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The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince by Mayte Garcia

The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince by Mayte Garcia


Super-fandom exists for pretty much anything – sports, musicians and entertainment franchises. If you were close to the object of affection and release a memoir to coincide with a landmark moment – say, the anniversary of the object’s untimely passing – you’re certain to get some side eye and murmurings of “cashing in.” Because fans desire to keep their connection alive through new information, you’ll also get sales. Look at this blog, I’ve read over a dozen books about the Beatles. Surely by now I know everything there is to learn about them, right?

You’d be surprised, and I’ll read a dozen more Beatles books in the future, I’m sure.

On the spectrum of fandom, I am probably a step above casual fan status where Prince is involved. I keep the songs playing when they come on the radio, and I watched the award show/Super Bowl performances. I even watched his guest spot on that sitcom I’m too lazy to Google right now. More avid fans do have opinions on The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince (AMZ), some questioning Mayte Garcia’s decision to discuss intimate moments about a man who valued his privacy. Knowing so little about Prince the man, aside from what I found in the other Prince book reviewed here, I am grateful for the opportunity to read Mayte’s story, and it’s encouraged me to seek out his post-Diamond and Pearls material for a listen.

So, if you’re a huge fan, know this book is exactly what it advertises. Garcia, the first Mrs. Nelson, chronicles a near fantasy tale about a young, in-demand dancer with admiration for a world-famous superstar. An ambitious parent gets a demo tape to pass into the right hands, hoping at the very least it will inspire the casting of her daughter in a music video. Instead it ignites a friendship that slow-burns into a love story.

(By the way, if you think it’s that damn easy to get in with a rock star, it doesn’t always work. A friend of mine gave a copy of one of my books to a technician working for a particular prog trio. The guy said he’d put it on the bus, but for all I know the pages are lining a bird’s nest in Jones Beach.)

As part of Prince’s inner circle, Garcia picks up quickly on signals. She learns which women interest Prince, what’s expected of her as an official employee of the New Power Generation, and that the squeaky wheel gets the grease – especially where a living wage is concerned. What she originally anticipated as a once in a lifetime opportunity to perform in a Prince tour becomes a long-term backstage pass, acclimating to Prince’s eccentricities and sharing in his accomplishments and failures. Following a brief marriage and personal tragedies, the story takes a bittersweet All About Eve turn as she recognizes the signals that forewarn of her eventual dismissal from Prince’s life.

The Most Beautiful is a short book. One could read it in a long day, but by no means is it an exhaustive biography of Prince. It’s a glimpse into a period of romantic gestures, sadly lacking an HEA, and one – like the other Prince book reviewed here – that strives to be kind to its subject. I’ve noticed on Goodreads how some fans have taken Garcia to task on a few observations of Prince, and her mother loses points with some for “foisting” her underage child on a man they know only from Purple Rain. This isn’t Bill Wyman and Mandy Smith, though – Prince and Garcia were not a conventional love story, but the book doesn’t turn lurid. I’ll continue to seek out an objective Prince bio, but I do find The Most Beautiful provides a fascinating portrait.

Rating: B-

Kathryn Lively is just like her father, too bold.

Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain by Alan Light

Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain by Alan Light

Buy Let’s Go Crazy (AMZ / BN / KOBO / ITUNES)

We can argue whether or not Purple Rain is the pinnacle of Prince’s lengthy career, but in a short period of time when a handful of performers took that step from gold record to legend (Springteen, Madonna, Michael Jackson), Prince seemed destined to fill out that musical Rushmore. In 1984 he simultaneously had the top film, album and single in the nation, and I don’t know if that feat’s been matched. Maybe in the UK with the Spice Girls, but likely not here.

Author Light was one of the few journalists with access to Prince in the 80s and 90s. Though Prince contributed nothing new to this book, Light includes archived sound bytes and new insight from former members of The Revolution, Questlove (who taught a course on Prince’s music at NYU), and others involved in the film’s production. The story of how Purple Rain the film came to be greenlit, and how Prince convinced his entourage of musicians to come into this medium with no acting experience could make for an equally interesting, if not more dramatic, film. When you peel away the aloof exterior (gossip at the time pegged Prince at various points on the egotistic spectrum, from mysterious to cold-as-stone to unprintable) you find a performer determined to work twenty-fours without sleep if it means expanding his reach beyond R&B radio, where record labels seemed content to place him. That he succeeded in negotiating a movie deal in tandem with new music speaks for his determination and savvy, and for the good insight of certain people in the industry.

Light tells the story well in Let’s Go Crazy – it’s not a lengthy book but the cast and crew only had so such time to film. Purple Rain takes much of the focus in this microhistory of the 80s music scene and even clarifies a few misconceptions of Prince’s character (read: the “We Are the World” debacle). I do take off a few points for the instances where Light injects personal bias into the story. Light admits his admiration and fan status, but in a few places the book treads into memoir territory, and that might turn off a few people. Other than that, I liked this book for its nostalgia value (though I feel pangs for reaching an age where I can be nostalgic about anything), and one of these days I’ll get to see the movie on the big screen as intended.

Rating: B