Books, Music, Non-Fiction, Reviews

‘Prince: Purple Reign’ Book Review

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Over the years there has been much written about Prince; his highs, his lows and the story of how this diminutive Minneapolis-born artist  played by his own rules, took on the music industry and won more often than he lost.

Prince: Purple Reign is a new book by Mick Wall that promises to “open a door to Prince’s world like never before” exploring the historical, cultural and personal backdrop that “gave rise to an artist the likes of which the world has never seen – and will never see again”. Wall is a renowned UK music journalist and prolific biographer. He has written books about The Doors, Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden, Bono, Guns n’ Roses, Lou Reed and many more.

Despite Wall’s early interaction with Prince as a music journalist, this is a distant biography – an outsider looking in. He knits together a well-crafted patchwork of the facts, anecdotes and quotes that make up Prince’s history. Bookended by the tragic details of Prince’s death, Purple Reign otherwise takes a well-worn chronological path. It tells the story of Prince’s childhood, his initial difficulties securing a record contract, his meteoric rise to fame, his contract dispute, name change and his last, less commercially successful, but more spiritually fulfilling years.

The final chapter returns to Prince’s death from a Fentanyl overdose. While a necessary part of Prince’s story – Wall’s decision to give further airtime to some of the more salacious (and to my knowledge, unsubstantiated) rumours published by rags like the National Inquirer upon his death, end the book on a decided tabloid tone. Prince was often tabloid fodder throughout his career, yet this final chapter is tonally inconsistent with Wall’s otherwise balanced approach to his subject.

Despite this, and the familiarity of the stories told, Wall (a lifelong fan of Prince), tackles his subject with vigor, skillfully weaving an interesting and pacy narrative without delving too deep or getting lost in any one aspect of his life.

Prince: Purple Reign is hard to put down, I devoured it from beginning to end in four hours. For fans, Purple Reign will be a page-turning refresher on the familiar yet still astounding life and career of Prince. For those less familiar with Prince — the man, the musician, the legend, Purple Reign is a taut telling of his story, impact and legacy.

Prince: Purple Reign by Mick Wall is published by Hachette Australia. You can buy it here

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