Friday, March 29, 2019

"Songs We Used to Sing" - Reflecting on Lotusflow3r

More than any other artist, Prince provided the soundtrack to roughly the last 15 years of my life. I vividly remember walking across my college campus during my freshman year, listening to "What Do You Want Me 2 Do?" from the Musicology album. I can picture myself eating candy in my dorm room, dancing to "Jam of the Year" and "Fascination" from Emancipation and The Truth, respectively (I'd just discovered both albums, thanks to Half Price Books).

I can also see myself sitting at the computer in my college library, freaking out over Prince dropping "PFUnk" in response to criticism from fan sites. I didn't have a purple family at the time, so I only had my uncle (a Prince fan from the early years) to tell.

Ten years ago this week, Prince released his Lotusflow3r triple album. I was between college and graduate school, figuring out what to do with my life while living at home. I figured I'd share some memories associated with each disc.


My most vivid memory associated with this disc is watching Prince perform "Ol' Skool Company" on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on March 25, 2009. In fact, I was "talking to" this guy ("dating" is too strong), and I arrived at his house just in time to watch. I think I was more excited to see Prince than him. Poor dude.

Favorite tracks: "Ol' Skool Company," "Valentina," "No More Candy 4 U"

Check out my discussion of "Valentina" on the Prince: Track by Track podcast here.


In 2009, I went to Los Angeles to interview for a position with the Recording Academy. It was a pretty crazy time. For example, I went to the newly opened Grammy Museum, fainted in the elevator from heat exhaustion, iced my behind with a pack of frozen vegetables at my friend's apartment, and ultimately went to the hospital to get an X-ray of my tailbone.

Through it all, I was listening to Lotusflow3r. I distinctly remember playing "4Ever" and being sad about some guy. Also, I didn't get the job.

With my friend, Sarah

Favorite tracks: "Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful," "Wall of Berlin," "Dreamer"

Click on each song above for my discussions on the "Prince: Track By Track Podcast."


"To all the haters on the internet, somebody's looking at you!" You know who you are. You don't like this album by Prince's protege, Bria Valente, but I do. There are some really beautiful songs and vocal arranging here.

Also during 2009, I didn't have a car, and was using the Cincinnati bus system to get to and from work. I do not miss it. In fact, a man with an open wound sat next to me and nearly bled on me. I thought I was going to pass out at the sight of it, and I was too shy back then to draw attention to myself by instantly moving away.

Anyhow, I remember listening to "Home" over and over on the bus. Everything about this song is dope, from the groove (listen to that acoustic guitar!) to her vocal choices. I also love the idea of finding a sense of peace with another person. In my interpretation, the lyrics provide an intimate peek into Prince's search for that, but through the eyes of the woman who would eventually be his partner. It's a very human moment, and I felt I could relate to him as someone searching for the same thing.

"In your life, there are many houses, but now you finally got a home."

Prince really outdid himself lyrically on this whole album, expressing a lot of his desires and flaws (see "Kept Woman")--all from the vantage point of the woman in the relationship. I need to write more about this underrated album one day.

Favorite tracks: "Home," "Here Eye Come," "Something U Already Know"

What are your opinions on--or memories associated with--the Lotusflow3r project?

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Friday, March 22, 2019

"Where'd You Get Those Glasses?" - Interview with Wally Safford

...With a little help from Jerome Benton

Photo courtesy of Wally Safford, pictured with Prince. 

"'17 Days' was about me."

"And 'Gett Off' was about me."

"'Pussy Control' was about me."

Those were some of the revelations that occurred during my interview with Prince's dancer, bodyguard and friend, Wally Safford, who called me with Jerome Benton on the line. Safford and Benton, former member of The Time and The Family, ran down a list of songs that Prince wrote about them.

They, of course, were joking.

"We are comedians," Safford said. "This is what Prince thrived on. He was a practical joker."

Well, there was one song that referenced Safford. The story of "Wally" has become legendary among the fan community. According to engineer Susan Rogers, Prince recorded the song in 1986 and had it erased. He recorded a new version, which recently surfaced on YouTube.

"That was a conversation between me and Prince," Safford said of the content of the song.

In most other cases, when it comes to subjects of Prince's songs, only the late superstar knows for sure.

"Everybody can come up with some creative connection to any one of Prince's songs," said Benton, whom I have also interviewed separately. "How many women have claimed to be 'Little Red Corvette?'"

"That was about me," Safford said, laughing.

Since Prince passed away, there has been an increasing amount of scholarship and other coverage of his life and career, as well as a re-examining of old narratives. Many people, myself included, are advocating for more diverse voices in this work. And as I spoke with Benton and Safford, I became excited by the value that they can add to the discussion, if they choose to do so.

"You let everybody else tell their story [and they say], 'All Wally is, is a bodyguard,'" Benton said. "There's more to him."

Much like bodyguard Harlan Austin, Safford became one of Prince's close friends. Having previously provided security for musical acts such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Safford met Prince in 1979 and worked with him through 1987.

Safford noted that there was a tight-knit group of people, including dancer and security guard Greg Brooks, who hung with Prince. "We were considered the Purple Gang," he said.

Both Benton and Safford were around to witness Prince and his father, John L. Nelson (Safford called him "Pops"), create on the piano, and join in musical discussions.

"With Pops, we talked about music a lot," Safford said. "Mainly jazz. His favorite artist was Charlie Parker. I would go to Tower Records to get him some cassettes and ... we would sit and listen."

There's so little knowledge about the extent of John L. Nelson's impact on Prince's music. It's great to know that there are people around who could help fill in those gaps.

Photo courtesy of Wally Safford, pictured with photographer Steve Parke at 2018 Celebration at Paisley Park

But my study is on Prince's spirituality. Safford said Prince was "always spiritual," and both he and Benton kindly shared their perspectives on his journey (there will be more in my book, of course).

While Prince has written so many straightforwardly religious songs ("God," "The Cross," "Anna Stesia," etc.), others also made a profound impact. Safford pointed to Prince's spiritual connection to "Purple Rain." In fact, both he and Prince's former press agent Robyn Riggs had similar observations about that.

"He would come off the stage and he would be in an emotional state," Safford said. "Prince was special. He was sent here by God for a special reason."

"His journey was pretty amazing," Benton added. "He started out onstage with the Rolling Stones, and wasn't accepted by that culture of people. ... At the end, he was onstage with the [purported] greatest guitar players of all time, which were all white [at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction], and they had to sit back and watch him destroy."

Safford left Prince's employ when Prince made personnel changes to his band.

"I wasn't angry or bitter with Prince because, as a kid off of Rosa Parks Boulevard, right down the street where the 1967 Detroit riots started, I was winning," Safford said. "I went around the world six times with this guy. ... The pleasure was all mine."

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Friday, March 15, 2019

"A Guitar That Can Part the Sea" - Prince's Moses References

Note: I do not think Prince is Moses.

I think most casual fans are aware that Prince referenced religion in his music. Those who were really into the Purple Rain era would know about the song "God," which is a recounting of the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible. If they stuck around for Lovesexy, they would have heard Prince proclaim Jesus as his God on "Anna Stesia."

Those who paid some attention in the '90s might have heard Prince reference the Biblical creation story again on "My Name is Prince," or praise Jesus once more on "Holy River."

But there are so many other Biblical references, both coded ("De-elevator," "Spooky Electric" even "love") and conspicuous. And Jesus isn't the only person getting shine. Prince also alludes to the prophet Moses quite a bit. With that said, I give you some of those occasions.

Charlton Heston in the The Ten Commandments. Photo: "Moses" by Superfloop, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

"Thieves in the Temple" - Extended version (1990)

To make a point about an ex-lover, Prince sings, "You led me on, thinking you was Moses, herding sheep blindly through a fantasy.” 

Did Prince use these analogies because they were easily accessible, given his religious upbringing--or just given his life in a Christian-leaning Western country? Plenty of American writers employ Christian imagery regardless of their personal faith.

Something else to chew on: Is "Thieves in the Temple" even about a lover? Could his plea, "Love, come quick," be directed to God? These are ideas I discuss in my book. 

Side note: Prince is dancing his behind off in this video.

"Chelsea Rodgers" (2007)

The Planet Earth track is about a model whose soul and personality are as beautiful as her appearance. It is said to be inspired by a real-life woman, but I wonder if all the attributes in the song were real or projected on this goddess by Prince for purposes of the song. Whatever the case, Prince paints her as a spiritual guide, teaching him information about ancient civilization.

"Moses was a pharaoh in the 18th Dynasty," he sings.

So this is a bit of a trick. I originally thought research would lead me to Moses, but it appears Prince is referencing the Egyptian name Thutmose. Several pharaohs took the name during the 18th Dynasty, which lasted in Egypt from 1549/1550 to 1292 BC. Because the name is sometimes stylized as Thutmoses, Prince may have shortened the name.

Interestingly enough, some theorize that the Biblical Moses did cross paths with Thutmose III. They believe the Exodus--Moses and the Israelites' exit from Egypt--occurred in 1446 BC, which was during Thutmose III's reign.

Coincidentally, Akhenaten was also a pharaoh during the 18th Dynasty. According to Prince's ex-wife Mayte Garcia's book, he once believed he had a special, spiritual connection to the pharaoh.

Additionally, some scholars suggest Egyptian pharaoh Amenmesse (or Amenmose) is the "real," historical Moses, but he ruled during the 19th Dynasty. So who knows what Prince believed about that theory.

"Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful" (2008)

This Lotusflow3r track allegedly addresses Prince's long-term battle with the music industry. With the bitter dispute with Warner Bros. over a decade behind him, he has a more amiable attitude toward record labels in the song. However, he can't resist reminding them of his musical prowess.

"I've got a guitar that can part the sea," he sings. He is comparing his instrument to the staff Moses used to part the Red Sea (with assistance from God) and lead the Israelites to safety.

As if that weren't boastful enough, Prince doubles down on the staff metaphor with the following lyric. "Don't mean no disrespect I ain't trying to brag/But that might be the same one that tapped on the crag/And brought forth water that quenched your thirst."

According to Numbers 20:7-11 in the Bible, Moses used his staff to bring water from rock so the Israelites could drink during their journey in the wilderness. In Prince's mind, the music brought forth from his guitar is comparable to that water.

Can we really argue? Exactly fifteen years ago today, he did this:

Am I missing any other Moses references?

Check out my discussion of "Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful" on the Prince: Track by Track podcast here.

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Friday, March 8, 2019

"She Gave Me Seven" - Top Blog Posts

As this blog approaches its ninth birthday, I figured it's a good time to look back at my most popular posts of all time. I'm fortunate to have some new readers (I've been a lot more consistent), so I hope you'll find some content you haven't discovered yet.

7. "U Call 'Em Bodyguards But I Call 'Em My Friends" - Interview with Harlan Austin. I met Prince's former bodyguard, who was a Jehovah's Witness long before Prince, at the Prince from Minneapolis Symposium. He is one of multiple people who share the perspective that Prince struggled to reconcile his spiritual beliefs with his explicit music.

6. "Think About the Future!" - Upcoming Projects from Prince's ProtΓ©gΓ©s. Before Prince died, there were several non-music projects from protΓ©gΓ©s (think "Hollywood Exes"). In this post, I mention Shelia E.'s autobiography and a rumored reality show featuring Jill Jones.

5. "Interactive" - Prince Twitter Chat (2011). I still don't know how this blew up on my blog; I didn't even get many responses on Twitter. But it's cool to revisit. For a more robust conversation, check out my 2019 Twitter chat here.

4. “Gotta Tell the Truth Y'all” - Interview with Gayle Chapman. This is the interview that started it all! Way back in 2010, most folks still believed Chapman left Prince's band for religious reasons. But she told me that wasn't the case.

3. "Preach the Good News" - Extended Interview with Larry Graham. You can't do a book on Prince's spirituality and not interview the legendary bassist and spiritual adviser.

2. "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic" - Interview with Cheryl Sonny Thompson. I think this interview blew up because the production assistant is not part of the group of people who always get asked about Prince. She really opened my eyes to some possible changes in Prince's spiritual path around 2013.

1. "All Good Things, They Say, Never Last" - Interview with Jerome Benton. Prince's friend and former member of The Time and The Family called this interview "different" (which I took as a compliment) and kindly promoted it on social media. He was sweet and funny, and he called me "Miss Thompson." It was a pleasure.

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Friday, March 1, 2019

"Interactive" - Twitter Chat 2019

Eight years ago, I hosted a Twitter chat about Prince and spirituality. It went well enough. A couple questions went unanswered. And some responses on were not exactly positive.

Because I have more followers and a more active role in the Prince fan community (which has also grown), I decided to do the same Twitter chat again. I advertised in Facebook groups, on again (no shade this time) and on Twitter, of course.

Check out some select responses below. You can search the #PrinceSpiritual hashtag on Twitter to see them all.

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) Thinking about the Purple Rain Tour ... what is your opinion on the "conversation with God" segment?

4) Thoughts on The Rainbow Children album? Inspirational? Confusing?

5) Thoughts on the One Nite Alone Tour? Inspirational or too preachy?

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

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