Saturday, September 26, 2020

"Here We Are, Folks!" - Sign O' the Times Deluxe Edition Unboxing

I received my copy of the deluxe edition of Prince's 1987 album, "Sign O' the Times." Check out my unboxing video below!


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Friday, September 25, 2020

"Shock-a-lock-a, Boom!" - Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win a Sign O' the Times Button Set! Click here


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Friday, September 18, 2020

"We Can Work It Out" - Experimenting with Facebook Ads

I set a goal for myself to increase my monthly newsletter list to 1,000 this year (I have just over 700 as of today). I've had great success collecting email addresses through my giveaways (come back next week for another one, btw), but I wanted to explore other avenues. Over the past week, I ran two Facebook ads to gain new subscribers, and things were decent for my first try! 

See below for the details and if you haven't subscribed to my monthly newsletter, you can do so right here.

First, I created a "lead generation" ad, which collects email addresses directly on Facebook. I'm pretty happy with these results. The ad will be finished tomorrow, and I think I'm going to hit 50 leads. I spent approximately 70 cents per email address, which isn't too expensive for me. I would run this type of ad again and spend more money to get 100 new subscribers. 

Cost: $33.63 (of $35)

Duration: 6 Days (of 7)

Reach: 2,017

Leads: 46


I wasn't sure if people would put their email addresses directly on Facebook, so I ran a "website visitors" ad that took them off Facebook and directly to my signup form on MailChimp. Although this ad reached more people, fewer people signed up for my newsletter. So, moving forward, I will only run the ad above to collect email addresses, but I will utilize the "website visitors" ad to send people to my blog to get more views on my content. I'll also plan to run some ads to boost the number of people who "like" my Facebook page. 


Cost: $25

Duration: 5 Days

Reach: 4,319

Clicks: 101

Subscribers: 16

Friday, September 11, 2020

"Count the Days" - Song of the Month

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

"Count the Days" is technically a New Power Generation song, released as the third single from the band's 1995 album, Exodus. Of course, Prince played an integral role, though disguised as "Tora Tora," one of his many alter egos. Bass player Sonny T. takes the lead vocal, but Prince's guitar is the real star. (By the way, Prince positioning Sonny as a lead vocalist reminds me a lot of Jimi Hendrix featuring drummer Buddy Miles as a singer in the Band of Gypsys, but that's another discussion for another blog.) I fell in love with this song watching a video of a live performance on British TV program "The White Room." First of all, Prince, aka Tora Tora, somehow made a costume of a face-obscuring scarf, hat and black-and-white suit look appealing. I love how he was so meticulous about image and mystique.

The song is a perfect example of how Prince is able to write in layers. If you don't listen closely, you might think "Count the Days" is a love song. That was my first reaction because the TV host introduced the song by commenting on Prince and Mayte Garcia's relationship. The music is pretty, pleasant and almost tranquil. Listening again, I heard a deep connection to Curtis Mayfield, and I began to think Prince was simply focused on evoking a feeling of old-school soul music, especially because the lyrics seemed so cryptic.

"Here's a church, here's a steeple/Here's a motherfucker that I gotta blow away."

But I knew something was missing. I talked through the song with my friend and writer Scott Woods. We asked ourselves, how often is Prince purposely nonsensical, and how often is he writing personal lyrics? In my opinion, "Count the Days" is very personal, and there's a thread of anger under the lovely melody. You could imply the song is about his deteriorating relationship with Warner Bros. Prince is literally counting down the days until he is out of his contract. And you could read the whole Exodus album as an escape from the control of the record label, but also as Prince's mission to free other artists, especially Black artists, from the limitations and abuse in the music industry. 

The video for the song adds another layer. It features historic footage of events during the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington, and his wife, Coretta Scott King, standing over his coffin. Prince felt very strongly that he could use both his celebrity and advocacy for artist rights to help create a better future for Black people in America, and much has come to light about his charitable contributions since his death. So, it makes perfect sense to me that he paired a song about being enslaved to a corporation with a video about the plight of Black people.

I once found myself thinking, "This song would be more enjoyable without the abrasive lyrics." But that's precisely the point. We can't be fully at peace with the world because we aren't fully free. Think about what Black people are still enduring in 2020. We're still counting the days...

Count The Days from Irresistible Rich on Vimeo.


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Friday, September 4, 2020

"With an Intellect and a Savoir-Faire" - Purple Recommendations


There are a lot of folks consistently creating great content about Prince. Here are some recent examples that caught my eye.

1. Muse 2 the Pharaoh: The Sun, The Moon and Stars

Darling Nisi's podcast explores Prince-related topics from a female perspective. Her latest episode explores Prince's natal chart. 

2. Podcast on Prince: Bernie Grundman Interview (Patreon only)

This long-running Prince podcast features news, reviews and interviews. The latest episode features a noted mastering engineer who recently worked on the forthcoming remaster of Prince's "Sign O' the Times" album. 

3. Press Rewind Prince - Lyrics Podcast

Jason Breininger's podcast analyzes the lyrics of Prince's music, album by album. He's currently on Around the World in a Day. Check out all the episodes featuring a lineup of special guests.

4. Dance/Music/Sex/Romance: The Dawn: How Prince’s Troubled Followup to 1999 Almost Became His Feature Film Debut

Zachary Hoskin's blog analyzes Prince's discography, song by song, but he often has some interesting detours along the way. This post imagines "a circa-1984 Prince without Purple Rain." Creative stuff! 

5. polished solid Newsletter

This is a new venture by De Angela L. Duff, the mastermind behind some compelling Prince symposia. Subscribe to keep up with all of her Prince projects and much more! 

6. #PrinceTwitterThread: 3121

DJ UMB and Edgar Kruize have been inviting guests to dissect each track on certain Prince albums. The latest in the series included a surprise contributor who worked with Prince for years. 

7. Purple Playground: Academy of Prince performance

This summer music program "enriches teens' lives with Prince history and a chance to make music inspired by him, helped by musicians who played with him." Watch the young people play a song they wrote with help from Shelby J., Adrian Crutchfield and Elisa Fiorillo. 


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Friday, August 28, 2020

"A Reason to Believe" - "Graffiti Bridge" Presentation

Check out my presentation, "Graffiti Bridge: Prince’s Sacred Triumph over the Profane," from the #DM40GB30 Symposium


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Friday, August 21, 2020

Song of the Month - "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold"

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

Released on Arista Records in 1999, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic was supposed to be Prince's "comeback" album. Unfortunately, it failed to make an impact in the mainstream music industry. He and label head Clive Davis reportedly hoped the first--and only--single, "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold," would appeal to women and teenage girls. I was in the latter group and I actually remember seeing the video on BET or MTV, so the marketing was on point. During that time, I knew some of Prince's classic music and respected his talent, but I was not engaged. I thought the song was interesting, but his look was odd to me. I remember noticing his eye shadow and thinking, "I don't really understand this aesthetic," but in junior high-level language, of course. I was fully into the boy bands and young, R&B groups of the day. Other than his attempts to design "The Greatest Romance" to fit into that sound (to a point), Prince was an outlier for me. Frankly, I thought he was weird and a little scary. It's funny; I see some of this thinking in my teenage niece's perception of Prince today. Just a few years later, I would watch Purple Rain and then listen to The Rainbow Children and become a superfan. Now, I actually love the song and the video. He and his co-star are absolutely gorgeous. It is my favorite track on Rave, which is my least favorite album in his discography. It's sexy, slick and has an intriguing, Arabic-influenced melodic line. The lyrics are poetic. I also like how much he is feeling the beat in the video and in the Rave Un2 the Year 2000 concert film. Is it his strongest song? No. But I love how Prince can't help but make quirky musical choices even when he's attempting to make a conventional product.

  

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Friday, August 14, 2020

"I Like Danger" - Favorite Prince Quotes (1980s)

*Featuring art from the 9T99 Coloring Book

“The most important thing is to be true to yourself, but I also like danger. That’s what is missing from pop music today. There’s no excitement and mystery--people sneaking out and going to these forbidden concerts by Elvis Presley or Jimi Hendrix. I’m not saying I’m better than anybody else, but I don’t feel like there are a lot of people out there telling the truth in their music.” 

- Los Angeles Times, 1982






"Not long ago I talked to George Clinton, a man who knows and has done so much for funk. George told me how much he liked Around the World in a Day. You know how much more his words mean than those from some mamma-jamma wearing glasses and an alligator shirt behind a typewriter?" 

- Rolling Stone, 1985







"When one is alone, one should try talking to God. It worked for me. It's not going to make your problems go away, but it just makes it easier to cope with. It makes you feel that there is some place to go. The pain becomes less. The hurt becomes less. Loneliness becomes less. And everything, all your problems, becomes so small." 

- Ebony, 1986







View my favorite quotes from the '90s here


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Friday, August 7, 2020

"Heavenly Angels Crying" - Why Prince is a Beast at Vocal Arrangement - Pt. 1

"Every voice that he's adding is a different character he made up in his head." - Chuck Zwicky, engineer

*Photo by Scott Woods 
Painting by Lisa McLymont

It would have been enough to be a keyboard wiz. It would have been enough to be a guitar god. It would have been enough to be a falsetto king. However, Prince was also a master at vocal arrangements, putting effort and creativity into even some of his most basic tracks. We need to talk about this more. The list below is a starting guide to Prince's brilliance in this area. 


Notable Tracks (Ranked)

13) "Planet Earth" - It's a slow burn and not made for heavy rotation, but once you make it through, you'll be blessed with some vocal gems and a soaring guitar solo. 

Best Part: 2:40-3:21

12) "Last December" - Sometimes, Prince will tease a vocal arrangement that you wish would go on forever. I would've loved to see him stand onstage with a group of backup vocalists, just singing his heart out a cappella. If anyone has this footage, hit the "contact me" button on this website. 

Best Part: 7:03-7:30 

11) "The Sacrifice of Victor" - Speaking of short bursts of inspiration, the "Amen" coda is everything. 

Best Part: 5:26-5:32

10) "An Honest Man" - This has never been my jam, but I have to admit the harmonies are impressive.

Best Part: 0:00-0:43

9) "For You" - I love that the first song on Prince's first album has these beautiful, stacked harmonies; it lets you know this was a talent and interest he had from the beginning, and we should pay more attention to that. 

Best Part: 0:04-0:47

8) "Tamborine" - I often forget how quirky and cool Prince's harmonies are on this because I'm too busy air drumming and doing the screaming part. 

Best Part: 1:55-2:10 

7) "7" - Prince's mastery of unique, stacked vocals is only matched by his mastery of apocalyptic messaging. 

Best Part: 0:00-0:35

6) "Condition of the Heart" - A brilliant, odd, interesting Prince classic. Sometimes, he hits a note that takes your breath away. Clara Bow would agree. 

Best Part: 5:07-5:25

5) "Thunder" - Even fans who are really hard on the Diamonds and Pearls album have to admit this song is inventive and dope. We're also seeing a pattern of amazing a cappella openings, aren't we? 

Best Part: 3:00-3:24

4) "And God Created Woman" - Some of Prince's strongest songwriting, from the Biblical subversion to the musical arrangement to the vocals. 

Best Part: 1:33-1:53


3) "Come" - Very underrated in terms of music, meaning and vocal arranging. 

Best Part: 10:20-10:30 

2) "Gold" - That can't-get-out-of-your-car-til-the-song-is-over, tears-stinging-your-eyes brilliance. 

Best Part: 6:05-7:23

1) "Adore" - How did he hear all of this in his head? 

Best Part: 2:18-3:02; 5:45-6:31 

*Check out the Spotify playlist here


Notable Albums

Elixir - This might be his best work as a writer and producer on a female protégé's album. Is Bria Valente the strongest singer? No. But I truly believe her voice was a good match for Prince's vision, and she conveyed his vocal arrangements really well. 
(You may @ me.) 

20TenPrince made an excellent choice hiring Shelby J., Liv Warfield and Elisa Fiorillo Dease to do background vocals. As Fiorillo Dease said, they were his "angels."



Notable Live Material

"Dark" - Speaking of the trio of women on 20Ten, there's a rehearsal featuring their harmonies on this song. Beautiful. 

"Now" - Prince was smart to isolate the background vocals during "The Ultimate Live Experience" tour. If he didn't emphasize that vocal arrangement, I never would have heard it buried on the recording. He should've opened or closed the track with that alone. 

"The Second Coming" - If you want to attempt to make the return of Jesus Christ compelling for your listeners, this is the way to do it. 


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Friday, July 31, 2020

"Get Loose!" - Favorite Performances on "The Ultimate Live Experience" Tour


To promote The Gold Experience album, Prince embarked on The Ultimate Live Experience tour from 1995 to 1996. Like the Act I and Act II tours in 1993, this outing had two legs with different vibes. That's because, both times, a milestone took place in the middle of the tour. 

Prince changed his name to the Love Symbol between Act I and Act II. His relationship with Warner Bros. was also becoming strained, and you can see the impact of his frustration--and boredom--on the second leg, which made it an inferior show. The opposite occurs with The Ultimate Live Experience. Prince had been pressuring the record label to release The Gold Experience, and he finally got his wish between the two phases of the tour. Additionally, by the second leg, he was much closer to being emancipated from his contract. That show takes on a more loose, creative vibe than the previous iteration. 

But both legs are enjoyable. In fact, I think it's slowly becoming one of my favorite Prince tours! Though the set looks like it took a while to construct, the concert is relatively stripped down. The NPG is smaller; the horns are gone and Mayte Garcia is the lone dancer. If you catch the right footage, you can see how Prince responds to a band member's error (not a pretty sight). Otherwise, he appears to be in good spirits, and even relaxed on some songs. You see him let his guard down and even sing in his lower register on tracks like "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" and "Letitgo." Overall, this is some of his best dancing, singing and playing. Seriously.   

Here are the performances that stood out to me.

"Shhh" 

Confession: I often skip this track when I'm playing The Gold Experience. To me, "Eye Hate U" is the better ballad on the album. While Michael Bland's drumming is spectacular, the lyrics are rather bland to me. But live, Prince's guitar sings. 

"Days of Wild"

This..,might be my favorite of the very few Prince raps I enjoy. However, it's all about that bass guitar, especially on the second leg of the tour.

"Now"

This song seems silly at first, but it is a really well-done production (love that baritone sax). I let it play because it's fun, and I enjoy hearing Prince's singing get more frantic with each verse ("This about the freaks doing everything they wanna do now!"). But when you hear it live...whew! Prince isolates the background vocals, which are a treasure trove of harmony and arrangement. He is a master! (The rapping is a little...less precise.)


This is here only because of the choreography. His double turn is clean. 


Prince has some pretty intriguing arrangements on this tour and "Pink Cashmere" doesn't disappoint. He finds a way to swing this song, and I love the dramatic ending. He's got some soulful vocal runs in there, and Tommy Barbarella's hair flips are on 10. 

"(Lemme See Your Body) Get Loose!"

This is when I woke up during the show. I am not a fan of the original version of this song, but after viewing Prince's wild, ridiculous and mesmerizing dance solo, I am now hooked on this remix. I've stopped skipping the version on the Crystal Ball album now, which I never thought would happen. ("Motherf*$%#@s!") 

"I Love U in Me"

This isn't a song I revisit often, but there's something about hearing it live on guitar instead of on piano on the record. It's captivating. 

"Starfish and Coffee"

Here's what I tweeted after I saw this for the first time.

"Man, the NPG was getting even tighter at the beginning of ‘96 before #Prince switched up the band. Watching them perform this Latin jazz rendition of “Starfish and Coffee.” Good lord, Michael, Sonny and Tommy!"


"The Cross"

The guitar solo is a must-hear.

"Vicki Waiting"

I'm biased because this is one of my all-time favorite Prince songs. He takes it to church live. Mayte Garcia and the props are a little distracting here. Just try your best to enjoy the organ. 


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Saturday, July 25, 2020

"Annie Christian" - Song of the Month

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



I'm intrigued by "religious Prince" and "quirky Prince," so it makes sense that "Annie Christian" is one of my favorite tracks on his 1981 album, Controversy. Though I was too young to remember the "Satanic Panic" in popular culture, it was alive and well in my Christian household. I grew up believing in the existence of the devil and his effect on the world, which I expected to end at any moment. I will always be interested in unpacking good and evil, and I enjoy analyzing how Prince did this in his music. Discovering "Annie Christian" as an adult, I dug into his narrative of the Antichrist--characterized as a woman--committing real-life crimes (the Atlanta child murders, the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, etc.) and considered different interpretations. Beyond the lyrics, I fell in love with the music, a brilliant combination of punk and funk. It's certainly the album's oddest track, with its keyboard wizardry, handclaps and chants, but my favorite part is the way the guitar line adds color throughout the track.

Prince took "Annie Christian" to another level live; there are some musical alterations and both he and Dez Dickerson are absolutely shredding on guitar. It's electrifying! Hearing the song with a full band made me more impressed that Prince composed and recorded all of the parts himself. Before I found other Prince fans online, I tried in vain to turn a couple friends on to "Annie Christian." One liked the line, "I'll live my life in taxicabs," but wasn't moved by the message of looking over your shoulder in a world of unspeakable evil. Another liked Prince as a guitarist, but complained that the live version was "a little too out there." There are plenty of Prince songs I don't like, but I'm not sure any are too weird for me. Perhaps I'll give that some thought for a future blog post...



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Friday, July 17, 2020

"A Lonely Painter" - Favorite Tracks on "One Nite Alone"

It's no secret that Prince's 2001 album, The Rainbow Children, is extremely important to me. It's really the reason for my life's work--my book. It's funny that I don't have the same relationship with the One Nite Alone album, which was released just one year later. Honestly, it's probably because it just wasn't available to me at the time; I literally plucked The Rainbow Children from my local library. One Nite Alone wasn't there.

I came to One Nite Alone much later in life, and I have many hours to spend with it before I can form an in-depth opinion. But I'm excited to talk about it right now because I can focus on the music and lyrics instead of its connection to my life, with the exception of "Arboretum," which is dear to my heart.

 Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

It was difficult to select just a few favorite tracks because the entire album is really strong. It showcases his talent on piano; there are moments when I'm actually shouting, "Come on, Prince!" I'm looking forward to finding even more gems when I listen with headphones. I also hear the influence of Stevie Wonder on both "Objects in the Mirror" and "Arboretum." And Prince's voice, as always, is impeccable.

Prince also shows off his skill as a poet. The songs tackle everything from sex and domesticity to heartbreak and happiness. There's also a discussion of race.

Here are the songs I have on repeat.

"Have a Heart"

In my opinion, this is the best track on the album. I wish it were longer, but I'm happy he brings the theme back in the very next song, "Objects in the Mirror" (what a great metaphor), which I'd like to claim as an extension of "Have a Heart." First of all, I literally wrote down the word "savage" in my notes because the lyrics are biting. You wouldn't necessarily think he was taking digs, given the tone of the music. I can't get the melody out of my head, and his vocal arrangements are golden ("Everybody's had one seeeee").



"Avalanche"

I get chills each time I hit play. This is one of those occasions when Prince tells a very specific story in a song. There are several layers here. There's shock that some may feel at learning--or being forced to face--the true views of Abraham Lincoln, who is supposed to be an American hero. Then, there's the overall message that Black people do not have total freedom in this country. Think about the Emancipation Proclamation not being immediately enforced and the loopholes in the 13th Amendment--or take your pick from the various forms of systemic racism oppressing people from Reconstruction to the present-day. It's no surprise that Prince also sings about the inequality in the music industry; he mentions another figure, white record producer and talent scout John Hammond, credited with furthering the careers of Black artists like Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, Aretha Franklin and George Benson. Though Hammond is beloved and celebrated, Prince may have been concerned about possible exploitation of Black artists, and their introduction to a music industry that has historically swindled them out of ownership of their songs and fair compensation. Prince also makes a reference to the killing of Native Americans. He compares individual acts of racism to "every snowflake in an avalanche," which, to me, is a fitting metaphor for the massive impact of white supremacy.

 


"U're Gonna C Me"

Prince's acoustic albums are never quite acoustic. I love the extra, ambient sounds on this song. It might have just been "OK" to me, but the descending piano lines and chords take it to another level. I also love that the track is unresolved at the end. There are some naughty lyrics, corny lyrics and charming lyrics--but I like it all. Also, Prince is not always up-to-date on his technology references, so I'm proud that he talked about the two-way pager, which was actually popular when he released this album. However, by the time he re-recorded this song for MPLSound in 2009, it was out of style. Heck, when he sang, "In this digital age, you could just page me," on "Somewhere Here on Earth" in 2007, I was looking at him a little funny.



"A Case of U"

Joni Mitchell's music really suits Prince's falsetto and singing style. Pay attention to his vocal arrangements. I love how he puts his own, gospel-flavored spin on the song with his piano chords and the addition of the organ. It's also delightful to hear his brief, vocal exclamation when he's feeling his solo. I don't think I'm a huge fan of the coda; I wouldn't mind if he just played one measure and faded out right away so we'd all go, "Wait, what was that?" He was smart to leave it out when he submitted the song to the 2007 tribute album to Mitchell. The song is also dedicated to his father, John L. Nelson, who died a year before the album came out. I like to think of this whole Prince era as a tribute to him.




Related Content
Prince and Joni Mitchell
"The Rainbow Children": Three Bible Verses to Know
"Up All Nite with Prince" podcast



"Pearls B4 the Swine"

What a bright, beautiful ditty with an undercurrent of sadness. Using a Biblical reference, Prince lays out what seems to be deeply personal commentary on a relationship, be it with a life partner, the music industry or both. Also, the chorus is absolutely gorgeous.



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Friday, July 10, 2020

"Deliverance" - Donna Summer + Prince (Part Two)


Both complex and creative superstars, Donna Summer and Prince were marginalized as sex symbols, despite their profound spiritual journeys. Many of their similarities were explored in part one, which covered their childhoods and early success. Much of the research was based on Summer's 2003 memoir, Ordinary Girl: The Journey. 

The remainder of their lives and careers is explored below.

Racism & Music Industry Struggles

Sadly, the oppression faced by Black artists in the music industry, especially in the '70s and '80s, is common. Prince and Donna Summer did not escape that reality. From an early age, Prince sought to circumvent as much of it as he could; he crafted his image, sound and interviews so he could avoid being limited to the "Black" chart (as it was called back then), Black radio and underfunded marketing departments.

Building her career overseas, Donna did not immediately feel the baggage of being Black in the mainstream music world. But that all changed when she moved back home and had her first hit, "Love to Love You Baby," in the mid-70s.

"Although I grew up on and loved R&B music, I was much more of a pop-rock, folk-oriented artist," Summer wrote in her memoir. "But my skin was brown, so I was automatically packaged as an R&B act." Of course, the eternal "Queen of Disco" label didn't make life easier for the songstress.

"No one in America had any real clue that I had an extensive and quite successful European background in live and musical theater, or that I could actually sing other types of music," she continued.

Just as Prince had other talents (fashion, dance, producing/engineering), Summer was also a painter; her work can actually be found on eBay--which is a bit shocking.

As a woman, Summer had it harder than Prince; she said Casablanca Records President Neil Bogart was a "Svengali" figure in her life, controlling what she wore, where she socialized, what staff she hired, how often she toured (relentlessly) and what she sang. He even tried to give away her 1979 No. 1 hit, "Bad Girls"--which she co-wrote--to Cher! She composed both the lyrics and music for "Dim All the Lights," which reached No. 2 that year. But Bogart went behind her back and released "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," her duet with Barbara Streisand, which prevented "Dim All the Lights" from going to No. 1.


"I'm not overlooking the fact that I now had three songs in the top five," Summer wrote. "My personal goal of achieving a number one song as a singer-songwriter had been short-circuited."

Summer eventually parted ways with Casablanca Records after a legal battle.

Though Prince wrote all of his songs and was able to branch out into different genres, he was still limited by Warner Bros. in many ways. His battle over creative control and ownership of his work was well-documented in the media.

Spiritual Awakenings & Career Changes

In 1979, Summer was at the height of her career, but felt something was missing from her life. She'd struggled with depression in the past, and was taking medication, but she couldn't shake the emptiness until she rededicated her life to God.

"I was finally filled by God's Holy Spirit and gloriously born again," she wrote. "I lived with this impending fear of doom, a fatalism that controlled my life until the day I accepted Jesus into it."

Summer said she was carrying insecurities from her childhood and shame from decisions she made as an adult. While she didn't elaborate on changing her music in her book, she spoke about the influence of her religion in a 1981 interview with the Washington Post.

"I basically do all my songs, but I do them differently," she said. "I don't do them the way I used to do them and eventually I will cast them out. ... I have a commitment to fill and it would be unfair to people who are waiting to see a certain thing; that's what I did and unfortunately I'm stuck with doing it -- until I can get it to the point where it's changed, writing material that I don't mind doing, that's not an infringement on my new beliefs."

Summer's next album, The Wanderer, included the song, "I Believe in Jesus." She also began adding a gospel segment to her tours. She told the Washington Post she had plans to break with longtime producers, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte because she was looking for someone "born again." She did end up working with other people, but the decision appeared to be more about record label politics than spiritual beliefs.

Summer also cut back on performing to focus on her spiritual development and motherhood.


Prince had his own spiritual awakening in 1987, famously replacing The Black Album with the more uplifting Lovesexy, on which he proclaimed his belief in Jesus. He had a couple "born again" phases, though. After a period of additional spiritual searching in the '90s, he converted to the Jehovah's Witness faith in the early 2000s. He began echoing Summer's sentiments about changing his music, eliminating profane lyrics and retiring some songs altogether. He also encouraged his band and staff to attend Kingdom Hall services.

Passionate about fatherhood, Prince may have also taken a break from performing and recording; he said as much in interviews when his first wife, Mayte Garcia, was pregnant, but their son passed away after he was born.

Final Years & Legacy

It's common for artists to get reflective with age, and both Summer and Prince wrote memoirs, though Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2016 before completing his story. Both artists were recording less, though Prince was more prolific overall. They embraced TV appearances, Summer working as a judge on talent shows, and Prince surprisingly guest-starring on "New Girl." They were also working with younger, popular artists.

Summer was passionate about developing her own biographical musical, Ordinary Girl, but it never came to fruition. After she died of lung cancer in 2012, "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical" opened on Broadway. Prince had an interest in theater decades before his death, but towards the end, he was gravitating toward other activities, like writing, more than playing guitar.

Summer did not have the same challenges with drugs, but reflected on the issue in her book.

"I honestly believe that if you are going to be a great singer, songwriter or musician, you must at least be acquainted with pain," she wrote. "There's always a danger on the part of the performer that the pain will be unbearable, which is why, I think, so many performers have substance-abuse problems. They don't really understand or know how to control the emptiness or the pain, and finally it overtakes them."

Both Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are remembered as legends who broke down barriers; for example, they were both among the first Black artists to receive airplay on MTV (Prince with "Little Red Corvette" and Summer with "She Works Hard for the Money"). With her 1977 hit, "I Feel Love," she, Moroder and Bellotte are credited as electronic dance pioneers. And Prince's genius in the studio and onstage will never be seen again.



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Friday, July 3, 2020

"Unwind Your Mind" - Self-Care Break



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Friday, June 26, 2020

"I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" - Song of the Month

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


When I watched Prince perform an acoustic version of "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" on MTV in 2004, I wasn't as familiar with the song as I am now. (The audience wasn't singing along with much confidence, either.) When he finished playing, he asked, "Remember that from high school?" I'm a little jealous of fans who can say they do; I was just a toddler when the Sign O' the Times album dropped in 1987. His '80s period was not the soundtrack of my childhood. I developed a deeper relationship with his music as an adult. So, for me, "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" brings up memories of riding two buses to my grant-writing job at the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. For some reason, of all the tracks on the album, I added that one to my commuting playlist. I remember being especially impressed by the last two and a half minutes. Prince always gets me when he goes beyond the perfect, three-minute pop ditty and taps further into the emotion of the song with his guitar. I listened closely to each lick and the silence, which reminds me of what he said during the Piano & a Microphone show on January 21, 2016: “The space between the notes, that’s the good part. How long the space is … that’s how funky it is or how funky it ain’t." Sheesh. That last section of "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" is truly funky and it is why I even listen to the song. I'm still hearing new things! And just think: He wrote this song in 1979--eight years before its official release. I can't wait to hear the early version on the forthcoming remastered edition of Sign O' the Times.


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Friday, June 19, 2020

"The Joint Was Hoppin'" - Three Takeaways from the #DM40GB30 Symposium

     Chris Rob and his band perform a virtual set at the #DM40GB30 symposium.

Last weekend, New York University Associate Vice Provost and professor De Angela L. Duff organized a virtual symposium, "Prince: Dirty Mind 40, Graffiti Bridge 30." Originally scheduled to be onsite at NYU, the event celebrated the anniversaries of the two albums referenced in the title.

It was an honor to be invited to participate this year; I did a presentation on the spiritual themes in the Graffiti Bridge film and on the soundtrack.

Instead of rescheduling the symposium for 2021, Duff boldly moved forward with a virtual event on a new platform called Hopin. I am in awe of her work ethic and dedication to promoting Prince's musical and cultural significance. This was not her first symposium, but it was arguably the best. Because it was online, it reached more people and I would guess it allowed her to secure so many amazing guests, including Jill Jones, Andre Cymone, Jerome Benton, Vernon Reid, Nicolay and PRN Alumni members (though I know she worked hard on the lineup well before the coronavirus hit).


Here were three high points:

1) An incredible feeling of community

I have been so blessed to be a part of five(!) Prince conferences/symposia, including three by Duff. Through those experiences, I've met so many scholars who have become friends. But I've also made friends among other Prince-related content creators online. Both of those crowds intersected at #DM40GB30. It was such a joy to enter the (chat) room and be greeted by so many familiar faces.


But even more beautiful was the level of support on display. We were all rooting for each other and tweeting about each other. When I went live on camera in my virtual booth, I was so grateful folks came "inside" to support me. I mentioned my newsletter, and @darlingnisi immediately dropped a link in the chat. I'll never forget that moment. C. Liegh McInnis, who was an absolute rock star presenter and moderator, took time to email me after my presentation. Jonathan Harwell, co-editor of Theology and Prince, was an amazing supporter throughout the entire event.


The fact that singer Jill Jones stayed throughout the entire event, watched the presentations and shared encouraging words with presenters is more proof that Duff has built something truly remarkable.

2) A centering of Black voices--especially Black women

If you wonder why Black people are constantly repeating that Prince was Black, visit a Prince fan group sometime. You'll still find people who either erase Prince's race or project an anti-Black Lives Matter perspective on him when he said differently on video and in his own memoir.

For so long, only non-Black voices were permitted to contribute to the Prince canon. That is one of the reasons why everyone was so excited to see Right On! magazine's Cynthia Horner on a panel. Her perspective is valuable and deserves more attention. Some of us were also introduced to Black women journalists we weren't familiar with, like Carol Cooper (Google her). There were also presentations that spoke about Prince's music and Black women's sexuality in important ways that need more discussion.

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It's important to note that non-Black participants were welcomed with open arms, and they added extremely valuable input. But scholars who share Prince's cultural heritage will be able to contextualize Prince's art in ways that are not apparent to others. The many Black women in Prince's life were also lifted up--something that rarely happens in white-controlled media.


3) A re-examination of Graffiti Bridge

Prince once said it would take people 30 years to get Graffiti Bridge and he was right. I loved that so many scholars took time to seriously analyze the film using myriad lenses (Christianity, African spirituality, postmodernism, fashion). Some people were converted, too! You don't have to like Graffiti Bridge, but if you are a fan of Prince's brilliance, you'll at least try to understand what he was aiming for--even if you felt he didn't succeed.


For me, Graffiti Bridge carries amazing childhood memories. I will always remember that I had the opportunity to watch with Prince's co-stars, Jill Jones and Jerome Benton, and hear their commentary.



Check out Zachary Hoskin's overview, "Postscript: Dirty Mind 40 Graffiti Bridge 30 Virtual Symposium"


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Friday, June 5, 2020

"Jana Jade's Army" - Interview with Jana Anderson

    Photo courtesy of Jana Anderson

For iconic R&B singer Jody Watley, the 1989 hit "Real Love" was a boost to her already red-hot solo career. For then-unknown Minneapolis singer Jana Anderson, the song was an entrée into the world of Prince.

Anderson covered "Real Love" that year on the local talk show "Twin Cities Live." She had no idea the Purple One was watching.

"I, by chance, was wearing a very 'Prince' outfit," recalled Anderson, who was 21 at the time. "I was wearing 'Prince' boots with the gold buttons on the side and the little heel. [I wore] a crop top. ... I just bought it because I liked it."

He also noticed her singing at the annual Minnesota Music Awards, and then began showing up at Rupert's, a local nightclub where Anderson regularly performed.

"I'd always dreamed of being one of Rupert's singers because they were always the best in town," said Anderson, who was also the runner-up in a Miss Minnesota competition and a contestant on "Star Search" during the late '80s.

Prince's bodyguard informed Anderson that the superstar wanted her to record at Paisley Park. She agreed, and spent the next five years doing session work.

She quickly learned the rigors of working with Prince--on top of her other activities: doing commercials and singing at Rupert's well after midnight, five nights a week.

"I would be asked by Prince to come out after five hours of the 'Running Man' and the 'Cabbage Patch' (onstage)," Anderson said. "And I'm a high-energy girl. I always leave it on the stage."

But she was honored when Prince put her on retainer.

"[I thought], 'If he wants me that badly, I'm just going to have to figure it out and just be tired,'" she said.

    Photo courtesy of Jana Anderson

During those early days, Anderson remembers that Prince's studio was dressed up with Batman decorations, including a glass cutout of the bat symbol. (Prince wrote and produced the soundtrack for the 1989 film). And actress Kim Basinger, whom Prince was dating, would be there at times.

Much of Anderson's work for Prince is uncredited or little-known. She can be heard saying "partyman" at the beginning of Prince's 1989 video of the same name. She sang backup on "Miss Thang," a song by T.C. Ellis, a rapper in Prince's camp. She also sang backup on both "Shake!" and "My Summertime Thang" by the The Time.

"I was like the mystery girl," said Anderson, who was sometimes referred to as "blondie" on recordings. "I had no expectations. ... [For] everything he kept handing to me, one thing after another, it was gratitude, like, 'I can't believe I'm doing this,' and, 'I wouldn't have dreamed this.'"

Prince nicknamed her Jana Jade, and even wrote a mid-tempo pop song for her called "Jana Jade's Army," which is in his vault. Anderson also recorded an unreleased cover of The Esquires' 1967 song, "Get on Up." (Prince also recorded a version and later sampled the tune for Carmen Electra's song, "Everybody Get on Up.")

Anderson saved a recording of Prince singing the track to her, along with a voicemail. "He called me and all he said was, 'Let me know where you are,'" she said, doing the requisite "Prince voice" impression.

According to Anderson, Prince also wanted to record a house album with her. She said he would compliment her on the soulfulness of her voice, and he gave her space to interpret the music in the studio.

"He was gracious and sweet," she said. "I've heard people say he was insanely controlling. He was the 180-degree difference with me."

Anderson was also sought after by other musicians in Prince's circle, participating in recording sessions for St. Paul Peterson, Matt Fink and Brownmark.

"I love Jana’s voice," said engineer Chuck Zwicky, who worked with Prince in the late '80s. "She’s got such a wide range but she is really the princess of that 'sexy voice inside your head' thing."

Anderson is featured prominently on the song "MPLS," which was released on Prince's 1994 compilation album, 1-800-New-Funk. It is credited to the band Minneapolis, which included a shifting lineup of musicians: Morris Hayes, the Steeles, Kirk Johnson, Michael Bland, Billy Franze and Kathleen Johnson.

Anderson was no longer working with Prince when the song was released, and had no idea she would be on the final version.

"I thought my voice was going to be replaced by a famous person," she said.

Prince also created an unreleased, animated video for "MPLS," which featured Anderson's likeness. She remembers thinking it was ahead of its time.

"His assistant showed me in the office at Paisley Park," she said. "And I just thought, 'What a drag. I never got any success from this. I never got to promote it.'"


Anderson said she was working with a well-known songwriter who attempted to block Prince from releasing "MPLS." Prior to that, she left Prince's camp to pursue a record deal with Sony Music and work with Oliver Leiber, hitmaker for Paula Abdul and the son of legendary songwriter Jerry Leiber. But, according to Anderson, Leiber was unable to finish her solo album.

Anderson said she has no regrets.

"There were rumors that Prince would sign people and not do anything with them," she said. "And I was a little scared of that. ... I made the best decisions I could at the time with business and doing the kind of music I wanted to do. And Oliver had the kind of music that was really fun."

Anderson went on to work with Fleetwood Mac, Don Henley and Sheena Easton. Around 2008, she spotted Prince on a flight to Minneapolis, and they spent time catching up. He surprised her by suggesting she record a country album, which she was in the middle of doing at the time.

"He just knew stuff," she said. "It was like he was clairvoyant."

She said Prince also offered an apology.

"He said, 'I'm really sorry about what happened when we were working together,'" she recalled. "'I don't know if you heard, but I was having a lot of trouble with my record company at that time.' ... Maybe he felt bad I didn't get credit for 'MPLS.' I'm not sure what [it was]."

Anderson also gathered the courage to ask why he chose her among other singers to record for him.

"It flustered him [at first]," she said. "He goes, 'Well, you sing in tune and you have great time.' ... [It was] the best compliment of my life. ... There's no one who will ever have better time than Prince."

For Anderson, that final memory of Prince is one of many, including the way he smelled ("like essential oils mixed with perfume"), the time he playfully lectured her about eating gummy bears, and the opportunity to watch his impressive work in the studio.

"It was his technical ability, combined with his creativity, combined with [hard work]," she said. "He danced great. He sang great. He played all the instruments. He was a great engineer. Most people get two or three of those."

Today, Anderson is still making music in Minneapolis, and she teaches lessons and performs with a tribute band.


She looks back on her career with gratitude.

"I didn't even know how people got a job singing at a bar when I was in high school," she said. "And then I ended up doing all this. Prince was the blessing of a lifetime."


Keep up with Jana Anderson

Website: janaanderson.com
Twitter: @janaanderson1
Instagram: @janajadesarmy


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Friday, May 29, 2020

"The Rainbow Children" - Three Bible Verses to Know



In honor of the legacy reissue of The Rainbow Children, Prince's 2001 spiritual masterpiece, I've highlighted some Bible verses that are referenced on the album. I used the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which is the Jehovah's Witness text Prince studied during this time.

1) “Look! The days are coming,” declares Jehovah, “when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant." - Jeremiah 31:31

On Prince's 1988 spiritual concept album, Lovesexy, he stated, "Save me, Jesus. ... You are my God." On The Rainbow Children, which is more rigid in its presentation of Biblical doctrine, he is careful not to equate Jesus with Jehovah. Still, the latter record is, in many ways, a love letter to Christ.

When Prince sings, "The covenant will be kept this time," on the title track, he is referring to an agreement between God and humanity that yields forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus. Many Christians believe that this covenant was foretold in the Old Testament.


2) "Who can find a capable wife? Her value is far more than that of corals." - Proverbs 31:10

When Prince mentions a scripture directly, it makes interpretation of his lyrics a little easier. On "Muse 2 the Pharaoh," he speaks about the qualities of the ideal wife--according to Biblical wisdom. The section of Proverbs describes this woman as resourceful, business-minded, hardworking, wise, kind and pious.

Because this is Prince, there's a lot more to consider, including subtext about his real-life marriages and a perception of women that some may find problematic. There are also references to race that have been debated ad nauseam in the fan community.


3) "We heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens. You previously heard about this hope through the message of truth of the good news." - Colossians 1:4-5

Evangelism is a major part of the Jehovah's Witness faith. Followers seek to spread their beliefs, which they refer to as "the truth," to as many people as possible, and continuously practice strategies for effective communication. In their literature, they cite the scripture above to emphasize the importance of their mission.

Prince echoes this sentiment in the song, "The Everlasting Now."

"Don't let nobody bring you down
Accurate knowledge of Christ and the Father
Will bring the everlasting now
Join the party, make a sound
Share the truth, preach the good news
Don't let nobody bring you down
The everlasting now"



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Friday, May 22, 2020

"Computer Blue" - Song of the Month

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


"Computer Blue" was the subject of the first music theory assignment I did during my senior year of high school. I can't remember what I was trying to demonstrate; perhaps it was the musical change near the middle of the song. After all, it was that section that took my breath away when I watched the movie for the first time a year earlier. I grew up knowing about legendary black guitar players, but I didn't engage with them regularly. Watching the "Computer Blue" performance changed that; the melody of the second section is simple, but it was so beautiful to me, and I had to know everything about this clearly amazing guitarist, who was so connected to every note he was playing. I was a disciplined musician at the time, preparing to go off to college to study flute performance, which I would do for two years before starting a long journey to becoming a journalist. Prince inspired me as an instrumentalist and as a writer. In college, I did more assignments on him and began the work that would eventually become my book. I spend a lot of time promoting this post-'80s work, but "Computer Blue" will always be important to me. It still takes my breath away.


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Friday, May 15, 2020

"Eye Hate U" - Flutestrumental #1

My rendition of "Eye Hate U - Quite Night Mix."


Drop flute requests in the comments!

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Friday, May 8, 2020

"Spirit's Calling" - Donna Summer + Prince (Part One)


As unique as he was, Prince's music, ideas, career and life experiences did not exist in a vacuum. Many before him navigated the same hurdles.

As an artist, Prince was able to make interesting and often profound statements about sexuality and spirituality. But, at times, he struggled with the limitations of his image as a sex symbol, especially as his spiritual beliefs shifted over time. The same challenge was faced by his predecessors Little Richard, Al Green and Marvin Gaye. I've explored their stories in my book.

Donna Summer had a similar tale. A versatile singer and complex woman, she was pigeonholed by her "Queen of Disco" moniker and "sex goddess" persona. A highly religious woman, she had a spiritual awakening in the late '70s, and became more intentional about using her talent for a righteous purpose. But she grappled with how to serve God and her fans at the same time.

I recently read her 2003 memoir, Ordinary Girl: The Journey. Here are some things she has in common with Prince, spiritual and otherwise.

Church Roots & Angels

It's not uncommon for black singers to get their start in church. Born Donna Gaines in 1948 in Boston, the future superstar made her debut at her African Methodist Episcopal church. "I could hear God's voice clearly and distinctly inside my head, saying, 'You're going to be famous,'" she wrote. "That's power, and you are never to misuse it.'"

Summer had multiple, spiritual experiences growing up. She recalled becoming aware of God's presence in nature at 5 years old. A short time later, she said she became aware of God's protection when she nearly drowned. And at 19, she was convinced she'd met an angel, when an old, white-haired man stopped her on the street and predicted that she would have an opportunity to move overseas and become famous. Then, he disappeared.

"I started to weep right there in the street--not tears of sadness or fear, but an outpouring of all my emotions that had been stirred by the angel's vision and prophetic words," she said.

Prince had his own encounter with an angel, though he didn't retain the memory. It was an experience his mother recounted to him. Apparently, after suffering from epileptic seizures during his childhood, he informed his mother that an angel told him he wouldn't be sick anymore. Sure enough, he got better.

But Prince didn't share any other reports of God or angels speaking to him during his youth. He acknowledged God as the source of his musical inspiration, but that seemed to be a realization he came to gradually as he progressed in his career and his faith.

However, religious themes permeated his music from the beginning. He'd been exposed to Christian beliefs as a child in both Seventh-day Adventist and Methodist churches. A youth leader remembers Prince participating in choir, but not often; he didn't develop his singing chops there.

Work Ethic & Early Success

Prince honed his skills playing in bands and doing session work in Minneapolis. At 19 years old, he signed a three-album deal with Warner Bros., becoming the youngest person in the label's history to produce an album.

Summer was also 19 when she was offered her first recording contract by RCA in 1968. Prior to the opportunity, she'd spent years performing at church and in singing groups before joining a rock band, the Crow, and moving to New York City. However, instead of going forward with RCA, she auditioned for a European production of the musical Hair, and moved to Germany, where she lived and made a name for herself for the next seven years.

Summer was drawn to the 1960s counterculture both on- and offstage. "I could feel there was something more than just music in the fresh air of the sixties, and I was breathing deep, taking it all in," she said. "It was the beginning of a great liberation."

Prince was also drawn to the culture. Though his career took off in the '80s, he explored the theme of liberation through sexual freedom in his early songs like "Uptown," "Partyup" and "Sexuality." And, of course, he built his Paisley Park paradise in Minneapolis.


Superstardom & Controversy

Both future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were catapulted to superstardom around the same age; Prince at 26 in 1984 and Summer at 27 in 1975. Prince became an icon with his Purple Rain movie and album, while Summer broke through in the U.S. with her No. 2 hit, "Love to Love You Baby."

Prince had long been viewed as a rebel with his sexually explicit lyrics, revealing costumes and gender-bending image. His 1984 song "Darling Nikki" prompted Tipper Gore to form the Parents’ Music Resource Center, which eventually developed the "Parental Advisory" labels on albums.

While Prince's risqué  image was more strategic on his part, Summer didn't necessarily set out to be a sex symbol. "Love to Love You Baby" was controversial due to her erotic moans, which were improvised. Casablanca Records--financed by Warner Bros.--requested a 17-minute version of the song.

"I'd never intended to sing the song that way," Summer wrote. "[It] happened simply because we had run out of words, and I had to do something to fill the time."


Summer was immediately bothered by the content and her portrayal in the media. "Even a Time magazine article described me as the Queen of Sex-Rock, which I found appalling," she wrote. "As far as I was concerned, singing 'Love to Love You Baby' was just an acting exercise."

After years of playing up his sexual side, Prince began to feel the tension between the sacred and profane in his music as early as the Purple Rain tour. His onstage monologues about love versus lust and his belief God seemed to hint at an internal struggle.

"I know I said I'd be good," he said to God in front of the audience, "but they dig it when I'm bad."

Summer also wondered if she was pleasing God.

"Because of my strong religious faith, I felt very guilty about allowing myself to publicly be made into a false and prurient sex goddess," she wrote. "Don't get me wrong, sex is a beautiful thing in the right context, and I'm not a prude. But flaunting myself in this manner went totally against my moral grain."

Before long, both she and Prince would take steps to reconnect with their faith.

Stay tuned for part two!


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Friday, May 1, 2020

"Daddy Pop" - Favorite Prince Quotes (1990s)

*Featuring art from the 9T99 Coloring Book

"There’s nothing a critic can tell me that I can learn from. ... If they were musicians, maybe. But I hate reading about what some guy sitting at a desk thinks about me. You know, ‘He’s back, and he’s black,’ or ‘He’s back, and he’s bad.'"


- Rolling Stone, 1990











"If I was somebody else, writers and critics would be all up in the way the chords work and the keyboard lines. They just write off my slow jams."


- Spin, 1991













"I said to him, ‘Do you believe in God?’ And he says, ‘No.’ And I say, ‘Do you believe in faith? In hope?’ By the end of it, blood was down on his knees, looking for a church to go pray.”


- The Globe and Mail, 1996












"I really don't like categories (for my music), but the only thing I could think of is inspirational. And I think music that is from the heart falls right into that category, people who really feel what it is that they're doing. And ultimately all music is or can be inspirational. And that's why it's so important to let your gift be guided by something more clear."


- Larry King Live, 1999









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