stardom. The author also provides a biographical sketch of his early life.
Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson) grew up in Minneapolis, the son of a jazz musician father. He taught himself to play many instruments including guitar and piano. His high school music teachers let him spend extra time in the music room practicing his craft. Prince knew he wanted to be a rock star and took a music business class to learn all the ins and outs of the music industry. He used this knowledge not only to write music, play all the instruments on his albums, and record and produce his albums himself, but also to successfully win a battle with his record label for more control over his music. Prince’s efforts resulted in helping future musicians to have greater control over their music and its distribution.
The next chapter focuses on Prince as an artist and the various bands he worked with. He didn’t want to be known only as a Black musician, but wanted to be free to experiment with all genres of music. As a result, he employed women and people of different races in his bands to reflect the diversity of the country and thus appeal to a wider audience.
The last chapter is an analysis of his songs. Specifically, the author posits that Prince was influenced by a wide range of artists as well as the gospel music coming out of Black churches. Common themes of his music are sex and religion, often in the same song. Prince went to different types of churches as a child, but became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2001 and had a strong faith in God. Although I can recite many of the words to most of his popular songs, I learned a lot about the deeper meanings behind the words.
I really enjoyed reading this book because of the inside information about Prince’s life, music, and legacy. It also helped me process what his death meant to me. I would definitely recommend this book to any fan, but also to others who were not big fans and now want to see what all the fuss was about.
RIP Prince (1958-2016)
Rating: 5 out of 5 funky high fives