Prince was an enigma. And after reading a biography like Prince: Purple Reign the artist formerly known as remains a real mystery. The book is by the accomplished music journalist Mick Wall, and while it presents some facts, anecdotes and chronology about Prince’s life, there are many aspects that are glossed over or omitted from this slender volume.
Wall begins the biography in an objectionable way, including the verbatim 911 call from Prince’s home by an unidentified male on the day the musician’s body was discovered. This biography is bookended by salicaceous text, because at the end also sees Wall speculating on Prince’s alleged addiction to pain killers and other drugs. Fortunately, the rest of the book seems to be more focused on the music and the art.
Purple Reign does not offer any new information for the diehard Prince Rogers Nelson fan (and it is these readers who will notice some glaring mistakes and omissions.) Instead, this biography relies on secondary sources like the few interviews the artist gave himself, as well as articles and books delivered by those closest to Prince. The story is by no means comprehensive, but it does at least present a straight-forward, easy-to-read chronology of the majority of Prince’s projects. This in itself is no mean feat considering how prolific this talented, composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was.
Mick Wall is no stranger to the world of music. He is a music fan through and through. He was also an early champion of Prince’s music as well as many other artists he wrote about in his decades spent working as a music journalist. Wall is also a prolific writer himself, having penned dozens of music biographies for the likes of AC/DC, Lou Reed, Metallica, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam, to name a few. There is no question that Wall is an excellent writer who creates interesting sentences that are easy-to-read and follow, but these biographies do feel like they barely scratch the surface.
For casual fans, Purple Reign may satiate your appetite for learning about Prince’s background and the wider cultural context he operated in. There are some interesting moments where you learn about his quest for artistic freedom and his insatiable appetite for writing, recording and creating. But for those readers who want books with more in-depth analysis of their favourite artist, Purple Reign will leave them hungry for a book with more diamonds and pearls.
Mick Wall’s Prince: Purple Reign is available now through Hachette Australia.