This book is a no-holds-barred but empathetic assessment of Prince’s career to date, tracing his steps from his roots in Minneapolis to the worldwide success he still enjoys today.
A famous classical composer, when asked how he had time to compose so many works, replied “When you sleep”. The book demonstrates how Prince showed similar dedication to his craft, as is clear when he describes his early musical career: “Anyone who was around then knew what was happening. I was working. When they were sleeping, I was jamming. When they woke up, I had another groove.” This is a recurring theme throughout the book. Despite Prince's bands The Revolution and the New Power Generation providing able musicianship on stage, in the studio it was very much the multi-instrumentalist Prince that defined and produced his sound.
The conflict between Prince’s desire to express himself artistically and the commercial demands imposed on him by his record label and management is another recurring theme. Once he had released his most successful albums, Purple Rain, 1999 and Sign O’ The Times he turned his attention to redefining his role in the music industry. The famous period when Prince chose to be known as an unpronounceable symbol is presented honestly but sympathetically, without the mockery and sensationalism that was often found in media stories on Prince during that time.
At times the narrative moves from event to event with almost breakneck speed – but this is unsurprising considering the sheer volume of Prince’s output. An interesting observation is made when the author compares Prince to Michael Jackson, who put out two albums between 1983 and 1987 – Thriller and Bad. During the same time, Prince had written and recorded ten albums for himself and others. Frequent mentions are also made of “The Vault”, a strongroom of thousands of unreleased recordings and videos at Prince’s residence Paisley Park which are yet to see the light of day.
Draper does not shy away from obvious flaws in Prince’s personality (his treatment of protégés The Time spring to mind here, not to mention his often cavalier attitude to relationships) but this is carefully done, so the respect for Prince’s ability and achievements does not waver.
This book is a great chronicle of Prince’s career. Covering every album, every movie, and every tour, it includes profiles of various key collaborators, assesses the artist's various business dealings, and details his many and varied side projects - on stage, on record, on screen, and beyond. It would suit both the casual fan who would like to know more about him and also the more dedicated one with a few gaps in their knowledge.
Prince: Chaos, Disorder and Revolution by Jason Draper
Published by Backbeat Books