Book Review - BrownMark - My Life in the Purple Kingdom (with Cynthia M. Uhrich)

Book Review
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Book Review: BrownMark - My Life in the Purple Kingdom (with Cynthia M. Uhrich)

There’s been no shortage of books chronicling the work, legacy, and personal accounts of Prince since his tragic death in 2016. From Duane Tudahl’s exhaustive Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions to ex-wife/dancer Mayte’s candid The Most Beautiful and His Royal Badness’ own unfinished manuscript The Beautiful Ones, lifetime devotees and purple proselytes alike have gotten a steady inflow of academic, discographical, and memorial reads attesting to his voluminous wealth of timeless contributions to music and culture at large.

Book Review: BrownMark - My Life in the Purple Kingdom (with Cynthia M. Uhrich)

There’s been no shortage of books chronicling the work, legacy, and personal accounts of Prince since his tragic death in 2016. From Duane Tudahl’s exhaustive Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions to ex-wife/dancer Mayte’s candid The Most Beautiful and His Royal Badness’ own unfinished manuscript The Beautiful Ones, lifetime devotees and purple proselytes alike have gotten a steady inflow of academic, discographical, and memorial reads attesting to his voluminous wealth of timeless contributions to music and culture at large.

BrownMark, Prince’s touring and recording bassist in The Revolution from 1981 to 1986, offers a different sort of glimpse with My Life in the Purple Kingdom. Much more succinct than most of his peers’ writings on working with Mr. Nelson, the memoir is by turns a reflective examination of his own place in the Paisley world over those years and a straight-shooting account of the less beautiful side of Prince’s modus operandi at his commercial zenith.

The first few chapters of My Life in the Purple Kingdom explore BrownMark’s childhood quest to find his place in music amidst the hurdles of running with the wrong crowd and combatting implicit racism in the Midwest. The surprising circumstances which led to his affiliation with Prince are relayed in easily digested recollections touching on his own professional doubts based on the rumor mill that swirled around the beginning of the Purple One’s success. While he provides interesting tidbits on his first gig on the Controversy tour (the infamous opening disaster for the Rolling Stones), one doesn’t get a very thorough picture of the band dynamics for most of the time period covered.

A running theme throughout the book is walking the tightrope of sudden fame that brings dangerous distractions such as drugs, groupies, and criminals. BrownMark’s focus on his own emotions relating to each scenario give a perspective that feels authentic, but ultimately doesn’t convey a sense of his connection to the musical process of the tours and recording sessions. Revolution disciples will glean insights of Prince’s eccentricities not often discussed firsthand in other memoirs; fans at large will likely feel deprived of a more thorough discussion of the creative channels behind the scenes.

BrownMark can’t be accused of over-indulging his story. A compact read of 184 pages that ends with his first steps of forging a new artistic path post-Prince, My Life in the Purple Kingdom stands out from the pack in its matter-of-fact recounting of the personally and professionally disheartening aspects of Prince’s actions towards his personnel. While it’s unfortunate that these stories and sentiments couldn’t be shared during The Artist’s lifetime, BrownMark frequently acknowledges the musicianship and business prowess he gained as a result of the opportunities afforded to him as a dedicated band member. Moderately recommended.

by Justin Kantor

 
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