Mick Wall is undoubtedly the slam dunking, home run bashing, touch finding bad ass king of biographies featuring musicians and musical artists. In ‘Prince Purple Reign’, Wall takes on the reclusive figure of Prince and deconstructs – or attempts to in a honest mein – the incredible life of one of the most brilliant artists of all time.
On April 21, 2016, at 9.43 A.M, Prince Rogers Nelson was found slumped in an elevator at his Paisley Park apartment. Unresponsive to treatment he was soon declared dead at 10.07 A.M by the Carver County Sheriff Department. This shocking announcement brought the curtain down on a career that was incomparable, inimitable and insular.
Prince was an innovator par excellence, a genius in the mould of David Bowie in conception and Miles Davis in execution. Confining Prince to a particular or Specific genre of music is an exercise not only in futility but a also in absurdity. Wall refers to Prince’s approach to music as ‘unisexual rock-pop-funk-disco-Frisco-LSD-be-my-BB’ Surely no other description would do justice to describe the pure magic that oozed out from this legend and suffused the world in its thrall for over three glorious decades.
Although not within the strict parameters of a full blown comprehensive biography, Purple Rain doubles up as a quasi substitute which abhors tabloid lowdowns in favour of seminal consequences. From an ordinary beginning as a music obsessed son of separated parents to the monarch of a sprawling mansion conservatively estimated to have cost 10 million dollars, Mick Wall charts the rise and rise of Prince with the odd fall and odder eccentricities in between. Prince’s self determined motto in life was total involvement with and unabashed devotion to music, sex and God. The diminutive singer with arguably the most famous Afro hairdo viewed this Trinity as an immutable whole. The troika was to be a unending virtuous wheel of deliberate monotony and ribald repetition.
Falling foul of purists, invoking the ire of incensed parents and panned by critics, Prince refused to back down and with the wholehearted (and at times reluctant) backing of Warner Brothers went on to create history. 100 million records sold, seven Grammies, an Oscar, numerous BRITS, MTV and American Music Awards provide ample testimony to the breathtaking talent of this unbelievable artist. And then there were the eccentricities! A complete refusal to give interviews; an incredulous announcement on his thirty fifth birthday that he had changed his name from Prince to a symbol (yes you read that right);a multitude of steamy affairs; demented and deranged stage outfits that included thongs and stockings; a protest against Warner Brothers that involved the word ‘Slave’ pencilled on his cheek all created a sensation of awe, agitating the purists, alarming the parents of frenzied teenagers and arousing the passions of orgasmic fans. But as Wall rightly points out,Prince was just being himself.
The last chapter of the book is devoted to a heart wrenching analysis of the sudden death of the man who immortalized himself with jewels such as ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘When Doves Cry’. An avowed critic of drugs, a vegan and a teetotal, the elusive Prince was living a dangerous double life, liberally consuming powerful opiates such as Dialaudid and Percocet. More than 20 patches of Fentanyl were recovered upon him, the maximum prescribed dosage being 5. Unbeknownst to many, the man who was one of the greatest dancers and gyrating sex symbols of all time was also a chronic sufferer of hip and ankle pain. The bitter sweet irony of his death being that the same drugs which did for his arch rival and the King of Pop Michael Jackson did Prince in too. The master of the Purple era was no more.
But The Purple Reign has no end.