Friday, December 13, 2019

"Turn It Up" - Podcast Appearances


I keep a running list of all my interviews in one place. I decided to do the same for my podcast appearances. It keeps me organized and allows new blog followers to catch up.

I'm so grateful for these opportunities! It's always fun talking about the Purple One.





Press Rewind: A Prince Lyrics Podcast 




Prince: Track by Track























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Friday, December 6, 2019

"Purple Paradise" - Prince Quilt Exhibit Coming to Ohio

Quilt by Lisa Wiedel (Photo courtesy Cherrywood Fabrics)

From conception to the final stitch, it only took Larry McKenney 12 hours to complete his quilt honoring Prince.

"I was thinking about his different songs, and one of my favorites that he did was 'When Doves Cry,'" said McKenney, a 73-year-old resident of Villa Hills, Kentucky. "I used that theme and I decided to do a portrait of him playing his guitar and a dove in the corner with tears coming out of it. [I wanted] to capture that feeling of sadness that he had in the song."

McKenney's quilt will be featured alongside approximately 80 others as part of the "Prince Tribute Tour," a free, traveling exhibit. It will be on display in Cincinnati on Dec. 9 - 22 at The Barn, a space managed by The Woman's Art Club of Cincinnati. (Artist Rick Metz's custom-made guitar furniture will also be on display.)

"I used to listen to a lot of his music," said McKenney, a retired teacher and respected quilt artist. "I liked to keep up with what my students were involved with and a lot of them liked his music. So I said, 'OK, I've got to find out what this guy's about.'"

Quilts by Kimberly Wilson and Laurie Ceesay (Photos courtesy Cherrywood Fabrics)

The exhibit is sponsored by Cherrywood Fabrics, a textile company in Baxter, Minnesota, that specializes in unique, high-quality, hand-dyed fabric. Since 2014, it has hosted public quilt challenges based on themes ("Wicked," "The Lion King," "Van Gogh" and "Bob Ross"). Participants must work with a limited color palette and construct small quilts (20 inches long, 20 inches wide). Independent jurors select finalists and winners.

The challenges have gained international recognition, with the quilts being displayed everywhere from the Minskoff Theatre in New York to quilt shops in Canada.

"We are really proud of how this challenge has grown over the last few years," said Donna Anderson, show coordinator for Cherrywood Fabrics. "The creativity and the inspiration that people have come up with to make these quilts are nothing short of stunning."

For the Prince challenge, contestants were asked to use the artist's work and image to "push themselves creatively" and "think outside the box." They were instructed to use purple Cherrywood fabric, known as "The Prince Bundle," for 70 percent of the quilt.

The owner of Cherrywood Fabrics, Karla Overland, was planning to feature Prince for a while, according to Anderson.

"Because Paisley Park is in the Twin Cities area, we felt that it was an important challenge that we should put out to the public," Anderson said. "We did hear some feedback that some people were not a fan of that particular artist, but that's OK because we drew in another group of maybe younger people that took part in the challenge. So, overall, we felt that the challenge was well-received."

The contest received nearly 400 submissions, which were narrowed to 165. Several winners (first place, second place, third place and special categories) received Cherrywood gift cards as prizes. The finalists were divided into three tours--the "Prince Tribute Tour," "Prince Live Tour" and "Prince Home Tour"--hosted in the U.S. and beyond.

The collection includes impressive images of music notes, doves, raspberry berets, little red corvettes, guitars, keyboards and, of course, Prince and his symbol. (Unfortunately, the quilts aren't for sale at this time.)


Susan Austin is responsible for bringing some of the Cherrywood tours to The Barn, where she is a volunteer coordinator for the Fiber Arts program. She taught art classes and sold potholders--including purple ones in Prince's honor--to raise money for shipping and rental costs.

"My whole goal is to share my own personal love for fiber, for art and for making things out of a ball of yarn that are amazing," said Austin, who will bring part of the "Bob Ross" collection to The Barn in November 2020.

To enhance the experience, Austin curates soundtracks for each exhibit. On Dec. 5, the Woman's Art Club Cultural Foundation sponsored a preview party for the "Prince Tribute Tour," complete with music, hors d'oeuvres and purple cocktails.

Austin said Prince's song "1999" is one of her personal favorites. 

"I bet I'm the only one that doesn't love the song 'Purple Rain,'" she said. "I mean, who can't 'party like it's 1999' when you hear that song? It's so happy and fun."

While The Barn is the last stop on the "Prince Tribute Tour," Anderson said there's a "real possibility" all of the Prince quilts will be displayed at Paisley Park--two hours from Cherrywood Fabrics--in the near future.

In the meantime, quilting enthusiasts can try their hand at the next challenge, inspired by Princess Diana. And beginners are welcome.

"We encourage you to try it because we've had people that have tried it for the first time and they've actually won ribbons," Anderson said. "Don't be afraid of it."

Quilt by Sue Johnson; Larry McKenney (Photos courtesy Cherrywood Fabrics and Susan Austin)

But the accolades aren't important to McKenney, who also participated in the "Van Gogh" and "Bob Ross" challenges.

"I'm always excited just to get a piece accepted," he said. "I don't care about winning awards. ... It just makes me feel honored that they have so many entries, and that mine was judged good enough to be in the show."


The "Prince Tribute Tour"
Dec. 9 - 22, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
6980 Cambridge Ave. 
Cincinnati, Ohio 45227 (turn off Plainfield Road)

The street is residential and parking is free. The exhibit is on the second floor and the building is wheelchair-accessible. Visit www.artatthebarn.org for more information.


Subscribe to my newsletter for bonus photos from the exhibit later this month. Click here.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday, November 22, 2019

"You Don't Think God is Sexy?" - Three Interpretations of "Come"


I love this exchange between Prince and journalist Adrian Deevoy during a 1994 interview for Q magazine.

"Your new song 'Come' is unarguably about orgasm," Deevoy said.

"Is it?" Prince replied. "That's your interpretation? Come where? Come to whom? Come for what?"

"Oh, come on!"

I don't know why any journalist would use the word "unarguably" with Prince, but such boldness among critics back then (and today) was par for the course. At the same time, I believe Prince was a master at titillating first and playing coy later.


Still, a lot of his music is layered with meaning. "Come," the title track of his 1994 album, is no different. I listened to the song on repeat all week and decided to unpack three possible interpretations.

1. "Come" as reaching orgasm

Deevoy is not off-base. Prince is pretty direct and explicit with his language ("Can I suck you, baby? Can I fuck you, baby?") and ... sound effects, which make me wince. I didn't grow up with Prince in real time, and have always viewed him as an elder and not a sex symbol, so some songs are awkward for me, even in the privacy of my car.

What I appreciate about a lot of Prince's sex-centered songs is the creativity involved. He consistently presents himself as a "foreplay-starts-in-the-mind" lover, reveling in painting scenarios for the object of his affection before--or even in place of--the physical act. And "Come" is a heck of a mind trip; who else would conjure up a "strawberry-chocolate-Fender-jazz-mashed potato-fuzz tone" on his partner's thighs?

And this is not just sex for the sake of sex; much of Prince's music explores the benefits of a physical bond between two people in love--often conveying it as a spiritual experience. This viewpoint is explored throughout the album; Prince arguably references passages from the Biblical book "Song of Solomon," which depicts love and sexual intimacy, at the beginning of "Pheromone" ("Lie down beneath my shadow with great delight..."). In his memoir, The Beautiful Ones, he also cites "Song of Solomon" as an effective tool for teaching young people about sex.

Finally, it should be noted that, at the end of Come's closing track, the aptly titled "Orgasm," Prince says, "I love you."

2. "Come" as attaining spiritual transcendence

Sometimes, communing with God can be as transcendent as sexual satisfaction. Prince was constantly talking about this, from Lovesexy to "Graffiti Bridge" ("Still forever searching for the spiritual substitute for sex," Aura says in the film) to this 1996 interview with The Globe and Mail.

"You don’t think God is sexy?” he asked. “When you have faith, serotonin starts pumping in your brain. It’s the same as when you have an orgasm.”

Prince expresses this idea quite beautifully on "Come" with the lyric, "Long as you wash between your soul and through your hair." It's an image he kept returning to; "Your soul a bath, what if I gave it?" he asks on "Love 2 the 9's" from Love Symbol two years earlier. And on "Sexy M.F.," a song many assume to be solely about sex, Prince is preparing his partner for their journey both down the aisle and into the afterlife: "Why all the cosmic talk?" he asks. "I just want you smarter than I'll ever be when we take that walk."

On "Come," Prince also mentions "Spirit calling." At the time, Prince was telling journalists he'd changed his name to the Love Symbol after following the "advice of his spirit." He'd later describe that inner voice as God. And that decision from his Creator led him to freedom, which brings us to ...

3. "Come" as becoming free

Prince's name change put him on a path to artistic freedom (recording independently of Warner Bros., which had trademarked "Prince"), but it also freed him from his ego. "I really searched deep within to find out the answer to whether fame was most important to me or my spiritual well-being, and I chose the latter," he later told Larry King.

But as Prince advocated for control of his master recordings, he envisioned a world where all artists--especially black artists--could own their work. He heralded this reality by writing "This is the Dawning of a Spiritual Revolution" in the liner notes for Come. And shortly afterward, he began proclaiming "Welcome to the Dawn," and launched thedawn.com, which included the following statement: "The Dawn is where [Prince] believes the record industry is headed."

In his 1994 interview with Vibe's Alan Light, for whom he played both Come and The Gold Experience, he said he was "writing more about freedom and the lack thereof."

"If you had a chance to see the future, would you try?" Prince sings on "Come."

***

My personal relationship with the album Come is still evolving. In the past, I've skipped everything but the haunting "Papa" and funky "Letitgo." I have to be in the right mood to listen to "Solo" because it's almost too beautiful, intimate and sorrowful. I'm also beginning to really get into the lyrics of "Space," which touches on the themes outlined above.

I often forget how strong "Dark" is as a composition; the horns really shine on that, as well as "Come," for which I've developed a newfound appreciation. The clarinet solo on the latter, which dips into an Arabic melody, is such a gem. (Side note: I love when he says, "Aw, shut up!") And Prince's vocal arrangements here, and on the entire album, and through his entire career, are greatly underappreciated!

Subscribe to my e-mail list for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"Heaven on Earth, We All Want to Find" - Theology and Prince

I am thrilled to be one of the contributing authors of Theology and Prince! The academic collection will be released via Lexington Books in December. My chapter is called "'Graffiti Bridge:' Prince’s Sacred Triumph over the Profane." I analyze the message of the film in the context of Prince's real-life spiritual journey.

Other essays explore everything from Prince’s ideas of the afterlife to his spiritual alter egos. Click here to pre-order (use code LEX30AUTH20 for a 30-percent discount through Nov. 30).


Click here for our Spotify playlist, in chapter order, of the songs selected by each author.

Subscribe to my e-mail list for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Friday, November 15, 2019

"Just Like My Mother" - Prince's Most Autobiographical Songs


Many of us are still digesting Prince's memoir, The Beautiful Ones, which was released last month. In a post about the book, Prince Vault asked fans to compile a list of the artists's most autobiographical songs.

My attempt is below, with a couple limitations. I stuck to official releases that could be found on streaming services.

1. "When Doves Cry"

Prince wanted to utilize his memoir to address the impact of his parents' relationship on his life and work. Though his book was unfinished, we can refer to this song for emotional insight.

2. "The Sacrifice of Victor"

Desegregation busing, epilepsy and a neighborhood matriarch are just a few subjects in this extremely personal song.

3. "Hello"

If you want to know what happened the night of the "We Are the World" recording, listen to this song.

4. "Paisley Park"

"Paisley Park is the place one should find in oneself, where one can go when one is alone. ... I think when one discovers himself, he discovers God. Or maybe it's the other way around. ... It's a feeling." - Prince, Rolling Stone, 1985

5. "Anna Stesia"

Prince spoke to the media about the spiritual awakening that prompted the Lovesexy album, and much of that experience is detailed on this song.

6. "Cream"

Prince claimed to have written this No. 1 song while looking in the mirror, and I believe him. It came out at a time when he seemed intent on scoring a hit after the disappointing performance of the Lovesexy and Graffiti Bridge albums.

7. "Dolphin"

A beautiful song that showcases both his spiritual interests at the time, as well as his contentious relationship with Warner Bros.

8. "In This Bed Eye Scream"

Written for Wendy and Lisa and Susannah.

9. "The Holy River"

A revealing song about personal redemption.

10. "Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife"

The soundtrack for his first dance as a married man.

11. "Let's Have a Baby"

The soundtrack for the wedding night.

12. "Comeback"

A heartbreaking love letter, likely written with his son, Amiir, in mind.

13. "Breakdown"

Prince told Rolling Stone that the song comes from a "sensitive ... nude" place.

14. "Don't Play Me"

Prince is coming to terms with his place in the industry, artistic independence and spirituality.

15. "The Everlasting Now"

Now turn the page, at an early age
This brother on stage, he was all the rage
He taught an integrated world to sing
The color you are don't mean a thing
Everybody's a star all the everyday people sang

He changed the funk, put it in a bag
Then he changed the colors of the flag
But you can't teach a dog new tricks if his tail don't wag

Don't no matter how much money u made
All the cars you got and all the women you laid
Mess with the flag and to them you are still a spade

16. "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed"

"It was so heavy spiritually for us, he was like, 'You know we can never perform this song again.'" - Ashley Támar Davis

17. "Reflection"

Now, when we hear Prince sing, "I was just thinking about my mother," we have pictures in his memoir to bring life to his memories.

18. "June"

"Shoulda been born on the Woodstock stage..."

19. "Way Back Home"

This just feels personal, and I'd like to think Prince has found his way back to The One.


Click here for my Spotify playlist.

Subscribe to my e-mail list for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Friday, November 8, 2019

"Life is Just a Party" - A Chat with a Prince Fan, Collector & Podcaster


I love scrolling through Jason Breininger's Instagram account, @pressrewind75. His pictures are full of brightly colored, neatly organized Prince music and memorabilia. It's a vision of what could be possible for me if I spent time collecting and curating my home.

Breininger doesn't necessarily specialize in extremely rare items; he just chooses what he likes. And the joy comes through his photos!

Additionally, the Missouri-based superfan runs music website pressrewind.net, and hosts Press Rewind: A Prince Lyrics Podcast. I've had the privilege of being a guest on the show a couple times.

I spoke with Breininger about his projects and love for Prince's music. He also shared pictures of some items from his collection. Check it all out below!

What's your earliest memory of Prince?

I turned 8 in '83 about the time that Prince really became big. I've always been obsessed with music. I lived on a farm in rural Wisconsin. There were no children my age anywhere near me, so I couldn't just jump on my bike and go play at Billy's house or whatever. So it was me, myself, my siblings and my parents.

I distinctly remember [my sister] coming home with "Little Red Corvette" and "1999" [on vinyl]. I really can't explain why, but I was attracted to them completely, from the way they sounded to the way Prince sang the songs. I was very confused; was "Prince" a band? Was it a person? None of that information was readily available. I didn't have MTV. I didn't really know who Little Richard was, but, to this day, I always think Prince never looked more like Little Richard than he did on the cover of the "1999" 7" single.

Breininger now owns every 7" single released by Prince (this is just a portion)

How did you respond to the Purple Rain mania?

We left the farm, and now I'm living in a town with kids all around me. And so I took my love of Prince and I helped my friends experience his music. We all really got into Purple Rain, like really, really. We would listen to the album daily. We would pretend to be members of the band. At that point, we did have MTV.

Breininger's repurposed Purple Rain VHS box,
which is lacquered over a hand-stained wooden box 


Following Purple Rain, did you always keep up with Prince's music in real time?

I really loved pop music for a while. Then, I moved on to hair metal. So I was really getting into bands like Poison and Guns N' Roses and Mötley Crüe. And then, by 1988 or 1989, I was really heavy into hip-hop. So I was listening to a Public Enemy and LL Cool J and NWA. ... I would check [Prince's] stuff out and I loved what I heard, but I wasn't always on board, day one, with his new album.

Then, shortly after the Love Symbol album, I kind of lost Prince. His music was seemingly more insular. I knew his stuff existed. I knew he was releasing music at the same pace he had always been. I'd go to Best Buy and there'd be a display of his triple album, Emancipation. I was like, "Holy shit, that's just so much music!" And then, years later, you've got this four-disc album, Crystal Ball. I personally couldn't keep up, and it wasn't what I was looking for anyway. So the '90s I completely missed out on. I've had to revisit the '90s.

The Prince cassette tapes from Breininger's youth

How did you get back to him?

It took the Musicology album for me to revisit Prince's music. I was out of school and I was married, and now I was living in northwestern Wisconsin--about an hour and a half away from the Twin Cities [where Prince lived]. And they would play Prince's music on The Current [radio station]. The Current really reintroduced me to Prince.

How did you react when he passed away?

We take our artists for granted. Once he passed, I realized, "Holy shit, he's never going to release another album." You just always could count on a new record from Prince every other year. Even toward the end of his career, he had some breaks that were uncommon for him at the time, but he always came back and he was always out there recording and touring.

Why did you create pressrewind.net?

I've always had an interest in artistic endeavors like writing and music and film. But it was never a path for me to take as a career because of self-doubt. About three or four years ago, I [thought], "There's so many avenues where people can express themselves creatively these days. What's wrong with just taking up a hobby just to write your thoughts down?" I utilized the blog as an avenue of creative expression. The idea was to attach memories and attach experiences to music. I have so many things to say about what [Prince] meant to me. So I want to capture some of that, but then also shine a light on some of the other musicians and artists that I really loved and still love.

 Breininger purchased this alphabet/musician art by Monsters of Rock at the Strange Folk Festival in St. Louis

Why did you start Press Rewind: A Prince Lyrics Podcast?

I'm not a musician, so I'm not somebody who is going to be able to intelligently and eloquently break down how Prince created some of the songs that people love so much. Like, what are the things that make this song unique? How did he create studio tricks? That's not something that I feel comfortable enough talking about.

I talk solely about the lyrical content behind Prince's music. ... I decided to go from the beginning all the way to the end [in chronological order] to see his growth as a songwriter through his lyrics, and make connections between songs.

Why is Prince important to you?

I own more Prince music than any other artist, and not just because he made more music than any other artist, but because I've sought it out. Prince has always been there for me. When I was a kid, he was an integral part of my upbringing and an integral part of who I was. I have so many memories with my family and with my friends where Prince's music is interwoven.

This poster of Prince with lyrics from "Let's Go Crazy" was given to Breininger as a gift


Subscribe to my e-mail list for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.