Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Beginning Endlessly"- Continuing the Journey

So, it’s December 31, 2011. I have yet to reach my goal of meeting and interviewing Prince, but I think I’ve achieved a lot. You can check out details of my progress here. To summarize, I have expanded my book through my work in graduate school at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. There’s a lot more to be done, but I’ve added a solid amount based on extensive research on Prince’s media coverage and my interview with Gayle Chapman (I will incorporate what I’ve learned from chatting with Howard Bloom, shortly).

I have yet to secure a book publisher, but in all honesty, I haven’t devoted much time to that. Although going to school, contributing to Billboard and working have kept me away from that task, those experiences have helped me establish credibility as a journalist—something that I hope will help me secure more Prince-related interviews.


With that said, I am revising my goal to further expand my book and to meet the legendary musician in roughly two years, or on "a purple day in December" 2012. Here are just a few of my objectives for the New Year:

  1. Redesign website—I am by no means a web design expert; I am learning with everyone else. However, I plan to make some changes to the site and attach it to my personal website with my other articles.

  2. Incorporate more interactive media. I’ve dabbled in this with the Google Map , Twitter chat and audio of my radio interview , but I’d love to take it to the next level to connect more with readers and Prince fans.

  3. Secure more interviews (obviously).

  4. Get in touch with Tavis Smiley. Prince fans will know that the artist is a good friend of the media personality. Ebony magazine secured an interview with Prince with the help of Tavis Smiley, so it’s worth a try!

  5. Turn in 160 pages of the book to my Master’s Professional Project committee at Ohio University.

  6. Devote more time to research potential agents and book
    publishers.

  7. Blog, Blog, Blog! That goes without saying. No more sporadic posts! It’s going to be tough because I always have so many things going on, but nothing worth having is ever easy.

See you in the New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Ol' Skool Company" - Interview with Howard Bloom

Here is my long-overdue post about my interview with Howard Bloom, Prince’s press agent during the 1980s. We chatted for about five hours at a coffee shop in Brooklyn last summer. It was amazing!

Bloom was a source for Alex Hahn's “Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince.” It was great to confirm Hahn’s information, and get more in-depth details. “I’m giving you a slightly broader context than I probably was able to give Alex at the time,” Bloom said.

While Hahn provides a general view of Prince’s life and career, I am obviously focusing on Prince’s spiritual journey. Therefore, I kept my line of questioning on that topic. When describing Prince’s “Purple Rain” tour, during which the artist had conversations with God onstage, Hahn quotes Bloom as saying, “Prince had been rebelling against God and morality, and now God and morality were taking him over.”

Through my interview, I learned that Bloom did not necessarily mean “God” in the literal sense, but more as a representation of Prince’s conscience, or more mature self. “In the metamorphoses from adolescence to adulthood, you go from rebelling against your father to becoming your father,” Bloom said. “And who represents the father? Who’s a convenient way to personalize the voice of the father inside of you? God.”

Bloom didn’t deny that Prince may have had a certain spiritual power in mind, but he couldn’t confirm it, especially since Prince never discussed spirituality with him. “My guess is that he was not ideological about any specific religion at all…It would take him some time before he found some specific [religion].”

I did ask him if he saw any evidence of Prince dabbling in the occult, which is a rumor among some fans. “I never saw any signs of it in any way whatsoever,” Bloom said.

He did learn enough about Prince to coach the artist on how to talk to the media, a process he compares to “Dumbo” the elephant using “magic feathers” to fly. “I gave Prince a whole bunch of magic feathers,” Bloom said. “And with those magic feathers, Prince was able to do interviews for three years, much as they went against his nature.” Although Prince began opening up about his spirituality to the media in the mid-1980s, Bloom said he did not prep the artist for that.

Just as I had done in my interview with Gayle Chapman, I asked Bloom if he was surprised that Prince is a Jehovah’s Witness. While Chapman said “No,” Bloom said “Yes,” and offered an equally intriguing response.

Overall, my interview with Bloom will be a valuable part of the book. He has prompted me to think about Prince’s spiritual journey in different ways, and he has been a great resource for my research on Prince's relationship with the media. He also articulated how I feel about the power of musicians:
If people really get into you, they're not going to get into you just because of one little piece of music...they're going to get into you because you stand for something, you liberate something in their life, you validate something that doesn't have a voice outside of you in their lives...And they're going to read stories about you...And who you are is going to give them permission to be a self they couldn't have been without you.
What Prince believes is not the important thing—it’s the story of how he overcame his internal struggles to achieve peace that is inspiring, and that is why I want to tell it.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Do I Believe in God?" - Rolling Stone Journalists' Thoughts on Prince's Spirituality

A few months ago, I interviewed several Rolling Stone writers for my academic research paper, An Analysis of Rolling Stone's Coverage of Prince. Although that project was not about Prince's spirituality, I did ask some of the journalists a few questions about the subject.

As I've said before, I am covering the media's reaction to Prince's spirituality in depth in the book (see "Prince and the Media," Part I and Part II). As I promised earlier, I am sharing some of what I learned from Rolling Stone writers Anthony DeCurtis, David Browne and Tom Moon:

On journalists' perception of Prince's spirituality in the 1980s and 1990s:

It seems that they really didn't know what to think, especially given Prince's mixed messages in his music and his reluctance to open up to the media.

"For me, it was always a little muddled," said David Browne, who reviewed Lovesexy for Rolling Stone. "It was like he was grappling with it, like how sexual or how spiritual to get, back and forth."

Although the overall message may have been confusing, journalists and fans alike seemed to enjoy Prince's combination of the sacred and profane in his music. Browne appreciated that mixture in Lovesexy, and DeCurtis said that that aspect of Prince's music makes him comparable to other artists in rock: "The other kind of connections between spirituality and sexuality that he was playing around with...in many ways has been true in rock and roll going back to Little Richard."

Do journalists think that Prince is genuine in his Jehovah's Witness faith?

"As far as his spiritual thinking, I think he very ardently believes whatever he very ardently believes that minute," DeCurtis said.

Because Browne and Moon have not followed Prince very closely in recent years, they couldn't really give an opinion, but Moon brought up a good point: "I think he’s one of those people that because he was such a risqué figure for so long, it was easy to sort of say, ‘Oh now he’s just doing this sort of transcendant-seeking, God-seeking sort of atone[ment].'" I really think that is a popular view, and one of my goals is to show that Prince's "God-seeking" is not new at all.

Moon also wanted to know if Prince has actually renounced his old vulgar content. In my opinion, at this point in my research, I wouldn't say he has renounced it, but that he is a different person, more mature and in a different mindset, spiritually. I don't think he is condemning who he was at all.

There will be a lot more from my discussions with those and other Rolling Stone journalists (Robert McNamara, Jim Henke, etc.) and the questions that were raised will be addressed further in the book.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“Is Everybody Ready? Here We Go!” – Updates

Hey purple hippies and other curious readers! I have been gone for quite some time, but I have some great updates for you! Coincidentally, I’m more than halfway past my “meet-Prince-in-one-year-goal.” So, I thought I’d reveal what I’ve been up to and assess my progress:

• My “Rolling Stone Coverage of Prince” was not accepted by AEJMC, but only because the panel felt that the research belonged in a different type of outlet (i.e. consumer magazine or pop culture academic journal). I am going to pursue publication elsewhere, and then make it available to my blog readers in the future.

• I finished my coursework for my graduate degree in journalism and I am working at Billboard magazine in NYC this summer! I have been fortunate enough to interview a lot of artists and get stories published online and in the magazine. While I haven’t done a Prince story, I’ve been able to network with people who can help me with my goals for the Prince book (I did, however, contribute a blurb on Prince and Andy Allo's cover of "Love is a Losing Game" to Billboard's article on Amy Winehouse tributes - R.I.P. Amy!!).

• I’ve completed another interview for my book! I spoke with Prince’s former press agent, Howard Bloom, for many hours here in New York. Readers of Alex Hahn’s “Possessed: the Rise and Fall of Prince” will remember that Bloom was quoted a few times. I have verified the things that he said to Hahn and found out a lot of information relevant to my topic. I will share some of that info in a later blog post, similar to the one about Gayle Chapman.

• I’ve FINALLY created an Excel sheet of the Prince affiliates whom I want to interview. I’ve contacted most of them, and I’m hoping to cross Larry Graham and Dez Dickerson off the list soon.

I’m ok with my progress thus far. It’s been difficult being in graduate school and working during this process. I’m happy that I’ve spoken with Gayle Chapman, Howard Bloom and several Rolling Stone writers so far. I would like to have more interviews under my belt, but I hope to achieve that in the next couple months.

I’m also really looking forward to connecting more with my readers and other Prince fans. I’ve enjoyed the interactive things I’ve done such as the Google Map and Twitter chat. I hope to do more.

I will be submitting a new chunk of my book to Ohio University as my Master’s Professional Project to officially get my degree. One of my requirements is to research other popular artists with spiritual journeys, such as Little Richard, Marvin Gaye and Bob Dylan. I’m actually looking forward to that. If you have any suggestions about other artists to check out, please let me know!

As for meeting Prince...he's in New York from time to time, so you never know! I feel closer!

I’m excited! I have a lot to share with you and I’m sorry for the wait. I hope you’ll stick around!

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Around the World in a Day" - Prince's Spiritual Landmarks

I thought it would be fun to provide a brief, visual summary of Prince's spiritual journey using Google Maps. In the map below, I've highlighted some relevant key landmarks in Prince's life and career and provided the story behind each one. I've included some links to other Prince biographies, articles and a couple cool videos.

As I did with the Twitter Chat (and all of my previous blog entries), I'm sharing this post with Prince fans and friends on Facebook, Twitter and fan sites Prince.org and Princefams.com.

Please share your thoughts via those sites or in the comments section below. Are there other locations that should be on the map? If so, let me know, and I'll add them!


View Prince's Spiritual Landmarks in a larger map

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Interactive" - Prince Twitter Chat

My book is based on my own research and interviews, but I like to hear the thoughts of Prince fans and others who will be interested in reading the final version. After all, I was motivated to write it because it seems that people are not completely clear on Prince's spiritual evolution, which has, no doubt, impacted his music.

On April 18, I decided to conduct a Twitter Chat on Prince and spirituality. I advertised on Facebook, Prince.org, Princefams.com and my Twitter account, of course.

*Click on screen shots for better quality*



Here are the six questions (roughly two were asked each day) and some responses:

1) What are your thoughts on Prince as a spiritual artist?



2) Thoughts on Prince's decision to eliminate "Darling Nikki," etc. and profanity
from shows?





3) Anyone see the Purple Rain Tour in person? Your opinion on the "Conversations with God" segment?

4) Anyone see the One Nite Alone Tour in person? Inspirational or too preachy?

5) Thoughts on the Rainbow Children album? Inspirational? Confusing?



6) Which Prince song has inspired you the most, and why?



You can view the entire discussion on my "Twitter favorites."

Although the discussion wasn't as extensive as it could have been, it did reinforce something: the messages in Prince's songs are inspirational to others. I really believe that the story that I'm trying to tell will do the same. I think anyone's triumph over his or her own internal struggles and realization of spiritual clarity--no matter what that spiritual clarity is--can be inspirational to others. You don't have to be of a specific faith to appreciate it.

I certainly want to keep hearing from all of you! Continue tweeting #prince and #princespiritual, or feel free to leave comments below! In fact, I'd love to see more answers to the questions (no one answered #3 and #4).

Thanks!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Willing and Able" - Prince Paper Submitted to AEJMC

Ok, so I was gone even longer this time, but for good reason. As I mentioned earlier, I was working on a 25-page research paper, An Analysis of Rolling Stone's Coverage of Prince, 1978-2004.

It is completed, and I have submitted it to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). Every year, AEJMC holds a conference to discuss the latest mass communications research. If I am selected to present in August (in St. Louis), it will be a great honor and boost to my credibility as a Prince scholar. I will find out in May!

How did I write the paper?

I looked at EVERY Prince-related Rolling Stone article from 1978 to April 23, 2004, when he told Entertainment Weekly, “It took me four albums to get on the cover of Rolling Stone, now it takes artists only one. There should be rules for that kind of thing!”

I also had the honor of talking to five Rolling Stone writers who covered Prince: Anthony DeCurtis, Jim Henke, Tom Moon, David Browne and Robert McNamara.

What did I find?

Prince actually landed his first Rolling Stone cover after the release of his fifth album, 1999. The magazine was beginning to cover African American artists again, and making a shift from featuring aging legends to embracing the new, cutting-edge artists popular with the youth culture. Meanwhile, the magazine was paying increasing attention to him as he recorded, toured, built an audience, and finally had an outstanding commercial success. After that, it could justify putting him on the cover—not only was he a fresh talent, but he would be able to sell magazines.

By contrast, today's music industry has changed to churn out more abrupt successes, and the magazine is often a reflection of that.

Overall, Prince has had a dynamic relationship with Rolling Stone. The magazine built him up to the status of its old heroes, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones during the 1980s and then criticized him for "mediocre" work in the 1990s.

Although Prince disagreed, the magazine appeared neutral regarding his struggle with Warner Bros.

Prince would eventually land the cover of Rolling Stone later in 2004 on May 27. His induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and successful tour reminded everyone of what he had accomplished.

I will post a link to the entire paper once I hear back from AEJMC, and, hopefully, develop a website of my music writing.

What about journalists' thoughts on Prince's spirituality?

I had some interesting disucssions with the Rolling Stone writers on that subject. Bits from those talks will be in one of the next few posts.

Happy to be back! Stay with me!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"It Always Sounds Like I'm Preaching" - Prince and the Media, Part II

I mentioned earlier that I am researching the media's reaction to Prince's spiritual expression. I shared my thought that the media, preoccupied with the lewd components of Prince's work, didn't take the spiritual side of Prince's music seriously in the early period of Prince's career.

By the time the Around the World in a Day album was released (1985), there seemed to be a shift in the mainstream press. Prompted by songs like "Paisley Park" and "The Ladder," reporters began asking Prince about his religion. Prince confirmed a belief in God, but he did not explicitly claim a specific faith (although he was beginning to reference Jesus in his music), or discuss the topic in-depth.

There seems to be one exception: African American media, specifically Ebony magazine. Both Rolling Stone and Ebony had exclusive, one-on-one interviews with Prince during the same period (1985-1986). In his interview with Rolling Stone, Prince gave a vague response about religion, using his song "Paisley Park" as a reference point. However, in his interview with Ebony , he opened up a little more and admitted that God was the key to his happiness.

He did explain his reluctance to speak about religion. "I don't really like talking about it much...it always sounds like I'm preaching."

Prince continued to be forthcoming with Ebony about his faith throughout the years. In fact, one writer, Lynn Norment, wrote the majority of the Prince features. When the magazine did an extensive story on Prince in 2004, the artist and the writer had developed a comfortable rapport. One of my goals is to track down Ms. Norment and talk to her about her experience interviewing Prince.

For my journalism history class, I've decided to focus on Rolling Stone's coverage of Prince from 1978 to 2004. It is not quite in line with my personal project, as I am looking at topics other than spirituality. Back in 2004, Prince made a comment to Entertainment Weekly that it took him four albums to get on the cover of Rolling Stone. One month later, the magazine did a cover story--fourteen years after the last one! Prince has made other comments about Rolling Stone, and I'd like to explore his relationship with the magazine.

After I complete this school paper, I plan to go back to African American media coverage of Prince's spirituality. I'd like to look at other publications such as Jet and some broadcast media.

I will check back in very soon!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"What I Learned from Layin' in the Cut" - I'm back!

Unfortunately, my one-week hiatus turned into a very long break. The intensity of my one-year master's program is starting to take its toll. Although I have been busy with school and personal matters, my Prince project has never left my mind. Here are some updates:

I am so close to securing the next big interview for my book. I was actually set to do the interview back in mid-January, but we had to reschedule. I am being persistent, and I'm waiting for my source's schedule to free up next week. I hope to have good news soon.

I have been continuing my research on Prince and the media, and I am really intrigued by African American magazines' coverage of Prince's spirituality. I will elaborate on this subject in the next post.

I have been swamped with reading for school, but I managed to finally get through the first few chapters of Dez Dickerson's book. So far, I'm really enjoying it, and I look forward to learning about his exit from The Revolution in his own words. Based on other Prince biographies, his departure was spritually motivated. Honestly, I probably won't get back to the book until spring break when I have time to continue in chronological order (I don't like to skip ahead). After all this time, I just noticed that Mr. Dickerson included a personalized autograph in the front cover of my copy! Whether or not he signs them all, I think it's pretty cool. I hope he decides to talk to me in the future...

I recently received information that some of Prince's acquaintances are under orders not to speak to the media about him. That makes sense. If nothing else, I want them to understand that I don't have any ill intentions, and I'm not interested in writing a tell-all. On the other hand, I'm not trying to paint Prince as a saint. My desire is to be as objective as possible. I think people will be interested and hopefully inspired by the story. I think anyone's growth and maturity over the years can be inspiring to others.

With that said, it's probably best to start contacting the people who are the most removed from Prince. I would absolutely love to talk to Ingrid Chavez, his co-star in Graffiti Bridge. She appears to be continuing with her own music career. According to other biographies, she seemed to have a profound effect on Prince, and she was present during a crucial time of spiritual development in the artist's life. I tried to contact her a while back via her website, but I didn't get a response. I will definitely try again.

One of my loyal readers mentioned that she really wants me to find out more about the "Prince and the occult" rumors. As I've said, I have never read or heard anything about that, but I will look into it in the future. I have not forgotten!

Well, I dreamed that I met Prince twice in the past month. I hope that is a good sign! The rest of my quarter is looking pretty unpredictable, but I don't want to stay away this long again!

Thank you so much for reading.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Even the Soliders Need a Break Sometimes" - Be Back Next Week

Hey everyone! Just checking in to say that I will have a full blog entry up next week (or sooner). My schedule is very hectic this week. However, I am working on securing a big interview for my book next week! If all goes according to plan, I hope to have another sneek peak posted by next Wednesday. I am also expecting to have my official "Welcome 2 America" concert review posted on a music website shortly. Please continue to keep your fingers crossed for me, and as always, I will keep you up to date!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"All the Critics Love You" - Prince and the Media

As I mentioned last week, I was invited to talk about my book on Paisley Radio! I participated in last Sunday's show, and I had a wonderful time. I discussed the four phases of Prince's spiritual development (based on my research and interpretation) and some of my favorite Prince songs with spiritual messages, among other topics. I will embed the audio in a blog entry in the near future. You can listen here for a limited amount of time.

Some of my other plans for the past week were put on hold as I prepared for the start of the winter school quarter. However, I did receive helpful feedback from the director of my graduate program after he read an excerpt from the book. I'm meeting with him tomorrow to talk more about my project.

I intend to get back to contacting agents, creating my source list, requesting interviews and reading Dez Dickerson's book, but I also want to start expanding my research on a particular subject: Prince and the media. Specifically, I would like to scrutinize the media's reaction to Prince's spiritual expression in his music and interviews.

I've found that throughout the early period of Prince's career (1978-1983), the media recognized the artist's consistent mix of the sacred and profane, but didn't take the spiritual side seriously. Then, at the height of Purple Rain's success, the media seemed preoccupied with the lewd components of Prince's work. Because Prince did not open up to the media about his beliefs (or anything else, for that matter), his overtly sexual image became crystallized among the public. Perhaps this explains why today, a more outspoken Prince has trouble convincing people of his spiritual rebirth. Prince is no longer a commercial force in the vein of Purple Rain, and the world, already having acquired a solid image of Prince, is not watching as closely.

I've already written quite a bit about this issue, but there is room for more analysis. I wanted to briefly introduce this topic because I plan to cover it frequently in this blog as I do more research for my book.

Thanks for reading!