This Thing Called Life profoundly changes what we know about a global star whose talents humbled other celebrities, and who ruthlessly controlled his own image and career, purposely muddying the murky waters of his own fractured life to keep attention focused on his music—not the man—and whom everyone wanted to know.
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 rock star's last testament, which is claimed to be buried with Prince's will underneath Paisley Park's vast acreage.
According to Prince's former fiancEe Susannah Melvoin, Karlen was “the only reporter who made Prince sound like what he really sounded like.” Karlen quit writing about Prince a quarter-century before the mega-star died, but he never quit Prince, and the two remained confidantes for the last thirty-one years of the superstar's life.
Indeed, Prince and Karlen had known each other years before (the reporter's grandparents lived two blocks from Prince in North Minneapolis,) as two of the gang of Minneapolis kids who biked around the neighborhood and played basketball. Karlen says that not only can fans not understand Prince without understanding Minneapolis in the '70s, but that even his best friends knew only 15% of him: that was all he was willing to give, no matter how much he cared for them.
Going back to Prince Rogers Nelson's roots, especially his contradictory often tortured, and sometimes violent relationship with his father, This Thing Called Life explains the star as no biography has: a superstar who calls in the middle of the night to talk, who loved The Wire and could quote from every episode of The Office, who frequented libraries and jammed spontaneously for local crowds (and fed everyone pancakes afterward), who was lonely but craved being alone. Readers will drive around Minneapolis with Prince in a convertible, talk about movies and music and life, and watch as he tries not to curse (and instead dishes a healthy dose of “mamma jammas”).
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