This Thing Called Life: Prince's Odyssey, On and Off the Record Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
This program is read by the author, and includes archival recordings of conversations between the author and Prince. A warm and surprisingly real-life biography 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”. Karlen quit writing about Prince a quarter-century before the mega-star died, but he never quit Prince, and the two remained friends for the last 31 years of the superstar’s life.
Well before they met as writer and subject, Prince and Karlen knew each other as two of the gang of kids who biked around Minneapolis’s mostly-segregated Northside. (They played basketball at the Dairy Queen next door to Karlen’s grandparents, two blocks from the budding musician.) He asserts that Prince can’t be understood without first understanding ‘70s Minneapolis, and that even Prince’s best friends knew only 15 percent of him: That was all he was willing and able 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 profoundly changes what we know about Prince, and explains him 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. Listeners will drive around Minneapolis with Prince in a convertible, talk about movies and music and life, and watch as he tries not to curse, instead dishing a healthy dose of “mamma jammas”.
A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 28 minutes|
|Audible.com Release Date||October 06, 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #46,030 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#282 in Music (Audible Books & Originals)
#892 in Rock Band Biographies
#1,031 in Rock Music (Books)
Top reviews from the United States
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Neal Karlen was Prince’s “acquaintance” for over 30 years, and even calling Prince that was reaching. Even so, Prince felt a kinship with the fellow Northsider from MPLS, and was the one journalist who Prince felt comfortable with going on and off the record to. In confiding in Prince, Karlen saw a man who was painfully human, yet so caught up in his own hype that he never allowed himself to BE human. Prince was the king of pain...Physically and emotionally. And “This thing called life” is a sad, painful read.
I enjoyed the read, despite some flaws. I do believe the book could have been edited some, and cut down by some pages. Despite being a convoluted read, there’s something about “This thing called life” that makes it the most honest, believable Prince book I’ve read (and I’ve read my share of them), hence four stars. One can see the parallels and contradictions of Prince, which resulted from Prince’s own need to recreate his “image,” at the expense of his humanity. He writes about him as Prince Nelson from North MPLS, because at the core of Prince’s being, he wasn’t a demigod: He was Prince Nelson from the Northside. Prince too saw Karlen as the real deal because he didn’t fall for the Prince Kayfabe, which was why he was so honest with him.
What Karlen leaves for us readers to think about is that Prince gave us way more than what us fans paid for, and it was a steep cost to his physical, mental, and emotional well-being. But then again, that too was part of the act. Sadly, the gimmick hid all the things that made Prince human, which is what ultimately killed him.
Note: some of the harshest reviewers here are Stan’s who believe that Prince was murdered by WB’s and the Illuminati. I know who they are. Never mind them
I would definitely recommend this to any Prince fan. It gives us a compelling and different perspective on the man. Its definitely not your typical "he was born June 7th 1958...in 1984 he released Purple Rain" type of biography. Instead we get a look at him through Neal's eyes. And Neal was a friend...
2/3 of book is speculations about Prince's thoughts and wishes.
The author sure knows how to stretch a book.
Top reviews from other countries
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 19, 2020
Neal Karlen is a journalist who interviewed Prince in the 1980s, and according to the book they struck up something of a friendship. The book tells the story of their relationship over the years, and presents a "behind the scenes" look at Prince's life, and paints quite a sad picture.
The trouble is, how much is true? Prince famously didn't allow interviewers to record their conversations, or take notes, yet this book is filled with details of long, involved conversations. There are a couple of photos of notes Karlen received from Prince thanking him for interviews, but that's it - everything else perished in a fire, apart from notes and recordings on a laptop. It also rambles, especially towards the end, and it repeats itself time and time again, sometimes even in the space of a single page, plus there are issues with names being mis-spelled (Tony Mosly - really?) and mis-labelled photographs, such as one claiming to be of Wendy and Lisa when it is Wendy and her sister Susannah.
Interesting in places, but ultimately repetitive, rambling, and of questionable authenticity. A frustrating read.