He was able to express things through his lyrics and music that we’re just not able to express everyday…he hit pieces of humanity that we don’t otherwise have access to.
If you’ve ever partied like it’s 1999, or driven through the purple rain in your little red corvette while donning a raspberry beret, you’ll want to grab Bridgewater State University professor Arthur Lizie’s recently published Prince FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Purple Reign.
The chairman of the Communications Studies Department has long been a fan of the late pop star, and was confident he had the necessary experience to write the 368-page book about his life and work.
“It’s actually kind of funny,” Lizie said. “After doing music reviews in high school, I continued and did it in college, too. Music has always been a big part of my life, so this book sort of feels like a full loop, like I’m coming back home.”
Lizie became motivated to write Prince’s story after the music star’s untimely death at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016.
After four years of research, writing and editing, Lizie’s book was released on June 15 as part of the FAQ series distributed by publisher Globe Pequot.
Prince’s catalogue of music is impressive, but Lizie also admires his versality and wanted to make sure that came across in his book.
“He was able to express things through his lyrics and music that we’re just not able to express everyday…he hit pieces of humanity that we don’t otherwise have access to,” Lizie said.
Lizie’s book examines the ways Prince used lyrics and music to shed light on racial injustice, an area BSU continues to work on, through education, awareness, and research, to bring about meaningful change.
One example is Prince’s song “Baltimore,” released in 2015, that centers on the story of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American who died in the custody of Baltimore police.
“As an African American, (Prince) dealt with it every single minute of his life. Early on in his career he talked about wishing there was no black and white. He was cognizant to the fact that it was out there, but didn’t always address it head on in his music,” Lizie said. “But he did come around to having it be a central aspect to his music in the second half of his life.”
Lizie also reveals sides of Prince that might be unknown.
“I think for readers, one of the things that might surprise them is that Prince had a really good sense of humor, he was a real person,” Lizie said.
And while his book is not required reading for BSU students taking his second-year seminar about pop music, the professor will reference his work.
“I will pull stuff from here and there, but will not make students read it. It is, though, a great example of how to write about music, and I can show that I was able to do it and share that experience with students,” Lizie said.
And while his book is sure to please diehard fans, those unfamiliar with Prince will likely enjoy reading it, as well.
“It explores other things that are happening at the time his albums were released, so there is a little bit of history and biography,” Lizie said. “I think it’s an interesting read.”
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