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!

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