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Prince's Relationships With His Dad, Michael Jackson and Record Label Examined in New Unauthorized Biography
- Posted on Dec 20th 2011 12:45PM by David Chiu
Jordan Strauss, WireImage
Prince's life and and career are what author Ronin Ro has documented in his recently-published unauthorized biography, 'Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks.' "I wanted to basically tell his story chronologically," Ro, who has written the books 'Dr. Dre' and 'Have Gun Will Travel,' tells Spinner. "I also wanted to try to get into not just the fun of [Prince] making music, but to show the fun that he had in maintaining his career no matter what was going on. I wanted to get into his ups and downs [and] how he never gave up."
One aspect that the book touches on is Prince's relationship with his father, jazz musician John Nelson (aka Prince Rogers), which is in real life was different from the dramatized version in the film 'Purple Rain.' "We all know the stories of how his pop left [after his divorce from Prince's mother]," says Ro. "[Prince] actually seemed to feel bad when the father left and he wanted to continue playing music on his father's instruments [that were left behind in the house]. But it seemed, according to his own testimony, that the mother and the stepfather didn't want him doing that. That was one critical factor."
St. Martin's Press
Though it would appear at first to the public that Prince and Michael Jackson were rivals during their peak period in the '80s, the two had a respectful relationship. "Prince didn't see Jackson as his competitor," says Ro. "He wanted to be regarded in the same circle as people like Miles Davis [and] Santana, not just pop artists."
A constant pattern in Prince's life is how amazingly prolific he was in recording albums -- just as he completed one record, he was already working on the next one. "It was a good way to operate," Ro says. "You kind of get bored because you live with the record for so long. One of my favorite parts of the book is he would do one album and he'd bring in some weird instruments. For 'Dirty Mind,' he said, 'OK, I'm gonna write on a guitar.' And that's what made the music a little angrier and visceral."
The book also relates the deteriorating relationship between Prince and his longtime label Warner Bros. during the '90s. "Sometimes Prince's tastes weren't in line with what people wanted to hear," says Ro, "or some people at Warner wanted a little more hip-hop and razzamatazz. They'd get into it over choosing which single to introduce an album with. I feel that once [you stop] playing as much guitar and start to program these James Brown/Public Enemy/early-'90s-type beats, you may not hold on to that lucrative rock audience. At the heart of the battle was that misunderstanding about whether he received a $10 million advance if his albums sell or didn't sell at a certain level. At one point in the book, Warner did try to reason with him, and I think Prince was like, 'Nah, forget it.'"
Prince is still at it, having just wrapped another successful run of shows. Ro attributes the Purple One's ongoing popularity to the nostalgia factor. "It's not only exclusive only to him in music, but he's got a segment of hardcore fans that generally love and respect and appreciate his music. For the mainstream audience, they want to hear him do 'Purple Rain.' He's not out there begging for acceptance as he's gotten older. He kind of limits his exposure to the mainstream media. That's really the core of it. Norman Mailer had said, 'The longer I stay out of the newspapers, the more longevity I have.' Prince creates a situation where the only way you get Prince is through something where [he] has the lion share profits and can determine the venues."