The passing of Prince Rogers Nelson left a profound void in my life — but it also led to the greatest gift possible. Let’s go behind the scenes of my 23rd book.
I was drawn to Prince’s music at an early age. I was just 7 years old.
My Mickey Mouse record player was home to “the purple records,” which meant Motown disco sprinkled with their oldies. The first songs I bumped were “Upside Down” by Diana Ross, “Wanderer” by Donna Summer, and “I Wanna Be Your Lover” by Prince.
I don’t remember where I was in 1980 when the imprint was made. What I do recall was a kinship of the peculiar. He was weird too. Prince’s music struck a deep chord inside me that still vibrates today.
Prince is the reason why I committed countless hours to learning multiple musical instruments. I was giddy the first time I produced, arranged, composed, and performed an album (as he had done throughout his career). His music has always soared, and it’s been there for me when others haven’t.
When Prince tweeted “I am transformed” (2016 April 15), the context wasn’t immediately clear. Most thought it was something about a new album. Six days later, he was gone.
The artist was intensely private. He silenced many of his collaborators with non-disclosure agreements. He intentionally obfuscated the details of his upbringing with the press. Because of this, the lessons of Prince’s life have largely remained a mystery until the last two years.
Slowly but surely, people began to talk. It started with Van Jones’ heartfelt words about Prince’s charity work. I combed through countless articles and sound bytes, listened to dozens of radio shows, spoke with his first manager Owen Husney by phone, and sat down with his first photographer Robert Whitman in his SOHO studio in New York. I even visited each of Prince’s childhood homes (the ones he didn’t have razed).
In Alan Light’s exceptional book Let’s Go Crazy (2014), Alan Leeds offered an interesting observation about Prince. He reiterated his sentiments further in subsequent interviews. For those who don’t know Leeds, he was tour manager for James Brown, Maxwell, D’Angelo, and Prince. He was also President of Prince’s Paisley Park Records for several years.
“This was a young man with abandonment issues, stemming from his parents and a dysfunctional atmosphere. He was black in a city with a small black population of little visibility or influence.”
Leeds concluded that there’s a book to be written about Prince’s psyche — his condition of the heart, if you will. I trusted his close confidant’s instincts and took a leap to write BlueCloudz.
I arrived at what “transformed” likely meant to Prince. I believe he found redemption after a lifelong struggle with abandonment issues. Looking into his past through this filter opened a window into my own developmental challenges. My newfound ability to heal those wounds is the one gift I most needed — and now it was unlocked.
It’s been said that every artistic endeavor is essentially a self-portrait. BlueCloudz has been the most reflective project of my career. I’ve been forced to reconsider many of my decisions (going back many years), the mistakes I continue to make, and the boundaries I’ve placed around myself. It’s unfortunate that it took Prince’s passing to realize these deeper connections — not only to his story but to my own.
Hey, that’s life sometimes.
April 7: the 40th anniversary of Prince’s debut (with the release of For You) and the soft launch of Eric S. Townsend’s 23rd book, BlueCloudz. Grab the PDF ebook now. Join the author for a unique look into Prince’s early years. Be a fly on the wall as the icon’s circle forms. Prince’s talent and vision were off the charts. His choices were at times confounding and petty. Above all, he was remarkably human.