Updated: Nov 11, 2018
Reflection: October 2017 Insight News Book Review of Prince A Private By: Afshin A. Shahidi
Dedicated to the author’s wife of 20 years, Keri, and their children, Yara (who most recognize as Zoey from the TV Show Blackish), Sayeed (you may remember as Miles from comedian Mike Epps’s show Uncle Buck), and Ehsan (who played O.J. Simpson’s son, Justin, in American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson), Prince A Private View does precisely what it purports to do. The work provides a seriously visually stimulating historical record, and a V.I.P. pass into a day-in-the-life of Prince’s then personal photographer, Afshin Shahidi. Mr. Shahidi, who was born in Iran, and moved to Minneapolis during elementary school, begins his book with ancient wisdom from the 13th Century Persian Poet and Scholar, Rumi:
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
Some have interpreted this section of the poem to be a reference to being present in the now. Some interpret the phrase to refer to the breath of God, and being spiritually awake. Under either interpretation, it is the perfect intro into the pictorial history of one who often spoke of not looking back, of being most interested in whatever was happening right then, and who was bold in sharing with the world, his love for God and his God-given gifts.
Beyoncé, who, as we all know, Prince worked with (2004 Grammys) and respected, provides a lovely forward. Mr. Shahidi provides moving personal reflections on moments during his tenure. The book includes several of what Mr. Shahidi calls Band Shots. Everyone knows how often Prince bragged about having the tightest bands, and Mr. Shahidi was blessed with the opportunity to photograph some of the most amazing musicians in the world alongside their bandleader, and the results are fabulous. Because of the time of Mr. Shahidi’s work, the late, and arguably, funkiest drummer of them all, Mr. John Blackwell, Jr. is pictured often. As our great musicians transcend to the next plane, accountings like this one are more and more important. Also featured is Rhonda Smith, truly one of the baddest bass players ever, period. You will also see Renato Neto, Grey Boyer, Mike Phillips, Chance Howard, Rad (Rose Ann Dimalanta), and Candy Dulfer, among others, in those fabulous Band Shots.
Long-time Fam have admired Mr. Shahidi’s work with Prince for years via album cover art and concert tour posters, etc., most notably (for me at least) the Musicology Tour and 3121 album materials. One of the really just straight out fun features of the book is that if you were privy to any of the 3121 parties, you just might see yourself pictured there! You will enjoy photos of Prince partying with those he was known to hang with, like Spike Lee and Chris Rock, and also with folks like Matthew McConaughey and Dustin Hoffman!
What I came away with after a first read is that Mr. Shahidi had one of the best jobs in the world, he knew it, and did not take it for granted. His book, though available for a nominal amount, is a priceless addition to the historical record of one of the most amazing musicians ever to play on this Earth.
Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Violet Brown, Esq.