Friday, July 12, 2019

"Pop Life" - Seven Questions for Laura Tiebert

"Life it ain't real funky unless it's got that pop." 


Photo by PhillipsPhotosCDP

To experience life in Prince's high heels, one doesn't have to write timeless music, sell out arenas or attempt to hit a dozen splits at the drop of a hat. Following Prince's example can mean fasting, developing a personal style and making time for play in your busy, adult life.

That's what Minnesota mom Laura Tiebert has been doing since the beginning of 2019. Each month, she completes a Prince-inspired task (she even changed her name in April), and writes about it at lauratiebert.com. She hopes to turn "The Year of Living Like Prince" into a book.

"The impetus, in part, for this project was seeing how people in a fan community can sometimes put that person on a pedestal, and in the process let themselves off the hook," Tiebert said. "[They say], 'Oh, this person's a genius. I could never do this.' Well, you know what, you can do more than you think and you have talents. And it's your job to get out there and share them."

Originally from Wisconsin, Tiebert gravitated toward Prince's music as a teenager. As life got busier with a successful writing career, marriage and parenthood, she lost track of the enigmatic superstar. But when her husband's job prompted a move to Minnesota just before Prince's death in 2016, she was drawn back into the music. A year later, she published a biography, The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988, with co-writer Alex Hahn.

Tiebert graciously answered seven questions about her passion for Prince.

1. On the spectrum from "casual fan" to "hardcore fan," how would you rank yourself?

There are still a lot of people who know much more about Prince than I do. I'm not a musician, there are things about the music that I don't understand, but I'd put myself right up there. I think I've fallen into the category of hardcore fan. ... I'm so grateful for his music and his legacy because it's led me to an amazing place where I feel like I'm serving my purpose in life. Living like Prince and spreading the word, it feels like my purpose.

2. How did your connection to Prince change when you studied his work as an adult? 

I just realized that I had missed a lot, like thousands of songs worth of a lot, and there was so much more to learn. And I think coming to it again now as an adult with teenagers [of my own], I heard the songs differently. I heard different things in the music, and it did resonate with me on a more spiritual level. It was almost like my eyes opened and my heart opened.

3. Other than wearing a "mankini," are there things you won't do while trying to live like Prince?

Working 20 hours a day--I can't. I'm a mom and I have to be up at 6 a.m. to get the kids to school. I can't stay up 'til 5 a.m. and then go to bed and wake up at noon. It's just not going to work for me.

4. As you discovered different aspects of Prince's personality while writing The Rise of Prince, did your relationship with him shift at times?

There were a lot of nights when I would be in front of my laptop, like clutching handfuls of hair going, 'Why, Prince, why?' ... We know he had a dark side and sometimes that was a little hard to stomach. And Alex [Hahn] was very good about facing that and not glossing over it. And I think it's an important part of his story to acknowledge that he wasn't a perfect person.

5. What's something you've learned about Prince that you haven't shared?

For fans, I think they would be interested to know that Prince had invited [author] Betty Eadie to go on tour with him. I think a lot of people know that he was a fan of [her book] Embraced by the Light, maybe they even know that he wrote "Dolphin" for her, and "Into the Light" was inspired by that book. But they might not know that he had taken it to the level where he wanted to give everyone at his show [in the early '90s] one of her books. Then, he was going to have her do her author presentation. It never came to be because Betty decided she couldn't hitch her horse to Prince's wagon per se. But wouldn't that have been something?

6. How does your family respond to your interest in Prince?

In the beginning they thought I had lost my mind, which is completely understandable because I had. But now they just accept their weird mother. And I think as the project develops, they're sort of seeing the greater purpose in it. We've welcomed all kinds of visitors into our home and people stay in our guest room, [which] is decked out in all things Prince. I have confined it to one room. So I'm very proud of myself for that.

I have a very patient and tolerant husband and I greatly appreciate that. The first Mother's Day after Prince died, he went to Electric Fetus [record store] and he got me Dirty Mind. I opened it up at the dining room table in front of the kids and I started sobbing. And the kids, their eyes were like saucers. They were like, "Who is the man in the bikini briefs and why is my mother sobbing?"

7. Besides turning "The Year of Living Like Prince" into a book, what are your long-term goals?

I'm starting to see that "Living Like" could become a series. This could go on and I think there are things to be learned from all sorts of successful people. Right now my life's dream has always been to have a book that came from my heart, and that's what I'm hoping "The Year of Living like Prince" will be. And if I accomplish that, then I'm giving myself a pat on the back. I hope to be able to bring people along on the journey: "Live Like Prince in 2020." Maybe people can follow along in an online class and we'll grow it from there. I also think it's possible that people could pick who they want to live like and I just simply teach how to [do it].


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Friday, July 5, 2019

"All That Glitters" - Review of "Gold Experience: Following Prince in the '90s"


As a newspaper journalist, your beat can depend on a variety of factors: level of experience, holes in coverage and, if you're lucky, level of interest. When I finished journalism school at Ohio University, I was offered a job as a crime reporter in a rural town in Ohio. I almost took it, but ultimately decided I couldn't live on the salary. I think I would've liked the beat, but I'm not sure I would have been mentally strong enough to handle the content.

Not that my job as a reporter with Columbus Alive has been 100 percent uplifting. During the last three years on the "community" beat, I've seen great loss, corruption and despair in the city. However, I've had enough fun moments to balance it all. 

I love my job and I wouldn't trade my experience for anything--except to be in journalist Jim Walsh's shoes. For nearly a decade at the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota, he handled the "Prince" beat. Most people know the late superstar was a prolific recording artist, but one might not think there would be enough content to keep a reporter busy on a weekly-to-monthly basis. 

But then again, many people don't know much about Prince after the '80s. Reading Walsh's book, Gold Experience: Following Prince in the 1990s, I got a clear picture of the artist's amount of activity during the decade. When he told a crowd at his Paisley Park abode, "It's your house, too," he meant it. At one point, he threw parties and concerts nearly each weekend at either his home or his Glam Slam nightclub in Minnesota, and Walsh was present for practically all of it.

A compilation of his articles from 1994 to 2002, Gold Experience takes readers inside those magical, late-night/early-morning events (I would've paid hundreds to see Prince lying on his back playing blues guitar during a loose jam). But the real treasure in the book is its insight into Prince's personality, and a relationship of mutual respect between a journalist and his subject. 

"It all, always comes back to God." - Prince to Jim Walsh, 1996

Taking a cursory glance at national articles and some biographies, one would conclude that Prince was a desperate madman during the 1990s. Having been on the ground in Prince's hometown, Walsh is able to present that common perspective--including his own reservations about the artist--against a more realistic look into Prince's motivations and, more importantly, his humanity. I think readers will also come away with a greater appreciation for the music (though I don't share Walsh's level enthusiasm for the album Come). 

Because Prince was fond of Walsh, allowing him to pen liner notes for his 1995 album, The Gold Experience, and once delaying the start of a show until the reporter arrived, I worried the book would be too biased, praising everything about the musician. I quickly learned that, while Walsh presented himself as a writer "always rooting for Prince, or defending him," he was critical when he needed to be. And there were times Prince made it known he wasn't happy with him.

But there's a difference between being critical and being nasty, as many journalists were when writing about Prince. It was refreshing to read a different approach. Additionally, unlike many other reporters, Walsh was thoughtful, intelligent and respectful. His two interviews with Prince--one in person and one via fax--were some of the most insightful I've read.

"The state of race relations affects me more than ever now that I run my own affairs." - Prince to Jim Walsh, 1997

One of best gifts a journalist can get is knowing their work is being read--and that it is making a difference. Walsh had the great fortune of getting Prince's attention; the artist even summoned him to Paisley Park to share his thoughts on one article, line by line! 

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Obviously, Walsh's articles impacted Prince, but, more importantly, they are making a difference now that the superstar is gone. In the market of Prince books, blogs, articles and podcasts, we need more thoughtful, probing views into this remarkable talent--especially during the '90s, when so many people wrote him off. Gold Experience gets it right.


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

Friday, June 28, 2019

"A Beauty Like Yours" - Interview with Di Quon

Photo courtesy of Di Quon

"I want to do everything."

A succinct answer to a question about life goals resulted in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for actress Di Quon. Back in 1994, Prince sent out an ad recruiting women for "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" music video. The submission process required Di Quon to record a video about her dreams, so she enlisted the help of a friend.

"It was three minutes of me just directly talking into the camera," Di Quon said in a recent phone interview. "I said, 'You asked me what I wanted to do, and I'd like to do everything.'"

Di Quon transferred the footage to a VHS tape and sent it to Prince's team. They called her, but had a puzzling question.

"They're like, 'Hi. The Artist would like to know if you're in one of these commercials or shows,'" Di Quon recalled. "And I was like, 'Commercials or shows?' And they said, 'Yeah, we have six hours of video and we can't find you.'"

Di Quon realized she'd taped the wrong footage and explained her mistake. But Prince requested she come to Paisley Park studios to film the video anyway.

"When I got to the set, he said, 'So you want to do everything? ... I think I have something for you,'" Di Quon said.

While the other actresses in the video portray women seeing themselves depicted in their dream roles on a large screen--wife, mother, comedian, singer, etc.--Di Quon is shown off to the side, or assisting the women. But hers is one of the first faces shown when the video starts.

Click here to watch the video. 

And because she was in multiple scenes, she never really left the set like most of the other women.

"They would get to go to his club [Glam Slam] or they would go have dinner," she said.

But the upside was spending time with Prince.

"He was a total gentleman," Di Quon said. "He always made sure you were comfortable."

He even showed her one of his new guitars.

"He's like, 'Do you want to see something?'" Di Quon said. "It was almost like a kid that had something new."

Months after the shoot, she and the rest of the cast were invited to a premiere party at Paisley Park that paled in comparison to the famous NYC nightclubs, like the Limelight and Club USA, where Di Quon would dance.

"His party was 10 steps above that," she said. "One room had tiles on the floor, and you would step on them and they would make sounds. ... [And] it would play back what you just programmed."

Afterwards, Di Quon ran into Prince a few times at a nightclub where she worked.

"He was just so kind," she said. "He has this very larger-than-life persona. ... [But] he was really one of the most normal, down-to-earth people when you're one-on-one with him. ... He was a really great human being and I wish that I had gotten to know him better."

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While Prince was encouraging artists to create music independent of record labels, Di Quon went on to work for Sony Music, interacting with megastars like Celine Dion, Marc Anthony and Michael Jackson.

"I think that, because I had that experience with Prince, I was able to be a more capable person in the music industry," she said.

Her connection to Prince also helped her when she transitioned into acting.

"The initial credit of having been in this Prince video that everyone has seen was really meaningful in terms of getting my first shoots," she said.

Today, Di Quon has built an impressive resume of film and TV projects, including roles in "Maid in Manhattan," "Grown Ups" and "Kevin Can Wait." She recently wrapped an indie film, "Soulmate(s)."

Also a wife and mother, Di Quon realized she achieved her goal of doing "everything," as she told Prince 25 years ago.

"I look back and I'm like, 'Wow, I actually did a lot of those things [shown in the video] and I'm still creating the path,'" she said.


Learn more about Di Quon on IMDb or diquon.com.

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

Friday, June 21, 2019

"The Spiritual World" - Interview with Lisa Chamblee

"He lived in spirit because he was always a vessel for music."


Photo courtesy of Lisa Chamblee
The first time audio engineer Lisa Chamblee saw Prince with music staff paper was a legendary night at his Paisley Park recording studio.

"I was setting up all of the music stands and he said, 'Make sure we have pencils,'" Chamblee recalled. "I go and sharpen all these pencils and he's walking around, like making sure everything's right and he puts the paper down. And I'm looking at it like, '[This is] dope!'"

That was the night Prince, bassist Sonny T. and drummer Michael Bland--practically a holy, musical trinity--recorded nearly a dozen songs in one session. Prince gave the original New Power Generation band members some chord changes and let them fill in the rest. Several tracks, including "Love Like Jazz" and "Wall of Berlin" (my personal favorite) surfaced on Prince's 2009 album, Lotusflow3r.


"That was spiritual," Chamblee said.

Declaring "I am music" and crediting God as the source of his inspiration, Prince made it clear that the very act of playing music was spiritual.

"He was living his purpose," Chamblee said. "His purpose was to touch people through music. And he fulfilled it."

While Prince's playing is moving on its own (I personally think some of his guitar solos are healing), he consistently provided inspirational messages through his lyrics. In fact, the thesis of my forthcoming book is that Prince's spiritual mission was always to make others aware of God's existence.

Chamblee and I got into some of the spiritual messages in Prince's music.

"When I really listen to his stuff on a spiritual level, I get that he's doing a modern-day Negro spiritual," Chamblee said. "It's catchy, so it catches your attention, but then it has coded information. It talks about oppression, but also talks about freedom and showing us the way."

I'll go through Chamblee's specific examples in the book, but I do want to note that, the same week I talked to her, I was reading about a similar perspective in the Howard Journal of Communications' Prince issue. Some scholars propose that Prince's references to the "afterworld" and "new world" in his songs go beyond religion to describe a future for black people that is free from oppression.

While Prince was proud of his heritage and wrote some songs specifically for black people, he also encouraged unity among all races, Chamblee noted.

"The love for Prince has no color or nationality," she said. "He's beloved by the human race. I bet the [extraterrestrials] love him, too."

Born in Minneapolis, Chamblee honed her skills as an engineer in the Twin Cities and graduated from the Institute of Production and Recording (IPR). She went on to gain a credit as an assistant engineer on Prince's 3121 album. There's a terrific profile on Chamblee by the PRN Alumni Foundation, which honors Prince's legacy as a humanitarian.

"I am grateful for this organization because we carry on his missions, especially giving to the people he gave to," she said.

Focusing more on spirituality in our interview, Chamblee discussed her own experience with the Jehovah's Witness faith, which Prince adopted later in his life. Chamblee did Bible study with members of Prince's inner circle, but was too much of a "free spirit" to join the religion.

We also talked about Prince's belief in the "third eye," an esoteric concept of an invisible eye, which provides spiritual intuition.

"The third eye is like your entrance into the spirit world," she said. "He was very spiritual and he lived in spirit because he was always a vessel for music. And that is a huge spiritual experience in itself because anytime you have nothing and then all of a sudden there is something, there's spirit involved."


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

Friday, June 14, 2019

"Funky Fresh for the '90s" - Favorite Prince Songs (Part 2)


Back in 2015, I attempted to identify my favorite song from each of Prince's albums from 1978 to 1990. I might make different choices today, but I'll let that list stand.

I thought I'd continue that series by sharing my selections from his 1990s albums.

1. Graffiti Bridge (1990): "The Question of U." What a bloody fight between that, "Joy in Repetition" and "Elephants & Flowers." "The Question of U" is just so intriguing due to the dark mood, voice effects and hand claps.

2. Diamonds and Pearls (1991): "Thunder." If you'd asked me this question about 20 years ago at the beginning of my fandom, I would've said "Willing and Able." But I've grown to love this album so much more since then. "Live 4 Love" is such a burst of energy--largely due to Michael Bland's drumming--but I have to give it to "Thunder," which is a genius composition. You can also pull no less than three interpretations from the lyrics.

3. Love Symbol (1992): "Love 2 the 9's." Unpopular opinion for sure. Yes, I know "7" is on this album. "The Sacrifice of Victor" is also a fierce competitor (I often rewind it just to hear the harmony on "Amen" at the end). This is another album that has grown on me, and I think it's one of his strongest from the decade. "Love 2 the 9's" just makes me happy; Prince was so good at capturing pure joy in his compositions.

4. Come (1994): "Papa." I read about this song before I ever heard it. I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't the ominous music and heavy, allegedly personal lyrics. It's one of his most unique songs, and the end tugs at my heart every time. "If you love somebody, your life won't be in vain."

5. The Black Album (1994): "Bob George." I don't have a strong personal connection to this album. I have grown to appreciate it, especially through hearing analysis from black scholars on its cultural significance. "Bob George" is Prince at his funniest and quirkiest.

6. The Gold Experience (1995): "Shy." Why am I subjecting myself to this exercise? It's painful to make these choices, but the bass and guitar parts on this track are so interesting (please listen closely in your headphones). I am also a sucker for Prince showing off his Sly Stone-esque vocal ad libs. And it's really great songwriting; the lyrics are creative and vague, so you can have fun filling in the holes. "Cool, dark skin and hot virgin white..."

7. Chaos and Disorder (1996): "The Same December." Break out the tambourines! My favorite part of this song is the gospel music-inspired outro. He switches up the groove multiple times throughout this song, and it's all very delicious. There are also thought-provoking lyrics about unity and the power of perception: "You only see what your heart will show."

8. Emancipation (1996): "Jam of the Year." This is an underrated gem. In the past, it took me a while to comb through this three-disc album and appreciate the songs. However, I instantly loved the laid back groove of "Jam of the Year," along with Rosie Gaines' amazing riffs. Just recently, while listening with headphones, I noticed some ad libs by Prince that I never caught before. That happens a lot with his music.

9. Crystal Ball (1998): "Crystal Ball." I'm not a huge fan of this album, but there are a few tracks I'll play from time to time. The title song, recorded back in 1986, is a 10-minute opus combining all the familiar Prince elements--war, sex and Jesus--over an orchestral arrangement by Clare Fischer. I also have some deeper thoughts about Prince's crystal ball imagery that I'll share in my book.

10. The Truth (1998): "Animal Kingdom." This is one of Prince's top ten albums of all time. I can say that with confidence. When I was younger, I never had any bootlegs of Prince music, so I didn't even know he had a lot of acoustic tunes before I found this project at Half Price Books. I have such a personal relationship with all of these songs. As the years have passed, I find myself drawn to "Animal Kingdom." Prince managed to make a really eccentric song that is still soulful as hell (again, please listen closely to his vocal ad libs).

11. The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale (1999): "Old Friends 4 Sale." More times than not, Prince's re-worked versions of songs are inferior to the original versions. This iteration is an exception; to me, it's equally as strong as the 1985 version. The orchestration is beautiful, and I will always be a sucker for recordings that feature Prince doing soulful vocal ad libs (as you may have gathered by reading this list).

12. Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999): "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold." This album is a contender for my least favorite Prince project of all time. This song is one of its few gems. It's R&B with an Arabic flavor and Biblical lyrics--all things that I love. Plus, I'll always remember seeing this video when I was a young teenager and thinking, "This sounds good but he's ... odd."


Can you pick just one favorite song from each '90s album? Please comment with your lists below!

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

Friday, June 7, 2019

"It's June" - Prince Birthday Giveaway!


Congrats to the winner, Nate E.! 

This contest has closed. 

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

Friday, May 31, 2019

"Come to the Park and Play" - Interview with Kathy Good

Photo courtesy of Kathy Good

It's been over 25 years since Kathy Good went in search of Prince in New York City. Trudging over snow and ice in the dead of winter, she asked passersby where he might be. Visits to Central Park, the zoo and even a rooftop proved fruitless.

That was the story line for Good's audition tape for Prince's 1994 video, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." A huge fan since the early '80s, the New York native saw Prince's vague newspaper ad--"Eligible bachelor seeks the most beautiful girl in the world," it read--and sent in a couple snapshots at the behest of her friends. Selected as one of the finalists, she was asked to submit a video.

Then, Prince called her at home.

Kathy Good's audition video for "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" 

"He said, 'Who did your video?'" Good recalled, laughing. "Those were the first words. ... And he asked what I was wearing."

With a background in sound recording and experience managing post-production for commercials and film, Good's audio/visual skills were evident. Prince saw something in her and invited her to be in his music video.

Prince's newspaper ad for "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,"
courtesy of Kathy Good

According to Good, original plans to host the shoot in Los Angeles were derailed by the massive 1994 earthquake. To her delight, production was moved to Prince's home, Paisley Park.

At the airport, she met a woman who was also en route to the video shoot.

"I was like, 'Wait a minute, there are other girls?'" Good said. "'I thought I was the only one.'"

Correspondence from Paisley Park,
courtesy of Kathy Good

In fact, Prince featured several women of myriad colors, shapes and sizes in various roles (singer, mother and even president).

With her dreadlocks and signature top hat (she wears one every day), Good felt out of place. She was also one of the oldest women there.

"I'm this funky girl and there were all these girls with beautiful hair and long eyelashes," said Good, who did her own makeup for the shoot. "I'm just not that kind of girl. I'm a nerd."

But in the video, Good, who portrays a director, is striking. Though Antoine Fuqua was hired to direct the video, Prince ended up coaching Good through her performance. They also formed a bond on set.

"I followed him all around," she recalled. She also stood in for his lighting and held his cane while he filmed his scenes.

"After a while he just gave it to me," she said.


At the end of shoot, Prince pulled her aside. "I want to work with you," he said. Nothing ever came of that desire, but she did see him again at one of his shows in New York.

"He's like, 'Hang out and we'll dance together,'" she said. But she didn't want to be a hanger-on.

"I'm just not about being in that scene," she said. "What did I have to show him? I didn't have anything. I didn't have music."

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Now that Prince is gone, Good has her memories--watching him walk up the stairs in pants that exposed his behind through a layer of mesh; that time he told her not to dirty up his bathroom; that other time he joked about disliking peanut butter and chocolate cookies.

But she has so much more. Like others who have interacted with Prince, she has been inspired beyond measure.

"After the whole thing happened, I was like, 'Well, what was that all about?'" Good said. "'It's gotta be something more.' And I thought, 'Well, maybe it's to come into my own. I never was doing what I really should be doing because I'm a creative person. And I was doing a job that wasn't creative at all, and it was very frustrating to me. But when he died, I thought, 'You know what? You just have to go for it.'"

Today, Good is fully committed to her work as a watercolor painter and writer, creating whimsical, Gothic characters for children. She recently completed her first art show at her local library.

Painting of Prince by Kathy Good.
"It's small, just like him," she said.

More than 25 years after being found by Good, Prince remains a steady presence in her life.

"I think he just had such a big, powerful soul that touched so many people in a cosmic way," she said.


Follow Kathy Good on Instagram @kgoodart

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