Book Review: “My Life in the Purple Kingdom” by BrownMark with Cynthia M. Uhrich

Ever since Prince’s passing, there have been numerous books written about him by some of those who worked closely with him. There have been books written by musicians, photographers, record executives, and others. Often when someone of Prince’s stature passes away, the knee-jerk reaction by many is to think that posthumous books are simply written to cash in, but in my opinion, whether or not that is true, most of the new books about Prince have given us fascinating new insights into his creative process, his work ethic, his philanthropic endeavors, and a closer look at the human being behind the music. 

As each new book is released, I enjoy hearing from every one of the people he worked with, as each of their stories are like puzzle pieces, and the more stories you read, the closer you get to seeing the completed picture of the Prince puzzle. I don’t think that we’ll ever have a truly complete picture of the Prince puzzle, but I don’t think we need to. Prince often said that everything you need to know about him was right there in his music. I agree, but it’s still fun to hear the fascinating accounts of those who worked with him and knew him best, or at least came as close as anyone realistically could to truly “knowing” Prince. 

The books that I look forward to the most are those written by the musicians who worked side-by-side with Prince in the studio and on stage. Although I love every era of Prince’s music, I am especially obsessed with the era of 1984-1986, which included the release of his albums Purple Rain, Around The World in a Day, and Parade, all recorded with my favorite lineup of his band, The Revolution. BrownMark was The Revolution’s bass player from 1981-1986, so I was thrilled to hear the news that he is releasing a book in September titled My Life in the Purple Kingdom about his time spent working with Prince. 

I obtained and advance copy of the book and devoured it in just two nights. Right after a heartfelt forward by Questlove of The Roots, BrownMark kicks off the book with the moment that he was about to walk on stage with Prince and The Revolution and open for The Rolling Stones. Never mind the fact that Prince and the band would be famously booed off the stage by the die-hard Rolling Stones fans, as the focus in this brief introduction is on the fact that BrownMark, at just 19 years old, had already fulfilled his dream to be a rock star, and was about to play for more than 90,000 people. 

In the next sections of the book, BrownMark discusses his childhood and how he grew up listening to music on a transistor radio. We learn about the musical awakening that he felt when he watched Three Dog Night and The Jackson 5 perform on television. He shares a heartwarming tale about delivering newspapers and saving enough money to buy his first guitar from a Sears catalog. He waited for the mail carrier every day until the guitar finally arrived, but when cutting into the shipping box BrownMark accidentally cut two of the strings, so he wound up playing just four strings. He probably didn’t know it at the time, but his destiny would be playing with four strings anyway, as he discovered the bass guitar as a sophomore in high school and fell in love with it. He played in a few bands, first Private Stock, then Phantasy. He shares stories about struggles with his grades in school, falling in with some bad crowds, and encountering violence and racism, but through it all, he kept his eyes on what he truly wanted to do, which of course was to make a living playing music. 

While working as a cook at a local restaurant, BrownMark cooked pancakes for Prince, who had come in for a meal with a friend. He knew that Prince was well-known in the local music scene, as Prince had recently released his first album. What BrownMark had know idea of at the time was that he had just served pancakes to his future boss and collaborator. Later, while BrownMark was playing in a band and working at a 7-11, he received a call that would change his life forever. Prince called and asked him to audition for his band. Throughout the rest of the book, which is divided into short, chronological chapters, we share BrownMark’s whirlwind journey as he joins Prince’s band in 1981 and continues as a member of The Revolution until 1986 when Prince and The Revolution would eventually part ways. During the journey, we share all of the highs and lows that BrownMark experiences along the way. He shares open, candid stories about his working relationship with Prince, and the stories are not always flattering, but that should not come as a surprise to anyone who followed Prince’s career closely. However, it is clear that even after the conflict, BrownMark still feels thankful and blessed to have worked with such a musical genius, and he carries a great deal of respect for Prince to this day. Working with Prince helped BrownMark become the musician and producer that he is today, and his love for Prince is still clear. This is not a tell-all book. It is simply a candid, honest, heartfelt story about a young kid who goes on to achieve his dream of making it in the music industry, and the price that he pays along the way. It’s an uplifting tale about working with Prince, and it is an enjoyable read that serves as another piece of the puzzle that is Prince. I highly recommend the book. It is available for preorder via the links below: 

Pre-order from University of Minnesota Press

Pre-order from Amazon

Please consider ordering from your local bookseller or from bookseller or from Bookshop.org