Monday, July 29, 2019

"HITnRUN" - Quick Prince Giveaway

Congrats to the winner, Nicole S.!

This contest is closed. 

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Friday, July 26, 2019

"2 Whom it May Concern ... " - Prince's Act I and Act II Tours

"My name is not Prince. My name damn sure ain't Victor."

What happens when a major recording artist changes his name in the midst of a world tour? If it's Prince, that means the audiences will get one type of show before the transformation, and a different one afterward.

Three months before he became the symbol--specifically Love Symbol #2--on June 7, 1993, he embarked on his first tour of the U.S. in approximately five years. I recently watched video of one of the shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Inspiration and fun are the first two words that came to mind when I think about that concert. Prince was clearly smitten by dancer and future wife, Mayte Garcia, and I enjoyed their chemistry as they performed songs of that era, many of which were written with her in mind. One of my favorite moments occurs during "The Max," when they do a sensual dance together and flirt at the piano.

Garcia stood out during the previous Diamonds and Pearls tour and she made an impact here, especially with her ballet during "And God Created Woman" and belly dancing during "7." Throughout the concert, she played off the energy of additional dancers TDK: Tony M. (also a rapper), Damon Dickson and Kirk Johnson.

I've never been a huge fan of the trio, but I can't knock their stamina. And I was delighted by a little step they did, turning their backsides to the audience, during "The Continental." Later, when two of them hoisted Prince high in the air, I nearly broke out in hives. There's no way I'd risk dropping such precious cargo!

There were also a few other women dancers. Kelly Konno, whom I instantly recognized from touring with Janet Jackson portrayed a reporter whose clothes are ... sigh ... stripped off onstage. (You can read more about her experience here.)

In addition to love, Prince was inspired by Egypt, loosely telling the story of an Egyptian Princess (Garcia) being hunted by men who want to steal her "3 Chains O' Gold." More of the plot would become clearer--though not necessarily more interesting--when the 3 Chains O' Gold short film was released the following year.

But the theatrics would be nothing without the music of Prince and the NPG, which at the time consisted of Michael Bland, Tommy Barbarella, Morris Hayes, and a fantastic horn section, which would become known as the Hornheads. Prince showed off his piano- and guitar-playing talents throughout the show.

"You were proud that you were there with him so you wanted to be your best, but the ultimate motivator was fear," Barbarella said in an interview with Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. "So many amazing moments were tempered with fear."

One of the craziest stories I've heard was when Prince held his gun-shaped mic up to trombonist Michael B. Nelson's head night after night to make sure he didn't miss a high note again during his solo.

"He just wanted it to be perfect all the time," Nelson told Rolling Stone. "And he wasn’t always cheerful about how he wanted that. It took me a long time to come to terms with that."

After the first half of the show closed with "7," I dreaded the greatest hits-heavy second half. However, Prince managed to keep it lively and diverse, throwing in B-sides like "Irresistible Bitch" and "She's Always in My Hair," alongside tracks from Gold Nigga, the NPG album Warner Bros. refused to release.

I paid close attention to "Purple Rain," which is always an important indicator of Prince's spiritual mindset. Known for changing the "let me guide you" lyric to emphasize God or Jesus at times, Prince decided to emphasize the word "love," which I argue is a code for Prince's higher power (more on that in my book).

Many of the reviews were harsh, with publications criticizing the plot, Prince's "machismo," his one-dimensional portrayal of Garcia and the sexual content in his new music.

"The attempts he made at social relevance in the mid-1980s have vanished; now, it's back to the bedroom," Jon Pareles wrote in the New York Times.

I don't want to see the reviews for the European leg of the tour, or Act II, which began in late July.

There was a shadow cast over the production before it even began. In April, Prince announced he was retiring from music, and would fulfill his much-publicized--and likely exaggerated--$100 million contract with Warner Bros. only with shelved material from his vault. And though his name change was a complex personal decision, it was clear he also had motivations to undermine the record label in the meantime.

That's a lot of baggage to carry during a tour, and it showed, at least in the London show I watched.

Prince excised his new material and the Egyptian plot almost entirely from the show. What remained was an uninspired parade of his old hits, some of which he said he would stop performing after this series of concerts. Prince himself appeared bored, doing snippets of songs and noodling at the piano or spending a brief moment behind the drum kit in an effort to fill time. (As the tour went on, he'd gradually add in tracks from forthcoming albums.)

He dissolved TDK, who were sorely needed in this lackluster production. Instead, Garcia was brought out to dance more, but much of the chemistry was gone without the backdrop of songs she inspired.

"My Name is Prince" was left in as the opening number, but Prince did not appear onstage. Mayte Garcia dressed as him and fooled the audience until she stripped down. That little trick was actually kinda cool, and reminiscent of his 1980s antics, like tricking consumers by putting Cat Glover on the cover of the "Sign 'O' the Times" single and masking her face.

Thank goodness the NPG still sounded tight, especially those horns during "America" and "D.M.S.R." That might be the only other thing I liked about this tour.

With Prince increasingly becoming anti-corporate, it was a little funny to see Prince's symbol advertised next to Coca-Cola, the sponsor of the tour. Another goofy moment occurred when he  grumbled about the prevalence of lip syncing in the industry, then proceeded to lip sync--very poorly--during "The Sacrifice O' Victor." (Thanks for "sacrificing" one of my favorite songs, P.)

He had to preface that song by telling the audience his name is not Victor, which was a rumor floating around after his name change.

"What, you got a problem 'cause you don't know what to call me?" he asked from the stage. "If you're always with me, you never have to call me."


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Friday, July 19, 2019

"Undisputed" - Top Six Posts of 2019

At the start of 2019, I set a goal to blog each Friday. Now that we've passed the six-month mark, I'm proud to announce I haven't missed a week! This is a major accomplishment for me; although I've been running this blog for nine years, I haven't always been consistent.

But I'm on my way to surpassing my most active period (2012-13)! Here are the most-viewed posts in 2019 ... so far.

6. "All That Glitters" - Review of "Gold Experience: Following Prince in the '90s." In-depth coverage of Prince's career in the 1990s is so limited. Jim Walsh's book is a great start.

5. "Come to the Park and Play" - Interview with Kathy Good. In my quest to write about as many women in Prince's video for "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," I found Good, who was open to telling her story to a wider audience for the first time. She even shared her audition video!

4. "Get Yo Groove On" - Interview with Rhonda Smith. It took a while for the bassist to feel comfortable talking about Prince after his death. I appreciated her time with me.

3. "Don't U Wanna Know The Word?" - Four Spiritual Messages on 3121. In celebration of the album's reissue on purple vinyl, I examined just some of its spiritual content. It feels good to have a post featuring my own thoughts (without an interview attached) in the top three.

2. "Where'd You Get Those Glasses?" - Interview with Wally Safford. That one time Prince's dancer, bodyguard and friend called me with Jerome Benton on the line ...

1. "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed" - Interview with Ashley Támar Davis. I have such a special relationship with the 3121 album, and I always admired Davis' contributions, especially the spiritual content.

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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 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].

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

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! 

Related Content
Prince: The Last Interview review
Rolling Stone journalists' thoughts on Prince's spirituality
Best Prince songs of the '90s 

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.