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This is What It Sounds Like: Prince in Music, Books, and Film

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This is What It Sounds Like: Prince in Music, Books, and Film

The artist known as Prince, born on this day in 1958, was known primarily for his spectacular and groundbreaking music. His work fused various genres like Pop, Rock, Funk, and R&B, and explored gender, sensuality, and spirituality in unique ways that are still imitated more than 45 years after his career began.

But Prince also made big splashes in the world of cinema, where he not only recorded the soundtracks to numerous Hollywood movies, but he also directed and starred in some of those films as well. He has even been the subject of books by renowned writers like Nick Hornby and Hilton Als. Below are just a few of the great works by and about Prince that are available to borrow or stream using your Livingston Library card…

Music

purple rain

Purple Rain

Recorded with his backing band The Revolution, Prince’s Grammy-winning soundtrack to the movie of the same name is what cemented his place as one of music’s most iconic stars. AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes that “Although Prince’s songwriting is at a peak, the presence of the Revolution pulls the music into sharper focus, giving it a tougher, more aggressive edge…Taken together, all of the stylistic experiments add up to a stunning statement of purpose that remains one of the most exciting rock & roll albums ever recorded.”

Parade (Music from the Motion Picture Under the Cherry Moon)

Featuring “Kiss,” one of the artist’s best and most popular tracks, Parade is “the sound of Prince at his most effortless and assured. Cohesive and ice cream-cool…” (Simon Price, The Guardian)

Batman

Prince’s soundtrack to Tim Burton’s movie may not sound like what you’d expect to hear in a superhero blockbuster, but its radically experimental Funk offers endlessly rewarding listens.

Piano and a Microphone

Recorded in 1983, this was the first official album released by Prince’s estate following his 2016 death. Containing covers, sketches, and alternate versions of previously-released songs, The New York Times described it as “a glimpse of a notoriously private artist doing his mysterious work.”

Books

beautiful ones

The Beautiful Ones by Prince

From Prince himself comes the brilliant coming-of-age-and-into-superstardom story of one of the greatest artists of all time–featuring never-before-seen photos, original scrapbooks and lyric sheets. (from the publisher)

Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius by Nick Hornby

Equipped with a fan’s admiration and his trademark humor and wit, Nick Hornby invites us into his latest obsession: the cosmic link between two unlikely artists, geniuses in their own rights, spanning race, class, and centuries–each of whom electrified their different disciplines and whose legacy resounded far beyond their own time. When Prince’s 1987 record Sign o’ the Times was rereleased in 2020, the iconic album now came with dozens of songs that weren’t on the original– Prince was endlessly prolific, recording 102 songs in 1986 alone. In awe, Hornby began to wonder, Who else ever produced this much? Who else ever worked that way? He soon found his answer in Victorian novelist and social critic Charles Dickens, who died more than a hundred years before Prince began making music.

Examining the two artists’ personal tragedies, social statuses, boundless productivity, and other parallels, both humorous and haunting, Hornby shows how these two unlikely men from different centuries “lit up the world.” In the process, he creates a lively, stimulating rumination on the creativity, flamboyance, discipline, and soul it takes to produce great art. (from the publisher)

My Pin-Up: A Paean to Prince by Hilton Als

In this brilliant two-part memoir, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Hilton Als distills into one cocktail the deep and potent complexities of love and of loss, of Prince and of power, of desire and of race. It’s delicious and it’s got the kick of a mule, especially as Als swirls into his mix the downtown queer nightclub scene, the AIDS crisis, Prince’s ass in his tight little pants, an ill-fated peach pie, Dorothy Parker, and his desire for true love.

Always surprising and stealthily-even painfully-moving, Als plumbs longing: “I inched closer to him as he danced to you, Prince. But already he was you, Prince, in my mind. He had the same coloring, and the same loneliness I wanted to fill with my admiration. I couldn’t love him enough. We were colored boys together. There is not enough of that in the world, Prince-but you know that. Still, when other people see that kind of fraternity they want to kill it. But we were so committed to each other, we never could work out what that violence meant. There was so much love between us. Why didn’t anyone want us to share it?” (from the publisher)

This Thing Called Life: Prince’s Odyssey, On and Off the Record by Neal Karlen

A warm and surprisingly real-life biography, featuring never-before-seen photos, of one of rock’s greatest talents: Prince. Neal Karlen was the only journalist Prince granted in-depth press interviews to for over a dozen years, from before Purple Rain to when the artist changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph. Karlen interviewed Prince for three Rolling Stone cover stories, wrote “3 Chains o’ Gold,” Prince’s “rock video opera,” as well as the star’s last testament, which may be buried with Prince’s will underneath Prince’s vast and private compound, Paisley Park. According to Prince’s former fiancée Susannah Melvoin, Karlen was “the only reporter who made Prince sound like what he really sounded like.” (from the publisher)

Ultimate Songbook

A must for every fan, this songbook matching the double CD assembles sheet music for 28 of the very best from the incomparable Prince, including “Kiss,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Little Red Corvette,” “1999,” “Raspberry Beret,” “When Doves Cry,” and more. (from the publisher)

Film

sign o the times

Sign ‘O’ the Times

This theatrically staged concert film, directed by Prince himself, features songs from his epic 1987 album of the same name.

Prince: Purple Reign

This documentary takes an in depth look into the life and times of one of music’s greatest performers. (Description by Kanopy)

Prince: Up Close and Personal

A collection of interviews with the artist, from sources including MTV and Larry King.

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