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Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince
     

Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince

by Ben Greenman
 

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A unique and kaleidoscopic look into the life, legacy, and electricity of the pop legend Prince and his wideranging impact on our culture

Ben Greenman, New York Times bestselling author, contributing writer to the New Yorker, and owner of thousands of recordings of Prince and Prince-related songs, knows intimately that there has never been a

Overview

A unique and kaleidoscopic look into the life, legacy, and electricity of the pop legend Prince and his wideranging impact on our culture

Ben Greenman, New York Times bestselling author, contributing writer to the New Yorker, and owner of thousands of recordings of Prince and Prince-related songs, knows intimately that there has never been a rock star as vibrant, mercurial, willfully contrary, experimental, or prolific as Prince. Uniting a diverse audience while remaining singularly himself, Prince was a tireless artist, a musical virtuoso and chameleon, and a pop-culture prophet who shattered traditional ideas of race and gender, rewrote the rules of identity, and redefined the role of sex in pop music.

A polymath in his own right who collaborated with George Clinton and Questlove on their celebrated memoirs, Greenman has been listening to and writing about Prince since the mid-eighties. Here, with the passion of an obsessive fan and the skills of a critic, journalist, and novelist, he mines his encyclopedic knowledge of Prince’s music to tell both his story and the story of the paradigm-shifting ideas that he communicated to his millions of fans around the world. Greenman's take on Prince is the autobiography of a generation and its ideas. Asking a series of questions—not only “Who was Prince?” but “Who wasn’t he?” and “Who are we?”—Dig if You Will the Picture is a fitting tribute to an extraordinary talent.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - John Williams
Dig if You Will the Picture isn't a biography. It isn't an annotated discography. It isn't a memoir of fandom. It's a bit of all these things…Greenman's book is not a straight path, but it doesn't aspire to be. It mostly succeeds on its own terms, as an overview of the talent, the excesses, the adoration.
Publishers Weekly
★ 04/03/2017
Part fan’s notes and part cultural criticism, music journalist Greenman’s absorbing and entertaining study of Prince and his music compellingly underscores the Purple One’s enduring contributions to pop music. After he buys his first Prince album—1999—in 1982, Greenman becomes obsessed with the music, waiting anxiously at the local record store for every new album and discovering that Prince is, among other things, a “jazz-age sweetie, spiritual pilgrim, sexual puppeteer.” Greenman chronicles Prince’s life from his childhood up through the earliest moments of his career, but and he peers into the sources of Prince’s inspiration as well as the many themes that appear constantly in his music, such as sex, virtue and sin, and race and politics. Greenman also considers the reasons that Prince changed his name in 1993—in part as a ploy to retrieve his masters from Warner Brothers—and his frustration with the Internet as a method for delivering his music. Prince’s genius is on full display here as Greenman remarks on his prolific music virtuosity, putting out an album once a year, and his obsessive dedication to saving every little scrap of his writing and recording to use again. Greenman’s brilliant book celebrates a musician who crammed substance into every corner of his music. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“When it comes to funk and words, lyrics and language, there couldn’t be a better pairing than Ben Greenman and Prince. From my experience with both of them, this is the perfect match, like ham hocks and cornflakes.”

—George Clinton

?"?Prince’s genius is on full display here as Greenman remarks on his prolific music virtuosity, putting out an album once a year, and his obsessive dedication to saving every little scrap of his writing and recording to use again. Greenman’s brilliant book celebrates a musician who crammed substance into every corner of his music.?"?
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Praise for Ben Greenman

“Greenman understands the power of music all too well.” Newsday

"Incapable of writing anything dry or familiar or expected. He is one of the most versatile, consistently surprising writers at work today.” —Dave Eggers

“Brilliant and wry” —Karen Russell

“Greenman rarely plays a wrong chord.” New York Times

“He writes sentences so sharp they hurt.” —Jess Walter

“What a fine and unique writer Ben Greenman is. I love his sentences, his precision. I feel like he’s absorbed and digested so much great literature, distilling it all to create his own fantastic universe of stories and ideas.” –Jonathan Ames

“Seriously brilliant and lyrical” —Simon Van Booy

"Ben Greenman's mind contains, among other things, a literary critic, a cultural commentator, a cowboy, a satirist, a scientist, a surrealist, a nut, a genius, a child prodigy, and a poet." -Susan Minot

“Like Bruno Schulz, George Saunders, Donald Barthelme, and no one else I can think of, Greenman has the power to be whimsical without resorting to whimsy.” —Darin Strauss

“Light-stepping and hard-hitting Greenman gets it right” — Walter Mosley

Kirkus Reviews
2017-03-07
A satisfying portrait, warts included, of the Purple One, one-time heir to the thrones of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix alike.Readers approaching a biography of Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016) are likely to take as a given that the subject was one of the great musical geniuses of history. If they are not, then New Yorker contributor Greenman—the as-told-to author of Questlove's well-received memoir Mo' Meta Blues (2013), among other nonfiction and fiction—is prepared to recite the artist's bona fides: from his breakthrough album of 1980, "Dirty Mind," to the 1989 soundtrack to Batman, Prince "rarely if ever put a foot wrong," and from "1999" to "Sign O' the Times," a period including the definitive "Purple Rain," he was "perfect, the equivalent of Bob Dylan from 1965 to 1969, the Rolling Stones from 1968 to 1972, Talking Heads from 1980 to 1985, or Public Enemy from 1988 to 1991." Big shoes, all those, for the diminutive, sometimes-litigious, and decidedly eccentric artist to fill, but Greenman makes his case at leisure—and convincingly. Moreover, he notes, Prince remained an experimenter throughout, one of the great masters of the recording studio who had an archivist's talent for tucking away even the tiniest of musical scraps, for which reason we're likely to have Prince albums well into the future. Sometimes Greenman's enthusiasm melts into diffusiveness, as when he invokes the psychological theory of flow to discuss Prince's creative processes; sometimes it gets a little silly, as when, writing of Prince's household staff, he notes, "a pixie did his laundry and the universe, his will." Still, the author avoids most of the worst clichés of music writing, and it's clear that he knows and appreciates music at large as well as his immediate topic. Likely not the definitive book on Prince, but certainly one that merits attention by fans and students of pop culture alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250128379
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/11/2017
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
60,143
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Ben Greenman is a New York Times bestselling author and New Yorker contributor who has written both fiction and nonfiction. His novels and short-story collections include The Slippage and Superbad, he was Questlove's collaborator on Mo’ Meta Blues and Something to Food About, and he has written memoirs with George Clinton and Brian Wilson. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, McSweeney's, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere.

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