Friday, March 27, 2020

"We Need a Purple High" - Lesser-Known Prince Podcast Episodes

      Photo by Jason Breininger

Whether it's books, blogs or video broadcasts, I spend a lot of time engaging content created by other superfans. While I love participating in such a fun, knowledgeable community, sometimes it's refreshing to step outside of the purple bubble to hear how casual fans feel about Prince.

Recently, I stumbled upon a few mainstream podcasts and I was delighted to find some Prince-related episodes among them. See below and please enjoy.


"Hit Parade": "Le Petty Prince Edition"

Slate's "Hit Parade" podcast is critic Chris Molanphy's well-researched show about popular music history with emphasis on chart analysis. His recent episode on Whitney Houston's career and what it means to have "crossover" success was amazing. So, I was really excited to check out his episode about Tom Petty and Prince from 2017.

Molanphy lays out the many parallels between Petty and Prince, including their chart dominance, success writing for other artists and record label battles. It gave me a new appreciation for Petty, whose career I didn't follow previously. And it was nice to hear how much Petty admired Prince, despite the Purple One's playful teasing during the greatest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction performance of all time.


"Rolling Stone Music Now": "The Power and Glory of Prince"

This episode of the music magazine's podcast came out just days after Prince passed away. The best part is hearing writer Brian Hiatt talk about his experience interviewing Prince for a 2014 cover story that was shelved until 2016. There are wonderful, behind-the-scenes tidbits, like the fact that Hiatt was quizzed on black artists before the interview began. I'm also glad Hiatt shared more information about their discussions on music. "He was as passionate and convincing a music fan as anyone I've ever spoken to in my life," Hiatt said. "He made me want to listen to whatever he was talking about, even if it was stuff I already loved."


"Switched on Pop": "Why U Love 2 Listen 2 Prince" 

Because this podcast is co-hosted by a musicologist, Nate Sloan, I find it more compelling than your average pop podcast. And this episode features guest Anil Dash, a technologist and entrepreneur who is well-known in the Prince fan community. But this was my first experience hearing Dash's take on the impact of technology on the sound of Prince's music. And I enjoyed hearing Dash's perspective on Prince's early adoption of the internet because Dash was there online in real time consuming the music. (Go even deeper on Dash's own podcast, "Function.") You can hear Sloan's mind being blown by Dash's analysis, which is evidence that even music aficionados haven't even scratched the surface on Prince. Come on, people!


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Friday, March 20, 2020

"She Loves Me 4 Me" - Song of the Month

Each month I will share some brief, personal thoughts on one of my favorite Prince songs.


On April 17, I'll have my hands on the vinyl reissue of Prince's 2001 album, The Rainbow Children. I'm hoping the world will be in a better state, but, come what may, the music will provide the necessary joy and comfort. When I hear "She Loves Me 4 Me," I think back to the summer before I started college. I was living in a cramped room in my mother's house and I think I was working a retail job I hated, but I had a copy of The Rainbow Children on CD to lift my spirits. This is one of the most beautiful songs Prince has ever written, and I hope more people in the general public hear it so they can appreciate the breadth of his talent. I remember listening to the lyrics and feeling so happy for him. "I don't have to live up to no one's fantasy/I can write another 300 melodies, but to her it's just three, 'cause this one, she loves me for me," he sings. So many of us love Prince for his music, but it was great to think of him finding someone--or yearning for someone--who could appreciate him for who he was behind the image he worked so hard to maintain. I drank in every phrase and guitar lick. Even though he was very Christian at that point, he still slid a naughty line in there: "She got the ride that I like to ride" (listen to that sexy guitar part underneath). I loved thinking about the possibility of settling down with someone who could meet all of your needs. I remember playing this song for my mom (she probably didn't like it as much as I thought she did) and gushing about this album. It's truly the project that made me a devoted fan. Thanks, Prince.

What's your favorite song on the album? 


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Friday, March 13, 2020

"The New Power Generation" - My Niece's Thoughts on Prince

This is the final installment of my "Prince + Family Series," which has featured my dad and my mom. I wanted to get the opinion of someone younger. My niece is 13 years old and an artist herself, so I thought she'd be the perfect subject.

Our interview reinforced a few things: The young people in your life are always paying attention to your interests; Prince still inspires discussions about gender and sexuality; and his talent is undeniable.

As part of our chat, I showed my niece three Prince videos. I wanted to capture different periods of his career and pick clips that would keep her attention. And I chose a personal favorite of mine from the '90s era. I recorded her immediate reactions.

At the end of the post, you'll see a quick discussion with my sister—the only person on the planet who likes the movie Graffiti Bridge as much as I do.


Interview with My Niece

What do you know about Prince?

His song "Purple Rain" was a big hit in America and he would always wear high-heeled boots, eyeliner, mascara and always have a dot on his face, right on his cheekbone—I think it was a mole or maybe he placed it there. And he would always wear nice suits. And I didn’t understand why he would wear (what he wore). At first I thought he was gay. ... He played a lot of instruments. I heard that he was a very good musician. I heard he was really talented.

What do you remember about the day he died?

I was in my living room. We were watching the news; I think it was the "Today" show. We [eventually] heard he died from an overdose. We were so surprised. ... I was like, “Oh my gosh, all the legends are dying.” It was kinda sad. I didn’t really listen to his music, but I know he was a legend.

You know more than I thought you did.

I always do my research. I knew that you, Auntie, loved him and I was just like, "Why does she love him so much?" So I looked on YouTube, saw some of his shows. Me and my stepdad were watching a documentary on TV and I saw the high-heeled boots. They talked about the makeup and the magazines. They talked about him and his wife. I looked at how he was dancing in those high-heeled boots and I was just like, "My back would be hurting if I was dancing in some heels, too."

I don’t really think about him that much anymore now that he’s deceased. I wasn’t really into his music. Michael Jackson was the go-to. But some people are real Prince fans so I think they might know more than I do.


My Niece's Reactions to Prince's Videos

“Kiss” (1986)


Back then (those midriff shirts) didn’t mean you were gay or bi. Men would wear that. This is jammin’. He always had that little booty. I guess I would be attracted to him in some way. He’s goofy.

Ayee, get it! Ayee, get it!

Why is (the woman) wearing that on her head?


“Willing and Able” (1991)


He’s wearing a scarf that you wear to bed! Oh my gosh, those heels …

It was kinda weird that he was wearing that [outfit]—the clothes and the heels. I’m still confused about why he’s wearing that stuff. It’s nice but if I was to date him, and we’re getting ready, we both have to do our makeup, we both have to put on our heels. But that’s him.

I think the video overall was pretty nice. I like how they arranged it with the cameras and I like the singers. They were really good. I wonder who that one singer was [Rosie Gaines]. It wasn’t as interesting as “Kiss,” [though]. That had a little bit more funk to it. This one is like a jazz-pop song.


“Black Sweat” (2006)


I was born in 2006!

His hairstyle has changed. He looks older. I think he looks a little bit more masculine as he got older. It’s funny because you don’t see him moving around as much.

Um … why do they have that lady screaming like that?

That was really, really cool. [But] I didn’t understand the purpose of “Black Sweat.” She’s black and she’s sweating? Is she mad because there’s sweat on her?

No song I’ve heard of his is boring. Usually, people make albums and then it’ll be like one good song and then the rest will sound like they’re practicing. But he sounds like he knows what he’s doing. He looks handsome.


Of the three videos, which is your favorite?

“Black Sweat.” It was chill and it was up-to-date. 

Does this make you want to listen to more of his music?

Yeah, I want to know more about him but I feel like it would make me sad because I would wish I would have met him. So I think I’ll stay where I’m at. 


Q&A with My Sister

Why do you like Graffiti Bridge?

I think it’s just what we were exposed to [when we were younger]. I thought he was weird, of course, but I enjoyed the songs and the rivalry between him and Morris Day in the movie. I thought that was funny and I felt sorry for [Prince] because they made fun of him, but it was entertaining. I like Tevin Campbell’s song, too. The music is the best part of the movie. 

How does your relationship with Michael Jackson compare?

I was more of a Michael Jackson fan, so I paid more attention to him than anybody. I couldn’t believe that you got into Prince so heavily because we grew up with Michael. You can’t really compare the two artists. They’re worlds apart. The only difference between he and Michael that puts Prince just a notch above is that he is a musician who played all those instruments. [But] I remember as a young kid feeling like I was going to pass out when I saw other people pass out from seeing Michael, and how big he was and almost not even human. 

I just feel like Prince was more controversial, not only his music, but how he lived his life before the whole Jehovah’s Witness thing. It’s what people are accepting and doing now and he was doing that 20 years ago. He didn’t have a gender [expression]. He wasn’t male or female, really. He was just queer [aesthetically]. He set a precedent for what we see now. He was called weird then, but it’s accepted now, so he was ahead of his time. 

Would you call yourself a Prince fan?

I don’t know enough. I can’t even really remember the song titles. I remember the music. I never thought to go to a concert. I’m saddened that I wasn’t able to go to a Michael Jackson concert and I grew up watching Michael Jackson’s videos over and over again, listening to his music over and over again, practicing his moves over and over again and idolizing all of his choreography and trying to learn every bit of it. I didn’t do that with Prince.

Do you think Prince is a good dancer?

I thought he was cool and he’s talented, but I never thought of him as a dancer. I think it’s neat acrobatics. 

Final thoughts? 

I respect him. I respect his talent. He gave other artists a position to be who they are and opened doors for other artists.


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Friday, March 6, 2020

"Just Like My Mother" - Mom's Thoughts on Prince

From left: Me, Mom and my sister

Last week, I interviewed my dad about Prince. This week, the focus is on my mom, another person who influenced my musical tastes. However, I think when you're growing up, you sometimes assume things about your family members' perspectives instead of asking them directly. Doing this interview with my mom gave me a better understanding of her relationship with Prince's music.

(And yes, just as I've neglected my dad, I need to do a better job of buying Prince music for my mom -- though only a little bit at a time.)

As I mentioned last week, she was born the same year as Prince and experienced his talent in real time. Here's her take on Prince in her customarily funny and blunt manner.

What was your impression of Prince's early career?

I was shocked to see his picture on his album cover [Prince, 1979]. He was naked and I guess back at that time, you're not used to seeing that. It was like, "Ooh, who is this guy?" He was new and it made you actually listen to his music.

And you said your older brother (Uncle Jr.) used to talk about Prince, right?

Well, by Jr. being a musician himself and playing the guitar himself, he was listening to the guitar when he was listening to his music. He used to always say, "That guy is gifted and he's getting ready to go big." He said, "He's a genius." All he ever talked about was Prince.

I thought Prince was ahead of his time as far as his type of music. I really liked him, everything about him. He was more rock 'n' roll because of the way he played his guitar, the heels he wore and the clothes he wore. Some of his music I couldn't get into.

Like what?

"Little Red Corvette" (1982). ... We were more into funk.

And you didn't like Dirty Mind (1980), right?

I could not get into that. That's what I mean; Prince was way out there. [Some of] Prince's music only meant something to him.

Dad said you didn't like that Prince put "The Lord's Prayer" in "Controversy" (1981). Why not?

Because of the type of person he was and everything he sung about and the way he acted, and then you're going to throw "The Lord's Prayer" in there? No.

I never bought his albums. I bought certain songs that I like. I think what really put me over on some of his songs was when he did the movie Purple Rain (1984).

What did you like about the movie?

It was silly. It was more of a comedy, but the music I really enjoyed and The Revolution [band]. That band is bad. And you've got two women? And they were bad. I loved his group. ... When he did that "Darling Nikki" on the stage, that was cold-blooded.

[But] Prince can't act. ... A lot of people watched Purple Rain because it was Prince and then once they watched it, they enjoyed it. If it hadn't been for Morris Day and having a little comedy in there, it might not have been all that good.

Did you like Under the Cherry Moon (1986)? 

That movie sucked. It wasn't about anything and he can't act.

Most fans like Under the Cherry Moon and hate Graffiti Bridge (1990). Why do you think our family liked Graffiti Bridge so much?

I didn't.

Really?

No.


via GIPHY

What did you think of Prince doing the entire Batman (1989) soundtrack?

That was a very big deal. That introduced [more] people to Prince. I was wowed by that because you've got Batman, Jack Nicholson and then you've got Prince doing the music. That was big.

Even if I don't own the music, I can sing to all of it. That Batman movie was good. And then all the rest of them got darker and darker.

Do you remember telling me you felt some of Prince's music was dark?

It might not have been so much dark; it might have been weird because he was ahead of his time and we weren't used to that.

With Prince, you started off nice with "Soft and Wet," and then you showed everybody you can play a guitar, and it just seemed like he just went over the edge. He got more--not wild--but it was weird. He just got more and more weird. His music got weird. No one could understand his music.

What did you think of his name change during the '90s?

I didn't understand the symbol. [I thought], "What is he smoking?"

What did you think of his conversion to the Jehovah's Witness faith?

I think he lost a bunch of his fans, which is sad. I thought it was a good thing.

Did you pay attention to him in the 2000s? 

I don't think I bought any of his later songs. I didn't like any of it. I guess maybe I didn't pay attention.

What Prince songs are on your iPod right now?

"Scandalous," "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad," "Anotherloverholenyohead," "Diamonds and Pearls," "Adore" and "Darling Nikki." I like "Soft and Wet," I just haven't bought it yet.

Aw man, you need to have at least 30 Prince songs on there.

I mean, he can be a genius and he can be great, but I'm only going to buy what I like.

What is your all-time favorite Prince song?

"Adore." And then "Anotherloverholeinyohead." I love that!

Why didn't you see him live? 

I stopped going to any concerts when I had you and [your sister]. It was just too expensive. I just figured it's cheaper for me to buy the music.

Let's go back to that old 1980s debate: Prince or Michael Jackson?

I remember that crap. You can't compare that. Michael Jackson was a singer and performer. Prince was a musician. That's the difference. They're not in the same class. If I had to pick one I'm going to pick Prince. Not everybody can play a guitar and write music.

Overall, what did you like most about Prince?

I admired the way he performed. He's very gifted. He played the piano and he played that guitar like you wouldn't believe. I give him his props for that--with his little short self.


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Friday, February 28, 2020

"Just Like My Father" - Dad's Thoughts on Prince



I am indebted to my parents for instilling in me a love of black music. I grew up appreciating artists like Prince because of them. They were both born the same year as Prince and grew up with him in a way. It's fun to imagine them experiencing his music in real time.

Prince was beloved by black people in the '70s, and my parents also gravitated toward his music. They appreciated his entire career, but fell away from him at times. They understood that he didn't want to be pigeonholed as a black artist, but still felt something was missing for them during his crossover to the mainstream in the mid-80s.

Besides the early stuff, my Dad loves songs like "Pop Life" and "If I Was Your Girlfriend." While most Prince fans hate Graffiti Bridge, my whole family embraced that movie. I think it's because a lot of it is rooted in blackness, featuring black royalty like Mavis Staples and George Clinton. While the script is lacking, many of the musical performances are incredible.

My dad never saw Prince live, but reconnected with his music before he died. I think I made sure he checked out 3121 (he likes "Te Amo Corazón") and Lotusflow3r (he's a fan of "Colonized Mind"). Lately I've been a bad daughter; I need to buy him all of the posthumous releases, especially the Originals album. He was asking me for more information about Prince's relationship with The Time and Alexander O'Neal, so I need to get him Morris Day's book, too!

So often we are busy just enjoying the music and not taking time to reflect on what it meant to us. To that end, it was wonderful to ask Dad some questions about Prince. Check out his answers below!


What was your first impression of Prince?

I remember both For You (1978) and Prince (1979). ... Usually you see (on the album) where different people write the songs. Well, he wrote everything and did all the instruments. All that was just amazing to me. I really liked that Prince album. I remember "When We're Dancing Close and Slow." I love that song! And of course I like "Sexy Dancer" and "Still Waiting."

You've said you love Dirty Mind (1980), but didn't you think his clothing was too racy at the time?

I did when I saw the album cover, but when I started listening to the music, it didn't bother me (anymore).

Did you like the song, "Head?"

Yeah! I wasn't going to (admit) that to you. ... You really don't pay attention to (his) lyrics because you go to the club and it's got a nice beat and everybody's up jammin' and dancing. But then once you get home and you start really listening to it, you're like, "Oh, that's what he's really talking about."

What do you remember about Controversy (1981)? 

I still remember your mother getting so mad--she won't even remember; she was so mad (about the title track) because it had "The Lord's Prayer" in it. I really didn't pay much attention to it until she said it.

My dad's copy of Controversy on 8-track

Did you like 1999 (1982)? 

Yeah, but not as much as his early stuff. Other audiences started liking him. I remember going to work and other people were saying, "Have you heard that Prince song, 'Little Red Corvette?' That's really nice!" And I'm like, "These people aren't even [really] listening to him." His music kinda changed a little bit, too. I liked his earlier music--it's kinda hard to explain--when it was more "him." ... I still liked him. I still liked his music but his early stuff is what I really love.

What about Purple Rain (1984)? 

I liked the movie more (than the album). ...  People at work were dressing up like him and going (to his concert). I don't know (why I didn't go), probably because I was working. I was working third shift then.

Did you like the movie, Under the Cherry Moon (1986)? 

I hated that movie. I was confused watching the whole thing. It made no sense to me. I still to this day don't understand it. I don't understand it.

You loved Graffiti Bridge (1990), but what did you think of him in the '90s, especially when he changed his name?

That's when he was with the New Power Generation, right? I have a few CDs from the '90s but I didn't keep up with it as much. I don't think it was "him."

I mean, this happened to Elvis, quite a few people. It probably even happened to Michael (Jackson), too. As they got older and as times changed, they fell out of the limelight a little bit. So I thought he was just trying to (get attention) because everybody was talking about how he changed his name, and that put him back out there.

Why did you start paying attention again in the 2000s?

It seemed like he got back to where he was more creative, like he was in the beginning.

Do you mean he seemed more in touch with black culture or his roots?

That's part of it but I don't want to say that's all of it. I just think he was back to where he was being more creative. It seemed like he went into a little lull there where he was just making music (to be making music).

What did you think of his performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on the day he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

I remember he (soloed) right in front of Tom Petty. I think he was messing with him, too!

Do you think he's underrated as a guitar player?

I hate to say it, but most black artists fall into that. Just because they're black (people think) the only thing they can do is R&B or hip-hop. And he's not the only one. You like Parliament-Funkadelic; if you go to any of their concerts or listen to their music, they can play anything. That's another reason why I like (Prince) so much because he can play anything. ... It was just natural.

How did you respond to his death?

That really hurt me. At first I didn't think it was true. He was always performing and I never really heard about him being ill so it was kind of a shock to me. It took me a while to really believe it until I started hearing it from you and some other people. That really hurt me. I think he had so much more to do and to pass on. I keep hearing about all these albums and stuff he had in the vault, so I'd love to hear some of that.


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Friday, February 21, 2020

"Save Me, Jesus" - Graham Central Station's Spiritual Messages


On April 17, the world will be reintroduced to Prince's 2001 album, The Rainbow Children. The release is just one of the Prince Estate's new reissues from the early aughts.

Many Prince fans know The Rainbow Children as the artist's "Jehovah's Witness album." He recorded it in the midst of his conversion to the faith. (He was officially baptized in 2003.) His spiritual mentor at the time was legendary bassist Larry Graham, who played with Sly and the Family Stone before forming his own funk band, Graham Central Station (GCS). Graham also contributed some bass work to The Rainbow Children.

But what were Graham's "Jehovah's Witness albums?" During our interview, he named two Graham Central Station records: Ain't No 'Bout-A-Doubt It (1975) and Mirror (1976). He was baptized in 1975.

Given that Graham Central Station was one of Prince's favorite bands, Prince likely owned both on vinyl. And throughout his career, he performed "The Jam" (from Ain't No 'Bout-A-Doubt It) regularly.


It's not known how Prince felt about the spiritual messages on the GCS albums as a teenager, but he'd eventually preach some of the same ideas as an adult.

Read more about GCS's references to scripture--from the Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures--below.

Ain't No 'Bout-A-Doubt It

"For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised up incorruptible, and we will be changed." - 1 Corinthians 15:52

That verse describes the "Last Judgment" by Jesus Christ during the end of the world. Both the living and newly resurrected dead will be judged, and the righteous will live forever in paradise. The concept is depicted on the cover of Graham Central Station's Ain't No 'Bout-A-Doubt It. Jesus, angels and what appears to be a demon are in the sky, while the members of GCS are on Earth, which is in the midst of turmoil.

Larry Graham, however, is smiling. The Jehovah's Witness faith paints "Judgment Day" in a positive light, describing it as "a time of hope and restoration."

Below you can see the similarities between the image and the 1435 painting of the "Last Judgment" by Stefan Lochner.


By © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, CC BY-SA 4.0

On the back cover, the band members are shown in all white clothing, peering out a window at an orange sky. Perhaps they are angels looking down at the destruction on Earth. One musician is sounding a trumpet. The 1 Corinthians Bible verse is also included on the cover.

Prince similarly referenced the end of the world and the return of Christ in songs like "1999," "Let's Go Crazy," "Darling Nikki," "7" and "Get on the Boat."

In the liner notes, Graham thanks Jehovah, as Prince would later do on his albums. Graham also lists himself as a writer, producer and arranger--a practice Prince would also employ. It must be noted that the GCS album came out on Warner Bros. just three years before Prince made his debut on the record label.

Ain't No 'Bout-A-Doubt It even includes a song, "It Ain't Nothing But a Warner Bros. Party," which shouts out fellow artists--including the Doobie Brothers and Tower of Power--and label executives like President Mo Ostin, who had a long working relationship with Prince. The song is reminiscent in spirit of Prince's "We Can Work It Out," which he wrote as a tribute to Warner Bros. after signing with the label himself. On the song, Prince coincidentally--or intentionally--sings, "Ain't no doubt about it, we can work it out." And at the end, he lowers his voice, Graham-style, to say, "Making music naturally, me and WB."

Neither Graham nor Prince shied away from mentioning both Jesus and Satan in their music, though Graham was more direct.

"Satan's out to get you/Jesus died to save you," Graham sings on "Water." Jesus is also referenced on "Luckiest People."

While Prince mentioned "the Devil" and Jesus on songs like "Eye No" and "Anna Stesia," he would often talk about these Biblical figures in code (e.g. "De-elevator" on "Let's Go Crazy" or the protagonist of "I Would Die 4 U").

"[Larry's] taught me so much about respecting one another, musicians listening to one another, and just the sound of his bass  -- it's undeniable." - Prince, 1999

Mirror

"God is love." - 1 John 4:8

That scripture is one of the cornerstones of Prince's musical output (see "Anna Stesia"). It also showed up in the liner notes of GCS's 1976 album, Mirror. Graham wrote a dedication to his father, Larry Graham, Sr., who died that same year. Praying that his father "is a part of the resurrection," he also references Revelation 21:4: "And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore."

Prince arguably alludes to the same scripture in both "Elephants and Flowers" and "7."

Mirror album, 1976

Graham Sr. is also pictured in the liner notes. He was a jazz musician, just like Prince's father, John L. Nelson. Both Prince and Larry Graham's mothers were also musicians.


Larry Graham Sr. on guitar and John L. Nelson at the piano


Larry Graham also thanks his wife, Tina, citing Genesis 2:23: "Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh."

Prince would reference the same scripture in his song, "And God Created Woman."

The cover art for Mirror is a single sheet of reflective foil, seemingly encouraging the listener to examine his or her soul. The album is even more spiritual than Ain't No 'Bout-A-Doubt It. The second track, "Love (Covers a Multitude of Sin)," is taken directly from 1 Peter 4:8: "Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins."

Prince would later employ "Love 4 One Another" as a mantra, website and charity.

"I've worked with other musicians that were great, but they didn't allow me to really have the freedom that I needed to be able to give them all that I could give them. With baby brother [Prince], he allows me the freedom to give all that I can give, and as a result, what we're doing now, when you hear it, you can see that it's coming from the heart, which is why we're touching hearts." - Larry Graham, 1999

GCS included more spiritual messages on "Mirror," "Forever" (dedicated to Graham Sr.) and "Save Me," which is a funk and gospel masterpiece, with incredible vocal, horn and string arrangements, as well as extraordinary bass-thumping by Graham. The musical shift at 2:35, featuring a synthesizer solo, is an amazing moment of understated funk. The song is, undoubtedly, the religious center of the album.

"You should open [the Bible] up to Matthew 24," the band members sing. "And take a look for yourself just what you're living for."


That chapter in the book of Matthew describes the end of the world. Verse 21 states, "For then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again." Prince would later sing about avoiding "the tribulation" on his song, "Get on the Boat."

*

Religion aside, these two GCS albums are dope musically, especially Mirror. The funk and musicianship are undeniable. And even Prince's most religious projects, like The Rainbow Children, are still strong musically.

Though Prince and Larry Graham referenced the same Biblical ideas, Prince was often more covert. Unlike his mentor, he rarely called out explicit chapters and verses in his lyrics. Most of the time, you had to dig to find the references. Other times, Prince would take Biblical text and alter individual words, phrases or points of view to fit his narrative. Because he grew up in the church, he'd internalized scripture. One wonders if he was channeling when he was writing, or if he sometimes sat down with the Bible and a pen and paper.

I wish I could ask him.

Finally, thanks to Larry for the music and for inspiring Prince and numerous other musicians. We have to give these icons their flowers now.


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Friday, February 14, 2020

"Pink Cashmere" - Song of the Month

Each month I will share some brief, personal thoughts on one of my favorite Prince songs.


"Music is healing," Prince said in his memoir, The Beautiful Ones. Who wouldn't agree? I even think Prince's guitar solos are healing, and the one on "Pink Cashmere" always makes me feel better. I used to make playlists for my mother, and I put this song on one of them because, although she was a Prince fan, it was new to her. She told me, "I can tell it's a Prince song by the guitar solo." Besides the healing properties, I think this is one of his best ballads, from the orchestration to the lyrics to the vocal arrangements and ad libs. This is the kind of slow jam I prefer (sorry to "Do Me, Baby"). The best thing about discovering Prince is that, once you get past all the major hits, which are amazing enough, you find the lesser-known gems, and you can't believe this guy is even better than you thought! At least that's what happened to me. I was floored when I first heard this track, and played it repeatedly. It brings back memories of my first year or so of college, when I was still exploring his discography.

Which Prince guitar solos are healing to you?


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Friday, February 7, 2020

“Dr. Everything’ll Be All Right” – Blog Checkup


In the past, I used to do more “process”-oriented blog posts about my book. For example, I’d talk about requesting interviews, organizing my research or securing publishers. I thought I’d try to get back to doing some of that, but I really hope to be done with the book soon.

Personally, I’m struggling with some obstacles in my everyday life. It’s difficult to write when you are in a low place emotionally and/or overwhelmed with life decisions. There are moments when I think about quitting. I know other writers can relate. Sometimes you just want to run away.

With that said, I think it’s important to ask yourself a few questions: 1) Why are you doing what you’re doing? 2) Is it worthwhile? 3) Are you working smart and not too hard?

Here goes…

1) Why am I blogging?

Since 2010, my goal has been to build an audience that would eventually buy my book. Ten years later, that is still the goal, but it has expanded. I think this blog has helped position me as a Prince scholar, especially regarding religious studies/spirituality. Additionally, I’ve been able to provide news and expand aspects of Prince’s history/legacy at times, especially given some interviews I’ve been able to get that aren’t related to my book.

2) Is it worthwhile?

Yes. This blog allows me to keep track of my audience. I’m happy with my views, but I can be much better about analyzing my stats. Back in 2010, Blogger was still poppin’, but now I realize the site’s analytics are lacking. I’m setting a goal to install Google Analytics so I can see how I’m doing in greater detail year over year.

The best thing that I’ve done so far is start a newsletter via Mailchimp for my blog. Each month, I send out an email with my recent blog posts and bonus content. In 2019, I set a goal to acquire 500 subscribers, and by the end of the year I had 566! Running giveaways through ShortStack has been helpful, albeit expensive. This year, I hope to increase my subscribers to 1,000 (you can help me out by subscribing here). Toward that end, I set another goal to run Facebook ads.

3) Am I working smart and not too hard?

One thing I admire about my earlier approach to blogging is that I worked more on my book than my blog. Last year, that was not the case. Though my blog posts have gotten better (and prettier), I spend too much time on them. That is a personality flaw; I can’t do anything halfway. I will spend hours or days on a blog until it is perfect.

My goal is to work smarter so that I’m creating strong content in less time. I think I can achieve that by designating just one day (maybe Thursday evening) to blogging. I’ll have to work up to limiting my hours on that day. I also think I can make my blog posts shorter and have some recurring posts. For example, I used to do a photo-based series that helped cut down my workload.

Beginning next week, I’m going to start a “Song of the Month” series that will be a short, personal post about one of my favorite Prince songs.

4) Bonus: What other types of content can my audience expect?

I’m still sitting on new interviews with Mike Scott, Rashida Robinson, Jesse Hayes and Dave Hampton. I would like to get around to transcribing, following up with those folks and creating snapshots of those discussions. I also have a list of new people I’d like to interview this year.

I’m thinking about doing a series about my family and Prince. Maybe I can pull that off beginning Feb. 28. Also, I’d like to hire more guest writers to contribute to the blog.

Additionally, I’m going to a couple Prince conferences this year, so I will cover those events like I have in the past.


Is there anything else you’d like to see on the blog?

Friday, January 31, 2020

"All for Fun and Fun for All" - "Crystal Ball" Challenge

     Photo by Rachel Kayla

"I could be singing a song any style, any way/Ain't nothing but a trick to me."

Last month, YouTube personality Prince's Friend put together a fun video. He condensed Prince's 1998 three-disc album, Crystal Ball, into one CD. His approach was very methodical; he kept the album under 60 minutes, eliminated remixes and honored the original combination of '80s and '90s music.

The only rule I adhered to was the number of tracks. Prince's Friend included 10 tracks, plus a bonus (thank you for that!). Beyond that, I was purely subjective. Crystal Ball is one of my least favorite Prince albums (Though bundled with the set, The Truth is its own masterpiece) and I skip around a lot. However, this challenge was more difficult than I imagined.

Related 'Playlist' Content
Seven Writers Cut Prince's 'Emancipation' Down to 45 Minutes
Favorite Prince Songs from the '90s 
Prince's Most Autobiographical Songs

I was very tempted to jettison all the '80s music. In my opinion, the newer content is much stronger. But because the title track--a standout song--was recorded in the '80s, I decided to keep two others from that period ("Movie Star" and "Cloreen Bacon Skin"), especially since they show off Prince's humor. Additionally, I felt like I had to keep in the nasty bass tracks ("What's My Name" and "Days of Wild"), as well as the blues workout "The Ride."

A couple years ago, I would have ignored "Acknowledge Me," but podcaster and purple enthusiast Darling Nisi made me see the light. We agree the song could have been a radio hit!

GIF by Darling Nisi

While Prince's Friend did an amazing job sequencing the album to tell a story, my project is more eclectic. I think it shows myriad sides of Prince's artistry. I'd give this playlist to someone who only knew Prince's hits from the '80s.

1. "Crystal Ball"
2. "What's My Name"
3. "Movie Star"
4. "Ripopgodazippa"
5. "Calhoun Square"
6. "Da Bang"
7. "Days of Wild"
8. "2morrow"
9. "The Ride"
10. "Acknowledge Me"
11. "Cloreen Bacon Skin"

Total run time: Approx. 70 minutes

P.S. "Crucial" isn't as good as y'all think it is.

Click here for my Spotify playlist.

Click here for Prince's Friend's Spotify playlist (renamed "Days of Wild").


Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Friday, January 24, 2020

"Welcome to the Dawn" - Reflecting on "The Gold Experience"

    Photo by Rachel Kayla

I didn't experience Prince's 1995 album, The Gold Experience, as a whole--in real time. God bless my mother; she was great about buying a lot of the latest music for the household throughout the '90s, but she'd gotten away from listening to entire Prince albums. Still, I have memories of a couple songs that were out.

Most of my engagement with The Gold Experience happened when I was an adult. I immediately connected with a couple songs, but it took me several years before I fully appreciated the album. Today, I believe it's one of Prince's strongest projects during the '90s. (In my opinion, "Shy" is one of the best songs he's ever written.)

I've been listening to the album lately and figured I'd share some personal reflections.


"Shhh"

Like a lot of folks my age, I first heard Tevin Campbell sing this song on his 1993 album, I'm Ready. I was not aware that it was a Prince song at the time. All I knew was the sexy tune made me uncomfortable. I was used to "Little Tevin Campbell" and I was still little myself.

Moving forward, my family and I only listened to the Campbell songs written by Babyface ("Can We Talk," "I'm Ready" and "Always in My Heart"). Only recently did I discover Prince wrote three other songs on Campbell's album: "Uncle Sam," "The Halls of Desire" and "Paris 1798430." The latter is my jam!


I heard Prince's version of "Shhh" as an adult. Honestly, it's not my favorite. I love Michael Bland's drumming, but I don't play it often. I'm a bit of an outlier; I'm not in love with a lot of Prince's classic, sexy songs ("Do Me, Baby," "Scandalous," "Insatiable," etc.). Don't get me wrong, they're great, but I have a stronger connection to other songs in his discography.

Related Content
How Prince helped Tevin Campbell Get Political on 'I'm Ready
Prince Becomes a Bass Hero on 'Shy' 
Personal reflections on 'Lotusflow3r

"The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" 

Like 700,000 people at the time, my mother bought "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" and played it over and over and over. It makes sense; it's a soulful throwback to the music she loved growing up. She also marveled at his wide vocal range on the song. However, the most tender memory I have is of her telling my sister and me that we were the most beautiful girls in the world. It's even more special because she got what Prince was trying to do--draw attention to the beauty within all women. (Be back later, crying.)


"Billy Jack Bitch"

It's no secret that Prince wrote this song about former Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist C.J., who nicknamed him "Symbolina." C.J. was one of my first interviews; I spoke with her back in 2012. She talked to me about the time they met in person. According to C.J., he said he didn't recognize her, and when she introduced herself, he replied, "Billy!"

"He said that he thought I was one of his old girlfriends, and that the reason I wrote negative things about him is because he had broken my heart," C.J. told me. "I said to him, 'I don’t look like anybody you have ever dated.' I looked good at that time, but I don’t look like Mayte. I don’t look like Manuela. I know his type and it is not me."


The first person I told about the interview was Laila, one of my best friends. We could not stop laughing. From then on, we'd randomly text each other, "BILLY JACK BITCH!" or "Billy!" In fact, let me text her now...


For years I just dismissed "Billy Jack Bitch" as a silly song, but now I have a new appreciation for the music. It's incredibly funky, and I've sat in my car no less than 100 times rewinding the horn part at the end. If I'm ever able to interview arranger and musician Michael B. Nelson, I'm asking him about that section!

"Gold"

Before The Gold Experience came out, there were rumors going around that Prince had written a song as epic as "Purple Rain." When I played "Gold" for the first time, I was blown away. I had to talk to someone about it, and I made my boyfriend at the time listen to it with me. (He wasn't that impressed.)

Sure, you may not rank "Gold" as high as "Purple Rain," especially given your nostalgia or the fact that the earlier tune happened at the peak of Prince's popularity. But "Gold" is a beautiful song, and the vocal arrangement at the end still makes me tear up. Please stop sleeping on Prince's '90s output.

And please listen to this song again.



Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Friday, January 17, 2020

"Check the Record" - "Ultimate Prince" Archive



Nearly two years ago, I was asked to contribute to Diffuser.fm's series, "365 Prince Songs in a Year." That partnership led to an opportunity to write for UltimatePrince.com, a website dedicated to the artist's life and career.

I'm keeping a running list of all my articles below.

(Some of my Prince-related work for Ultimate Prince's sister sites is included as well.)


Prince Makes 'Slow Love' with Carole R. Davis

Prince, Montalbo and Juice Get Their 'Groove On'

The Many Lives of 'Bambi'

Prince Becomes a Bass Hero on 'Shy'

Prince Ponders The Question of U

*Prince's Death Two Years Later: Our Writers Answer Five Lingering Questions 
(Ultimate Classic Rock)

*Prince's Milestone Birthdays: Charting His Life Decade By Decade (The Boombox)

Prince 'Batman' Roundtable: Our Writers Answer Five Big Questions

When Prince Gave Away '20Ten' And Went to 'Studio Rehab'

Prince Channels 'Caligula' for Status-Reclaiming 'Gett Off' Video

Seven Writers Cut Prince's 'Emancipation' Down to 45 Minutes

Beyond Prince: St. Paul Peterson on Working with Steve Miller, Peter Frampton

How Prince Helped Tevin Campbell Get Political on 'I'm Ready'

Was Prince's 'Graffiti Bridge' Movie Really That Bad?: Roundtable 

Why the Official Release of the 'Black Album' Agitated Prince

When Prince Showed Off Jazzy Side on 'One Nite Alone… Live!'

When Prince Showcased a Stable of Proteges on 'The Ryde Dyvine'

When Prince Launched the Short-Lived Website, 20Pr1nc3.com

Prince Strips Down on 'The Truth': A Track-by-Track Guide

A Look Back at Prince’s Valentine’s Day Wedding

The Long History of Prince’s 'If I Love U 2 Nite'

When Prince Previewed His ‘Act I’ Tour on ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’


Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Friday, January 10, 2020

“A Little Bit of Pleasure for the Guilty Pain” – BDSM Lyrics in the Work of Prince


This post is brought to you by Darling Nisi, A Purple Day in December's first-ever guest writer. It's impossible to study Prince's spirituality without also studying his sexuality. - Erica 



“We don’t care about what you know, but what you’re willing to learn. You must surrender your expectations …” – Prince, Hamburg, Germany (2002)


What comes to mind when you think of BDSM? Something taboo? Something shameful? Something naughty?

It’s a term that brings out a lot of thoughts and a lifestyle that is misunderstood by many.

BDSM is an acronym that refers to a specific type of erotic behavior or play, that may involve any of the following: bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism and masochism (S&M).

But what does that really mean and how does all of this work?

Being intimate is always a vulnerable space to exist in, even more so when you’re operating outside of “common” rules. Those who seriously dabble in the kink lifestyle place high regard in trust, communication and enthusiastic consent when exploring emotional and physical boundaries with their partners. Despite what most think about BDSM, it’s much more than whips and chains! There are specific, agreed upon rules for the safety and comfort of participants, and the play is as much of a mental dance as it is a physical one. Sometimes, it isn’t physical at all! In a way, it can be a method for people to work through their anxieties in a safe space and to grow in confidence and in the expression of their authentic selves.

Imagine feeling free of judgement of your most closely held desires and fears. Imagine being totally open to experience all the sensations and emotions life has to offer. Imagine exploring the breadth of those human emotions, expressions and sensations within boundaries you’ve set with someone you trust with your body and mind.

We don’t have to imagine too much; this exploration is peppered throughout Prince’s discography. Over the years he has dabbled in BDSM ideas, maturing in the depiction of its concepts as he aged.

Below are some examples.

(Note: The year listed is when the song appears on an official album or release.)

“We’re going to do things a little different tonight. You don’t like it the same, do you? You want surprises, right? You want surprises in your love life. ... I love you. Do you love me?” – Prince, Louisville, Kentucky (2002)

Sadism: the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on others.

Soft and Wet (1978)

Hey, lover, I got a sugarcane 
That I want to lose in you 
Baby, can you stand the pain?

Automatic (1982) 

Yes, I’m addicted to your pleasure 
Yes, I’m addicted to your pain

Strange Relationship (1987) 

I guess you know me well, I don’t like winter 
But I seem to get a kick out of doing you cold

Elixer (2009) 

You can fight in vain 
I'm gonna have my way all night and all day 
Seven tears fall like rain in between the joy and pain 
Oowie, baby

Pheromone (1994) 
*This whole song is a fully thought out BDSM scene

I can feel the tension through the crack in the door 
He begs for love, while she's disgusted more 
And I'm on fire, 'cause I've never seen her nude before 
I wanna save her 
I want to watch 
All my vital signs go up a couple of notches 
When he unties her and she runs for the open door 
He trips and grinds her 
Right there all on the floor 
She's so close I can touch her

Sensation play: pushing sensory limits, thus exploring texture and sensory deprivation through whips, flagellation and edgeplay (a more extreme form of BDSM).

Sister (1980) 

I was only 16 and only half a man 
My sister didn’t give a goddamn 
She only wanted to turn me out 
She took a whip to me until I shout 
Oh, motherfuckers just a motherfucker, can’t you understand?

Automatic (1982)



Ripopgodazippa (1998) 

Instead of walking inside I just knock on the door 
I take a look around until she beggin’ me more, more, more 
When I finally come inside I’m standin’ perfectly still 
"I can’t take no more"
Pump you then I will

Breathe (2002)

Passionate fashion of tongue that keeps lashing 
On skin like a whip, ooh breathe in, breathe out 
Slowly, slowly, ooh

Bondage: The practice of tying, binding or restraining a partner for erotic, aesthetic or somatosensory stimulation--with consent. 

Superfunkycalifragisexy (1988)

If you do too much, your skin will be sensitive to touch 
The first person to touch you, you want to fuck 
You take them to your crib and you tie them to a chair 
And you make funny faces ‘til they get real scared 
Then you turn on the neon, then you play with yourself 
‘Til you turn them on

Sexy MF (1992) 

We need to talk about things, tell me what ya do 
Tell me what ya eat, I might cook for you 
See it really don’t matter ‘cause it’s all about me and you 
Ain’t no one else around 
I’m even with the blindfold, gagged and bound 
I don’t mind, see this ain’t about sex
It’s all about love being in charge of this life and the next

Eye Hate U (1995) 

I’d like to have the defendant place her hands behind her back 
So I can tie her up tight and get into the act 
The act of showing her how good it used to be 
I want it to be so good, she falls back in love with me

1000 X’s and O’s (2015) 

I wanna hold you, tie you up in lace 
I wanna kiss you, kiss you all over your face 
I wanna love you all up and down 
Give you love like you never had
Blindfold, gagged and bound

Dominance and Submission: a set of behaviors, customs and rituals involving the submission of one person to another in an erotic episode or lifestyle.

The Continental (1992) 

Shall I write the alphabet?
Or shall I just write my name? Why?
You tell me, you're the ruler in this telephone game 
I could be a slave when it comes down to you 
I'll do any and everything you want me to do 
U know why? 
'Cause I want you to have fun 
So how you wanna be done?

Sexmesexmenot (2004)

Black pepper, grind you please 
Make a brother happy 
Where? 
On your knees 
Ho ho ho ho
Sex me
Hold me tight, choke the bird 
Sex me 
Choke it

Kept Woman – Bria Valente, written by Prince (2009)

Was it his cologne or the style of his hair 
They told me I should stay away and not go there 
Sometimes I'm all alone and don't see him 
I wish it was different but I don't care 
I'm a kept woman 
He don't see nobody but me 
We got a pretty little house 
And only me and him got the key 
A kept woman 
Sometimes I don't know why 
A kept woman 
Sometimes I cry

He likes it when I dance for no reason 
He likes it when I dance 
But he doesn't like it when I raise my voice to him 
I try to stop but I can't …

He's the hotness in my fire
I give him anything he desires 
It may sound crazy but it suits me fine 
'Cause ain't nobody ever take away what’s mine 
'Cause I'm a kept woman 
'Cause he's every single thing I need 
Spiritual, physical 
Kept woman 
Chemical, emotional 
And everything in between 
Don't you know that I’m a kept woman 
Ooh, loves me like no other 
A love you never seen
I'm a kept woman 
And I'm his queen

Gun Play: the act of using either a loaded or unloaded firearm during BDSM and sexual play. 

Pheromone (1994) 

I can see the curtain wrestled from the wall 
I can see her hands tied, I can see it all 
He pulls a gat 
This is how they play the game 
And I'll 'round the back 
'Cause curiosity, it knows no shame

Her eyes are closed but there's no penetration 
He just makes her point the pistol to his nose while he masturbates 
And now I see a tear heading down towards her smile 
What happens next, it all depends upon your style

Honorable mentions:

S&M Groove (2004) 

Sadomasochistic groove 
Freaks gonna bob 2 this 

Here Eye Come – Bria Valente, written by Prince (2009)

Don't ever stop what you're doin' 
Oh, I feel like that dirty blonde girl in "9½ Weeks"* 

*9½ Weeks is a 1986 film starring Kim Basinger that depicts a sadomasochistc affair 

“Feel ashamed and ordained …” – Prince, "When Eye Lay My Hands on U" (2004)

Prince once noted that his most erotic material was in his vault, but we see that he shared quite a few special moments over the course of his career. There is sometimes an assumption that sexuality presented in these taboo ways is shameful or not becoming of what Prince represented. However, looking past BDSM stereotypes, one can see that this lifestyle is very much about the freedom to explore the limits of human expression without judgement. It’s an opportunity for people to be their whole selves with people they trust, and that can be a spiritually ecstatic and deeply intimate experience no matter how sexuality is expressed.

These BDSM themes and other erotic and fetishistic explorations quite literally span from Prince’s very first album, 1978's For You, to his last, 2015's HitnRun Phase Two. They even still show up during his spiritual walk in the Jehovah's Witness faith. Check the last bit of "Mellow" from The Rainbow Children for his offer of musical accompaniment for your “personal time;" or the bridge of "Incense and Candles" from 3121 for what he wants to smother you with; or what’s buried in the mix in the bridge of "This Could Be Us" from Art Official Age for what he would like to clean, how he would do it and what you can look for in your gratitude for said cleaning; or "Xtraloveable" from HitnRun Phase Two for how he'd like you to dress while dancing. Perhaps it is worth considering that even his most “taboo” songs are not out of character for his creative expression at all. Instead, they are examples of how Prince’s work documents the full range of human intimacy.


Keep up with Darling Nisi 

Podcast: Muse 2 the Pharaoh
Tumblr: darlingnisi.tumblr.com
Twitter: @darlingnisi
Instagram: @darlingnisi

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Friday, January 3, 2020

"Will Anybody See the Dawn?" - "Signs of the Times" Magazine

Image of "Signs of the Times" magazine
March 1987 issue of Signs of the Times magazine.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Press Publishing Association. 

Rule #1: Never assume Prince read something.

Rule #2: Never assume Prince didn't read something.

Rule #3: Never assume what Prince read had an impact on his music.

Rule #4: Never assume what Prince read didn't have an impact on his music.

All of that is to say this post is all in good fun. The above is a screenshot of the March 1987 issue of Signs of the Times, a monthly Seventh-day Adventist magazine. The publication has been around in different formats since 1874.

Prince grew up attending Seventh-day Adventist church services, and he released his Sign O' the Times album in March 1987.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the issue of Signs of the Times that came out at that time to see if there was any coincidental overlap in subject matter. After examining the titles of the feature articles--"How would the Founding Fathers feel about the trend of religious and political leaders switching roles today?"; "Solving the Problem of Heartache;" The Menace of Midtown Memphis"--I didn't find any common ground. But then again, I don't know anything about the actual content of the pieces.

I can, however, hear Prince imitating Thomas Jefferson in my head.

Of course, I know Prince completed the album before this magazine issue came out, and I wouldn't guess he was reading the publication at the height of his superstardom in the 1980s.

But I think it's reasonable to speculate that Prince was exposed to Signs of the Times as a child. I might reach out to the church he attended to see if they were passed around in the '60s. I know the "signs" of end times is a subject found in the Bible and the phrase "sign of the times" is common in American language, so I'm not implying Prince got his album title from a niche publication.

But you have to admit, it's an interesting little ripple in the deep well of Prince's spiritual world.

Now, the Jehovah's Witnesses' Watchtower magazines have had an obvious impact on Prince. We'll get to those before long.


Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

"The Year is 2020" - New Podcast with Scott Woods

Writer and Prince scholar Scott Woods and I finally decided to record one of our Prince conversations. We figured New Year's Day was a great time because Prince recorded a song called "2020" in 1995. On this first episode of "The Purple Canon," we discuss the song and other themes, like Prince's spirituality and use of space in his music. Enjoy!







Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.