Monday, December 12, 2011


A mask will hide your face but not who you really are. Masks are worn to keep a person’s identity hidden, the focus on the mask itself and detract from the face that someone does not want seen. But, there are many other masks that hide people and not always are they ones we physically put on. Prince was a complicated young man and man from the start. He has many different personas, goals and friends that helped, hindered and worked with them to get where he is today. At times he felted shunned, ostracized and cast out by his family because of his beliefs, ideas, and passions. Never really recalcitrant, rude or disrespectful and only wanting to rise to the top of the musical charts, Prince went on a roller coaster or Ferris wheel ride filled with dips, turns, wild twists and much more to become who he is today: Prince the Music Icon and Star.

Flamboyant, talented, unique and quite different Prince rocks the stage like no one else. But, it was not always that way for him and his roots and his beginnings are related in a biography that will bring it all home for the reader allowing you to get to know the real Prince. Ronin Ro wrote Prince: Inside the Music and The Masks to showcase this amazing and talented man. Born in 1958 to John and Mattie his parent’s life took on a rocky road from the start. A father who wanted to be what his son aspired to and became and a mother who wanted him to be college educated and not what he turned out to be. Life began for him as Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis with a rocky start. Parents that wanted to become singers and musicians but with six children to support had to give up on their dreams and aspirations. A father who resented his children’s talent as Prince and his sister would play the piano and sing together. His parent’s divorce, his mother’s remarrying and his flight to live with a father that would turn him out onto the streets with nowhere to go. An aunt that took him in and a father that finally understood but did he? Things changed for Prince as his mother had a child from her second husband life was not to the same.

One thing that this reviewer loves if this performer which is why I asked to read and review this talented man’s biography who is totally unique and different from others in the field of music. Breaking every music boundary and definitely developing a style so different and unique author Ronin Ro takes the reader on a journey back to where it all began as we learn about his talented singer, musician and man of many masks or hidden faces.

From the start he had several strikes against him. Being short in stature received him much ridicule and harassing in school. A father that wanted to become a piano playing star and a mother whose aspirations were cut short because of family obligations, Prince decided to leave home at an early age and pursue his music career.

At the age of 17 he caught his first break when he became friends with Chris Moon who had wrote songs, had faith in Prince and managed to get his first demo recorded. Prince played all of the instruments, produced his own records and was totally in control of how he wanted things done. Not focusing primarily on the piano, he began playing bass, drums, lead guitar and adding vocal tracks. Mystifying those that heard him and astounding the studio tech and he orchestrated, created and wrote the words, chapters and book so to speak that would be his life. But, at seventeen he was unstoppable and even though he did not have the total confidence he does today being in the limelight, he hid it behind his mask of fear. Going to New York would change things for him as he was offered not one but two contracts. But, as the contracts and offers came in Prince wanted total control of everything including how the music was played, the instruments he used and those allowed to voice any opinions. He became more difficult to work with although many thought him talented. Not wanting to be branded as black made it more challenging to promote him yet his first album signing scored over 3000 screaming kids. In order to try and corner the black market Warner Brothers sent the media publicity materials. Black teen magazines, editors and writers wanted to feature Prince. Next, Warner provided money for a small tour and with the help of his cousin Charlie he created and formed his own band. Next, to prove his talent he needed his first show. In 1978 Prince released his album For You playing every instrument himself. But, he still went over the allotted budget for this project. IN 1979 he released another album where his fame and popularity skyrocketed due to one hit song, “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” This particular song enabled him to make an appearance on everyone’s favorite show American Bandstand. Imagine meeting Dick Clark that to me has to be the greatest honor. Of course being a fan of Prince I even listened to the original recordings on UTube of his music.

Creating his own visions and incorporating  his ideas into every song, video and concert, Prince rebuilt and reinvented himself over and over again showing the public and his critics a different side or face of Prince each time he performed. Outrageous in his appearance, overbearing, zealous, focused, distracted at times this megastar was unpredictable, highly motivated and yet hiding his real self behind so many different faces or as the author states in his title Masks. Prince had many hidden fears. He would often pray that audiences would accept and like him. Managers that could not control or deal with him or the stress that went with working with him. Never allowing anyone to upstage him, walking off stage and finding his way onto a plane to start another project, Prince was truly as one album was titled: A Controversy. Competition made his pulse. Michael Jackson came on the scene and provided Prince with the momentum, impetus and energy to forge ahead and create more albums, concerts, begin a movie and become totally unstoppable. His song, “ Little Red Corvette,” was one of his success and each album produced was better than the one before and each theme unique and different. Tours, concerts, the song Purple Rain and dealing with many managers who left him, performers he had to replace and creating band after band to suit his needs and desires for each project, Prince did not have to write I Am A Star, he was one already.

Throughout the novel you hear the voice of the author narrating the detailed events of this star’s life. Included and interspersed he adds the artist’s words and thoughts for the reader to really begin to understand Prince, his fears, his desires, goals and aspirations in his own words.

The competition between Prince and Jackson did heat up and the distance between him and his father narrowed as they finally came to an understanding and began working together. A rift with this bodyguard changed things and severed their relationship. Just how you need to learn the facts for yourself. His next film being cast and imagine wanting Madonna to play the rich girl in it. He came so far and was really soaring over the top. Girlfriend in hand, next movie to be released and hoping to get Under the Cherry Moon done, Prince tried his best to include Susannah in The Family. Paul Peterson cast in the movie, contracts that remained unsigned and tensions that would rise before all was said and done.

One thing that rings true throughout his career is how he remained loyal to his father allowing him to movie into his purple place on Kiowa Drive and made sure his mother was taken care of too. That would endear everyone to him and much more and let’s not forget his sister, Tyka too. But, what deflated his ego were the reviews he received from the media. Personalities coming into play, those loyal to him not really there, others needing to be replaced Prince’s career took many upward and downward turns on his spiral staircase to success.

The author relates all of his experiences, his concerts, his movies and much more in this in-depth biography of the life of a man who still brings the house down just walking on stage or when you hear the name Prince.

The death of a close friend brought things into perspective the reasons really heartbreaking. Next, the movie Graffiti Bridge and then let’s go to part three The Retreat before bringing it all to a close. However, the reviews were not very gratifying and the plot was said to be feeble and the description not flattering. Graffiti Bridge opened nationally and the reviews were not what he expected. Next, the change of managers and another album for Warner and love the title: Diamonds and Pearls.

There is so much more that the author included in this biography it would take another review to tell it all. Private and to himself those around him thought this was the concept for his album’s fictional story. At thirty- five he referred to himself as a symbol and the reason why and the reaction you can learn when you read Chapter 32. The final chapters tell how he began being known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince instead of the glyph combination of male and female symbols. Problems with Warner Bros over his artistic creativity, conflicts that soared and Prince protesting many situations in public Prince once again showed the world and the recording companies who was in charge. The summer of 1994 would change things when the parties The summer of 1994 would change things when the parties The summer of 1994 would change things when the parties came to an agreement where Prince would be able to leave the Warner Bros. label after completing two more albums where the Gold Experience received outstanding reviews. More albums and more successes but I cannot reveal it all because that would not leave anything for you the reader to experience for yourself. In 1996 he signed a distribution agreement with EMI- Capitol Records which released a triple CD called Emancipation. Believe it or not he got married the following year and had a son who died hours after being born leaving a great impact in this talented man. The rest of his story His return and  the author’s final thoughts you can learn as his comeback came in 2007 when five hundred reporters packed the Miami convention Center for the Pepsi Super Bowl and Prince found himself as the headline for the event. The rest my dear readers is History. Passionate, determined, talented, focused, still at the top of his game and definitely one of my favorite singers in the world marked by my favorite color Purple. Prince is a legend and his work is memorable. This book is a definite tribute to the life of this outstanding artist and for those of us that love Prince: Read the book. The interesting last piece of information I want to share is that Prince was the one who helped Michael Jackson learn how to best stage his comeback. Kindhearted, appreciative of all that he has received he is truly a voice that will always and should always be heard. Thank you Ronin Ro for writing this book and thank you to St. Martens for sending me this outstanding book to review.

Fran Lewis: reviewer


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