Touré Tackles Prince in New Book, Finds Jesus, Discovers They're One in the Same
Dearly Beloved, you are gathered here today to read our interview with a writer about a legendary performer. In this corner, Touré: Journalist and thinker for many an outlet (The New Yorker, VIBE, Time.com), and author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness: What It Means to Be Black Now. You perhaps know him best for the incredible face he made when R. Kelly asked him "When you say 'teenage' how old we are talkin'?" during their on-camera interview for BET or the time he straight Son'd Piers Morgan on dude's own show at the height of all that Trayvon Martin sadness.
In the other, Prince: a mystery wrapped in an enigma stuffed in an extra small woman's blouse, guitar virtuoso, known lover of pancakes, and (maybe) Son of God. You know him best for not really knowing him at all. That's about to change.
Because Touré's excellent new book about Prince, I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon, comes out March 19, and it's a definitive, in depth look at the Purple One. ("I'm a Prince scholar and this is the ultimate Prince book," blurbs ?uestlove on the book's cover). In advance of the Prince Tribute at Carnegie Hall tonight, we rang Touré up to talk about the talented Lilliputian Seventh Day Adventist. Shit got real.
See also: The Ten Best Concerts in New York This Week, 3/4/13
I Would Die 4 U is a deep analysis on Prince's life and work, how did the idea come about?
Well, I was interviewing Skip Gates after my previous book Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness and during the interview he said "Why don't you come back to Harvard sometime and do a lecture?" and I said, "Sure I'd love to, let's do the discussion on Prince and his relationship to Generation X."
This book discusses how Prince is the voice of Generation X -- why does Generation Y not have the same connection to Prince they do with Madonna and Michael Jackson?
Because ultimately Prince was pretty much done with the main part of his career when you guys started to become of age -- in terms of when you were actively consuming music. And, generally, a generation is going to be most intense about people who are active music makers at that time, at their time when they are 15-16, 20-22 years old. They are aware of the past -- I love Sly Stone and Al Green and Mile Davis and the Beatles -- but you really get excited as a generation for the people who are having their moment as you're going through those teenage years and early twenties. Prince was doing that for Generation X so that's part of the reason he means so much to us in a way.
You opened up about the time you spent with Prince for the cover story for Icon Magazine, and how he didn't allow you to use recording devices. Tell us about that.
It was pretty extraordinary. He was pretty much passed his musical prime at that point, but he's still the extraordinary figure and individual. You could not tape record the interview. There was a given excuse as to why -- something about not wanting to be extorted. But I think what was really going on was he just wanted to keep these journalists off balance. Because if he didn't want to be distorted then he wouldn't want people to be scribbling notes on what you say as you say it. The way for you to be certain with your words is to be quoted. It is really difficult to hear what he's saying because he speaks in a very particular way, this sort of modern Shakespearian way. So you're constantly writing notes as he's talking and you're not really getting all of it. I remember writing down what he said and then later on I looked at it and said, "I have no idea what that means." At the time [of the interview] it may have or may have not meant something to me, but when I looked at it later, I don't see it. I don't know what this relates to, I don't know what is going on. That's the experience of this guy.