Touré on his new podcast: 'Who Was Prince?'


Who Was Prince? podcast image with silhouette.
Who Was Prince? A new podcast asks the question. (DCP Entertainment)

Who was Prince? That question lands differently with respect to the Minnesota music genius than with most public figures, since Prince had such a complex inner life — combined with an iconic public persona. In a new podcast, host and writer Touré explores Prince's work and identity.

On Monday, Touré connected with me live on Instagram to talk about the podcast and about his multiple Prince books. (I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon was published in 2013; Nothing Compares 2 U: An Oral History of Prince will be published in August.) Watch our full conversation below, and scroll down for edited excerpts of Touré’s comments.

On playing basketball with Prince

"It was pretty epic. This is in the period when he wasn't using his name, right? They said, 'Don't call him Prince.' They didn't say that, but...what would happen if you called him Prince? He'd throw you out of Paisley Park or whatever.

"I passed him the ball. Because, you know, I grew up watching Magic Johnson. So like, quick pass, no look, he didn't even realize how open he was. Didn't know the ball was coming. It's coming like toward his face. And I'm like, oh my god, I'm gonna hit him in the face with the ball. And I yelled out, 'Prince!' but then I realized in the middle that like, you can't say Prince! It was like, 'Prin...mmmff!'

"And the ball does not hit him. It passes close by his face and goes out of bounds. He goes off and gets it. He doesn't tell somebody else, 'Go get the ball.' He goes and gets it himself, but he's coming back. He's kind of laughing at me. And I'm like, what's so funny? And he's like, you don't know what to call me! Which, he kind of like loved that.

"And, you know, we ended up winning the game. He hit a winning shot. He had to win; he was all about winning. And he was definitely, like, driving to the hoop. At times, like really aggressively. Like somebody who knows how to play. Like somebody who is going to go for it. Like no matter what, like, these guys are taller than you, maybe they are better positioned than you. But I'm like driving to the hoop as hard as I can no matter what."

On talking with Prince's girlfriends

"This guy is like, the love god, right? He's talking about sexuality in his music constantly, and the beautiful girlfriends that he had also a big part of his mythology. So I thought it was very reasonable and apropos to ask, what was it like to be in a relationship with him? What was it like to be with him physically, and people talked about it, and it was really interesting. I mean, like, the women knew he has other women. And they were accepting of the fact that the guy has other women and, you know, I'm, I'm gonna be okay with that, or I can't be here. And they talk about why they were okay with that. It's pretty amazing."

On Prince, religion and family

"In the book, I did speak to some Jehovah's Witnesses and some Seventh Day Adventists. Because he grows up Seventh Day Adventist, and becomes a Jehovah's Witness later in life. For the book, I spoke to some people who knew him from that world or knew what those worlds were about. And both of those faiths are end time faiths, which anticipate the apocalypse coming soon. They're both like, be ready! The Apocalypse is about to come. So in the '80s, when we're in the midst of the Cold War, we're thinking he's constantly talking about the apocalypse in '1999' and all these other songs, because of the nuclear cold war that we're dealing with. But no, he comes from these faiths; from Seventh Day Adventist faith. They're just like, the world's about to end tomorrow. I mean, like, I didn't understand the song 'Seven' at all until Seventh Day Adventist explained the song to me: 'This is our end of time story. The world is ending; good and evil are battling. And he just put that to music.'

"Nothing Compares 2 U is an oral history, which takes all the interviews and all the people I've talked to over the years. That takes us from who he was as a young person through his life, into using drugs and his his death. Part of what we talk about is that he feels rejected by his parents, by his mother and then by his father. So by 13, he's determined to become a rock star, because that will show them, 'See, I was a valuable person, I was a worthwhile person, you should have cared about me,' right? So his obsession with becoming a rock star is about showing up his know, I think all [famous artists] have some big reason why they were driven to become super-duper stars. For him, he was talking back to his parents, who were both musicians in their own right. So that's kind of interesting, that he's the son of a singer — his mother — and a bandleader/songwriter, in his father. But yeah, he wanted to relate to his father and show up his mother. He forgives his father, and they become best friends when he's a young superstar. But he never forgives his mother."

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