Reading Duane Tudahl’s books about Prince’s recording sessions, it’s mind-blowing to realize just how much music Prince was making all the time, sometimes recording two to three songs in one day.
Prince had so much music in him that it was impossible for the record company’s machinery to absorb it into the release schedule, so he wrote and recorded music to give to other acts. For these acts, he channeled different parts of his personality, and he adopted many alter egos and pseudonyms, such as: Camille, the sped-up voice you hear on tracks like “If I Was Your Girlfriend”; Jamie Starr, credited with the production of Vanity 6 and The Time; Alexander Nevermind; Christopher; Joey Coco; and more.
In a weird reading convergence, I’m also reading Richard Zenith’s biography of the writer Fernando Pessoa, Pessoa: A Biography. The first section of the book is a “Dramatis Personae,” listing the dozens of fictional authors that Pessoa invented, the most famous of which were Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, and Álvaro de Campos. Pessoa gave them all “biographies, individualized psychologies, religious and political points of view, and distinctive literary styles.”
Too radically different from him to be considered simple pseudonyms, as if only their names had changed, Pessoa called them “heteronyms,” and in a “Bibliographical Summary” of his works published in 1928 he explained the conceptual distinction: “Pseudonymous works are by the author in his own person, except in the name he signs; heteronymous works are by the author outside his own person. They proceed from a full-fledged individual created by him, like the lines spoken by a character in a drama he might write.”
Applying these definitions, one wonders which of the names in a list of Prince’s dramatis personae are pseudonyms and which are heteronyms, and whether Prince himself knew. (He told Oprah in 1996, “Recent analysis has proved that there’s probably two people inside of me. There’s a Gemini. And we haven’t determined what sex that other person is yet.”)