Books & Literature

Book Review: Prince A to Z: The Life of an Icon from Alphabet Street to Jay Z, by Steve Wide

An illustrated A-Z encyclopedia of the artist known as Prince, with each letter of the alphabet representing a different part of his life or work.

In 2016, after the passing of David Bowie, Australian DJ Steve Wide produced his encyclopaedic Bowie A to Z and in 2017 he has returned to this format to honour the purple-clad Rock Legend, Prince.

Prince was very much the recluse – in his memoir of interviews, Richard Wilkins talked about how difficult it was to conduct the interview with Prince, as he was so shy and focussed in his conversation. A later, private opportunity, without any recording device, was amongst the most immersive of experiences, but no record of what was said exists.

So, to have this children’s book style volume on the life and work of Prince is amongst the most detailed we are likely to receive, as Prince was only 50 pages into his own memoir when he tragically passed away.

As with its predecessor, each letter is given a singular focus – be it an album, song or high-profile aspect of Prince’s life (clothes, instruments, influences and the people who were integral to his life.) Alongside these focussed pages are the associated letter-related titbits that enhance this volume.

Prince was a prolific songwriter and music producer, producing 39 studio albums over 37 years – though his biggest hits were those of the 1980s – and a surprising fact relates to one of the albums, a soundtrack (NOT Purple Rain) that was a major success for him, in spite of the reception it received.

Like the Bowie tome, which featured the illustrations of Libby Van Der Ploeg, the Prince A to Z features the illustrations of Alice Oehr. Again, these simplistic but detailed designs enhance the playfulness of the book.

Apart from the most recent rock bio from Mick Wall – a prolific writer of music-related biography – there hasn’t been the flood of books as there was with Bowie’s passing. As pleasure-driven, take-it-at-your-own-pace reads go, this is a go-to on the man who was Prince (before, during and after the Love Symbol period.)

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Distributed by:  Simon and Schuster Australia
Release Date: March 2017
RRP: $29.99 hardcover

Rating out of 10:  9

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