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26 October 2014

The Truth: Howard Bloom Talks 2 Beautiful Nights

Howard Bloom's search for the truth has taken him on a fascinating journey through the worlds of popular culture and science.

He developed his love of science early in life: he built his first computer at 12 years old; in his teens, he discussed scientific theories with a physics professor at University of Buffalo and he worked at the Roswell Park Memorial Research Cancer Institute as a lab assistant. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from NYU, he decided to forgo graduate school (turning down four fellowships in the process) and instead chose to informally study the depths of mass human emotions that dictate popular taste. This led him to become editor of Circus, a rock magazine, (where he doubled the its sales during his tenure) and, later, to the apex of the music business.
His scientific approach to public relations--or as he called it finding "gods the inside"-- revolutionized the industry. He founded The Howard Bloom Organization, Ltd. in 1976, which was, arguably, the largest PR firm in the history of the music business. During his career, Bloom worked with some of the biggest stars of the 1970s and 1980s, including Prince (with whom he had one of his longest working relationships), Billy Idol, Billy Joel, Bob Marley, John Mellencamp, Bette Midler, Run DMC, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson and many others. During his PR career he generated approximately $28 billion in earnings for companies such as Sony, Warner Brothers and several others. Billboard Magazine even dedicated twenty pages to Bloom and his craft in its book "The Billboard Guide to Music Publicity," according to his Web site (
Things changed, however, when he was diagnosed with an illness that was later discovered to be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which left him bedridden--and at times unable to speak--for several years. During this setback, he rediscovered his first love: science. Bloom founded two international scientific groups online, while cyberspace was in its infancy, and he also authored three books (as of today he has a total of six, including: The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates; The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History; How I Accidentally Started the Sixties; Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang Theory to the 21st Century; The Mohammedan Code: Why a Desert Prophet Wants You Dead and The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism). He also helms the YouTube series "Howard the Humongous."
K Nicola Dyes conducted a telephone interview with Bloom in September, where, while he enjoyed the afternoon sun at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY, he mused about working with Prince, what truly makes someone an icon and the missing element in today's music business:


Growing up in Buffalo...everybody hated me. It was a terrible place to me to grow up, or maybe it was the best place to grow up. Growing up in Buffalo there seemed to be no place for me in polite, or even impolite, company. I was a refugee from science, a person for whom it was the truth or death. By the time I was 12, I built my first algebra computer; in those days computers were the size of (a) building. When I was 16, I worked at a cancer research lab.
I was taking off to the University of Buffalo, meeting with the head of the graduate physics department. We discussed big bang versus steady state theories of the universe (and) theories of cosmology.  God knows how my mom got me the meeting.  When the head of the philosophy department at an Indian university came into Buffalo, my mom convinced the group organizing hospitality for him that I was the only one in town able to speak his philosophical language; I was something like 15 years old.  He was a (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich) Hegel (a German philosopher) expert, so I sat on a lounge chair in the backyard and cracked open Hegel. I couldn't even understand the first paragraph, the syntax alone floored me.  So, I bowed out of meeting the professor. These days, Hegel shows up in my books over and over again. He's become an important provider of my tools of thought. I wouldn't have hadn't gotten into any of that if any of the kids had gotten along with me.

My parents, in a sense, were very good to me. But, in a sense, I grew up without parents. The country entered the World War II shortly (before) I was born (and) my father was drafted. He was a chief petty officer in the navy and stationed in San Francisco. My father had apparently started a liquor store business (before leaving for the war), so my mom, in those days (ran the business while he was away). The phrase “au pair” wasn't part of the English language yet. Instead, she hired a cleaning woman. What is a cleaning woman to do? She's not there to take care of the baby; she was there to take care of the vacuum cleaner. The first three years, I was raised without parents.
My mother was very achievement oriented. In those days if you were a woman and achievement oriented, you did volunteer work. She did get a scholarship to college. (Note: Bloom’s mother did receive a partial scholarship to college, but her parents had a limited amount of money and decided to use it to fund her brother’s college education instead). Academic lust was knitted into her bones; the lust to speak the language and have the status of an academic. Because she was omnicompetent, a superwoman at everything she did, academics did, in fact, accept her into one their circles. She acted as secretary for The Board of Jewish Education of the City of Buffalo for decades. That's probably where she befriended whoever wrangled me the meeting with the head of the graduate physics department.
I very seldom got to see my mom, even once my dad got back from the war. But, what was most important was my mom (had) a diabolically good use of the English language. She was diabolically good in everything she applied herself to; absolutely everything she applied herself to, she excelled in. My dad was good-natured and basically profoundly optimistic. It's the only way he could have stood my mom, because, unfortunately, they did not have a good relationship. I think I got that devilishly good use of the English language and being confident in just about anything (I) try from my mom. I got that kind of underlying optimism and underlying ethics from my dad, because he was a good person. He felt that if somebody was in trouble, you did everything you could to save them, even if you risk your life. I ended up with some of the best qualities of my parents. My father wasn't around when I was a kid because he went back to running the liquor store and that was a twelve hour a day, six-and-a-half day a week proposition. My mother was busy achieving and that left me alone to become whatever I was going to become.
I was actually very slow in learning how to read and write. My first grade teacher thought I was mentally retarded. She called my mother in for a consultation and asked my mother to take me for testing; my mother never told me the results of the test. But, in third grade, all of a sudden, I did learn how to read. The people next door to us were both X-ray doctors. The summer after third grade and before fourth grade all the other kids, except me, were away at summer camp. The doctor next door said, "Why don't you come over to my house? There's a reading room, look at the books." Well, I had never really read books before, because I really wasn't capable of reading them. I had heard of the Wizard of Oz, but I didn't realize that L. Frank Baum, the author of the Wizard of Oz, had written 38 books in the Oz series. I picked one of them and read it. I picked another one and read it. During the course of the summer I read all 38 Oz books and I was up and running. From that point on I was reading two books a day. I read under the desk at school (and) my teachers must have hated me, (because) I never paid any attention to anything they said. I was too absorbed in my books and from my books I learned more and more science.
Plus, my mother was very good when I came to her: they were not into (giving) me toys; they were not into sending me to summer camp; but, when I went to her because I wanted a microscope, she took me to a used medical goods store where students bought and sold their stuff when they're finished (with it). She got me a 1920s or 1930s Zeiss microscope. One of the best. Very difficult to use, but one of the best. It wasn't a kid's toy microscope. It was for professionals. Later, when I went to her because I wanted to buy a kit, she gave me the money immediately. The kit was advertised as a computer kit, at a time when computers were the size of a house and had less processing power than your cell phone.  However, the kit was not binary like computers, in fact, it was a Boolean Algebra machine.  So, I built my first Boolean Algebra machine at 12 years old.  Boolean Algebra, by the way, is a form of symbolic logic.  It reduces logic to equations and it's used for the AND, OR, and IF functions you can employ in your super-advanced Google searches. So, my parents weren't really around, but they were there to help me with the big stuff when I needed it.

I find inspiration in science. I find inspiration in questions, I find inspiration in mysteries. The inspirations in mysteries (are) what ultimately inspired me when I was a kid. The first two-and-a-half or three years in science, theoretical physics and microbiology, I began (to see) there was something else interesting.
The first rule of science: look at things right under your nose as if you've never seen them before and proceed from there. My parents weren't very observant. They were Jewish, but unobservant. The only time they absolutely, with no questions asked, went to synagogue were during the high holiday services, which are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which generally fall in September. When I was 12 or 13 I realized I was atheist and I no longer wanted to go to high holiday services with them. But they put me in a suit anyway, they put me in a car (and) they drove off to the synagogue on Richmond Ave. Once they opened the door of the car, I refused to get out. So, my parents were pulling at my ankles to get me out of the car and I was holding on to the door frame with both hands.
In that moment I realized I was an atheist; to me there are no gods in the heavens (and) there are no gods under the earth. Yet, there was something inside my parents, some really potent passion, that (was) getting them to shred my socks trying to get me to this synagogue. So, if there's no God in the heavens and no gods under the earth, where are the gods? They're inside of us. To find the gods, it's not a matter of looking at what's under your nose, it's a matter at looking at what's behind your nose. So, one of my quests in science became to understand the gods inside of us and to understand their relationship to the forces of history. It was the 1950s by (then), but the Holocaust had happened in Europe during World War II and Hitler seemed to be an absolutely amazing artist at arousing mass human emotions. I wanted to understand how Hitler did it. I wanted (to know) what those mass emotions were.
When I was 14, I heard about a book called The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902). At any rate, he is the founder of American Psychology. When I heard of that book—we didn't have Amazon in those days—I scoured the city trying to find it. I finally did (and) it was as if James had written it for me. He said here is a bunch of extreme experiences in human emotions (and) they are categorized as religious experiences. It was as if James was saying to me "I don't have the tools to understand this in my times. I'm leaving you these specimens of extreme human behavior of the gods inside of us, so that you could use the tools of science 50 years down the line to actually understand what I couldn't."
That became a lifelong quest and that also led me into a field I knew nothing about: popular culture. (It) led me to found the biggest PR firm in the music industry, possibly the biggest PR firm in the history of the music industry, I'm not sure. (It) ultimately led to working with Prince, who has been dealing with the gods inside of himself.  He didn't see it that way in the beginning. But, ultimately, around 1980, he did begin to see it as dealing with the god inside of himself. But, he didn't seem to realize that what he might have regarded as the devil, what drove the first part of his career, was the god inside of him, too.
So, what makes me curious? I think it's these mysteries. I still don't understand how music does what it does, why it evolves and why humans all over the globe have it, no matter what culture they're in. I'm still in search of that mystery, along with a lot of other mysteries by now.

Courtesy of The Brooklyn Paper


It all changed... well, the greatest instance of "it all changed" was Prince. It was 1981 when I was first called to work with him Nobody knew who he was, but I did, because I was considered the leading "Black" publicist in the music industry. I worked with more Black acts and I learned more about Black culture than anybody else in the PR field. There was this record that popped up on the R&B charts (Prince ,1979) and never left.; It stayed on the R&B charts and it went platinum. It was astonishing to see a record from newcomer go platinum without ever making it off the R&B charts. It was Prince. So, when Bob Cavallo wanted me to work with Prince, I was enthusiastic about it.

I insisted that I would only work with an artist if that artist would let me spend a day or two with him in his or her own environment. I was looking for the gods inside. If you're an artist and you sit down at 2 p.m., to write a verse and have a blank piece of paper in front of you, you're absolutely convinced you could never write another lyric again in your life and you have no idea how you've ever written any previous lyrics. On a good day there's a lyric in front of you by the time you hit 4 p.m. On a really, really good day sometimes the lyric feels as if it wrote itself. You have another similar experience when you go on stage. If the eyes of the audience, their pupils, dilate as they're looking at you, if their faces seem to melt, you go into a sort of out-of-body experience. You're danced around onstage by some force bigger than yourself that you don't understand. So my job, as your publicist, would have been to find that self inside of you that writes those lyrics and that dances you onstage and to introduce that “self” to you. That's what I call the gods within.
In the early days, I was flown off to-- of all places-- Buffalo, New York, to the Shea Theatre, to meet with Prince. Well, it was my home territory! He had taken over a theater where I had gone to see a movie once when I was a kid and he was rehearsing his Dirty Mind Tour. In the 1960s I had accidentally helped found a movement out of the West Coast and then I went off to Israel to live for a year. When I got back from Israel, the group—or the movement-- that I had helped to co-found, had been given a name, it was called the Hippie Movement. Prince was into some of the basic principles from the hippie movement, especially that free love (and) sexuality, in whatever form you wanted, was good; you can have sex instead of violence. If you party like it's 1999, which seemed a long time away and (I'm) not sure Prince had written that song yet, if you have every kind you sex you can possibly imagine, you won't make war. That was the sort of underlying proposition to what Prince was doing, what he was writing. That was what drove him for the next seven years. Then everything changed.
I went to see a show...I've got to keep these things straight... back around 1986 or 1987. It was after "Purple Rain" (and) while he was working on "Under the Cherry Moon." It was at Nassau Coliseum (in Long Island, NY), which is an 18,000 seat (theater). Prince has always been one of the most amazing performers I've ever seen onstage in my life. (Prince), John Mellencamp and Michael Jackson are three of the most amazing performers I've ever seen. Prince was dancing incredibly onstage and the lighting was wonderful-- that's another thing that he has a gift for-- and, all of sudden, a voice came out from the middle of the ceiling, which was probably four to five stories over us, and it was the voice of "God" telling didn't even matter what it was saying. Something became very obvious: part of his mind was Prince and part of his mind was his father. The battle had begun between two of Prince's voices. Some would have called it the battle between his ego, id and his superego.
Once upon a time when I was in Indiana with John Mellencamp (he) sat me down to watch a movie called "Hud (starring Paul Newman, released in 1963)." "Hud" is about a young guy who rebels against his dad. John explained to me (that) the underlying pattern of this movie is first Hud rebels against his dad, then Hud becomes his dad. John's point was we all go through that. Well, that's what I saw happening with Prince. The voice of his dad was coming out in him, that was the voice that he would have interpreted as the voice of God. It was taking more and more control; it was asking for more and more control.
When "Under the Cherry Moon" was finished, I got a call from Bob Cavallo and he said "We're showing the movie tomorrow at our 600 seat theater on Sunset Boulevard." It was a test theater, all the people in the audience had little buttons that they could rotate to show how they're responding to a scene. I watched the movie and it was terrific! I came out and I told them so. I thought it was really good.
Later--it could have been anywhere from two weeks to two months--I got another call from California saying "You've got to be out here tomorrow. Prince has made changes in the film. You're not supposed to see it, but if we hide you in our office at night, could you look at it and tell us what you think?" Well, in the first version that I saw, Prince had a happy ending. It was a ending that Warner Brothers insisted he use. Normally, I'm against outsiders dictating to an artist what he can and cannot do, it’s almost always a disaster. But, in this case, the ending worked. When I saw the second version of "Under the Cherry Moon," Prince had gone in the opposite direction. He killed off his character. Why? Because Prince was identifying with God more strongly than he was identifying with himself. He felt that he had to do what God would have demanded: if he (was) a character who was a scamp, who represented his era of sexual freedom, he had to kill himself off. And he did. The movie was pathetic. It was terrible. There was no point in watching it really, except for Kristin Scott Thomas, who was an amazing discovery. So, that's when it all changed, when the voice of Prince's dad took over who Prince was.
Then in 1988, we all got the word: Bob Cavallo was fired, I was fired, everybody was fired. Prince was taking off in a new direction, dictated by the god inside of him. I've always seen the god inside of us as ecstatic figures, as figures that take a sense of these wild varieties of the religious experience. Prince had discovered a god who, instead, was a disciplinarian; not a God of passions, but who a God who clamps down and controls the passions. So, that's when it all changed. That's when Prince became " the artist formerly known as Prince."

Public Relations

What is an icon? A person whose posters people put on their walls and they use as a trellis. You know what a trellis is in gardening? It's a framework that's mostly vertical. You put a tomato plant, which has vines, on a trellis and the tomatoes grow upward by attaching (themselves) to the trellis. That's what an icon is. An icon is guide, a trellis, a role model on which to grow. If you have a role model, it goes down to the depths of your passion, unless you are a negative person... in which case it can be a negative role model. Offering your audience that role model, that shelf on which to grow, that is one of the most essential obligations of a superstar. When you achieve it, you achieve a great deal of longevity. But, you have to achieve it by being totally in sync with your deepest passions, meaning the gods inside of you, your soul. I have to find out where you are and I have to build everything off of that.
It was very collaborative in cases like Billy Idol and Prince in particular. Prince was one of the longest relationships that I had. Prince apparently found whatever it was I had given him so useful that every time he came up with a protegee, he would make that protegee either come to New York to meet with me or he would get me to fly to wherever the protegees were. He would always make sure that I put them through the kind of basic process I put him through. (But), none of them had the depth of soul that Prince had. Wendy and Lisa were wonderful, but they were evasive, you couldn't entirely find who they were. They were gay and, at the time, they had to hide it. Morris Day, of The Time, I don't think I ever found out what Morris was all about. Vanity and I became very good friends, I enjoyed spending time with her tremendously, but I was never able to find the essential heart of artists the way I was able to find Prince-- possibly because Prince was using them to get out his own music.

There was a guy, I think his name was Johnny Dagger, and he was brought to me by the people who worked with Billy Joel. I thought he had a terrific story. I mean, he carried a knife with him everywhere, (and) I thought his life story was fascinating. He was a songwriter and a performer. I got the story out of him, I thought it was fabulous, (and) I turned it over to one of my account executives. She never got a single bit of press on him. The way I ran my business, if you got less than 160 press breaks for a client in one month, you were failing as far I was concerned. You get no press breaks? That was inconceivable. Absolutely inconceivable. But, unfortunately, that's what happened.
There are careers where nothing seems to happen. But, I always wonder if I had done the entire press campaign myself, or if I had gotten one of the people I'd trained from scratch instead of this publicist, if we would've gotten further. This is one of the people I'd hired from corporate publicity, so I assumed she would know a lot more than I knew. But, all the rest of my people were people I'd trained myself.
Bob Oshuller (was) the head of PR and the vice president of public relations at CBS Records. When a person just out of college with a lot of promise came to him and wanted a job, he would say, "Go to work for Howard Bloom and spend two years there. Until you've worked for Howard Bloom, you have not had the training in publicity." Bob backed that up by hiring six of my people. So, he apparently believed in the power of the education I gave my publicists. But, this publicist had not been through that education. I wonder if I had given the case to someone who had been through my training if that person would've succeeded. It's very personally embarrassing when you're able to accomplish nothing for one of your clients. I don't readily accept it--not at all-- and I don't think it's the fault of the client. I think it's the fault of the publicist.
There are two reasons (Johnny Dagger's career did not ignite): one is the publicist, as I said, possibly not being able to sell a good story and the other is that since nothing was happening...nothing happens. You have to start with something that's happening (emphasis added). Look at Prince: I had a real leg up. He had gone platinum, when nobody had ever heard of him. That was a tremendous leg up. But, no there are no excuses. Ultimately, in the early days at my PR firm, if I put an account executive on a case, and that account executive didn't seem to be delivering up to my expectations, I would jump in and start making phone calls myself. All of a sudden, things would pick up dramatically. But, in this case, by the time the Johnny Dagger thing happened, I was no longer free to do that anymore. So, I never got a chance. To me, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Try a hundred times, try a thousand times and if you try a thousand times, something will begin to happen.

Courtesy of

For people like with John Mellencamp, one of the things I learned is I had go back each year and find (their) soul all over again.Why? Because your soul changes. It grows as you grow. Without somebody to do that, I think that John Mellencamp has sort of gone off and... what is it called when a car goes off a highway and ends up nose first in a ditch? Whatever that it is, that's sort of what happened with John Mellencamp's career. It's never gotten further than it was when I was working with him and I agonize over that.
I think the fact that Prince, Michael Jackson and others have had the longevity they have is because they do find the gods inside of themselves. Many of these artists were on the right track without me. Prince, I had a seven or eight year relationship with him. It was a whole different matter. I wasn't necessary to help Michael Jackson find that inside of himself, he had had it since the age of 5. It's just that I was called at one point (by Michael Jackson's people) and told "You've got come out, you've got to be in L.A. tonight by 11 p.m., because Michael is cancelling his tour (The Victory Tour), you're the only one he will listen to." Well, the reason I was the only one he would listen to was because I cared about his audience as much as he cared about his audience. And I cared about him. I think that was enormously helpful.
I resisted it for four long months. For four months I called over and over again and said no. I said no, because I do crusades. I do things that are hard. I don't do things that are easy and The Jacksons were too easy. Michael Jackson had become the biggest phenomenon in the history of pop music, selling 36 million albums. Unheard of. I imagined it was so easy there was no reason that they needed me. But, finally they called me and said "Look, we're going to be in New York tomorrow, we want to have a meeting with you." I did not grow up among human beings, it was a very lonely childhood, so I didn't know any of the rituals of normalcy, like let's go have a cup of coffee and stuff like that. (But), the one thing I had heard about my fellow humans was if somebody really wants you, and you want to say no, you have to have the decency to say it face to face.
I showed up at their suite, at the Helmsley Palace (in New York City), at midnight on a Saturday. They had two suites: one was for sleeping and the other one was for meetings. The minute the door opened an inch, I could see there was trouble in the room. I could see there were these four very profoundly good people who were up against some problem they didn't understand and there was more than publicity to be done here, it was a crusade of some kind. I said yes to them immediately. They (asked me) to start at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning, remember it's one o'clock or two o'clock in the morning. (They said) here our home phone numbers and I had to say yes because they needed me. It took a long time to see what they needed me for. They needed me to save their brother's soul. I did not succeed at it.
That's my formulation of what the challenge was. I don't think they (his brothers) ever formulated what the challenge was. Michael's the most remarkable person I've ever met in my life. No question about it. Scenes like the one in front of me right now, all this greenery and the park, awed him. It absolutely awed him. He had a capacity for wonder and awe beyond anything I've ever seen, beyond anybody else in my life. If you were looking at an artist's portfolio with him, he'd have the beginning of what seemed like an orgasmic experience, just opening the first square inch of a page. Then, if you opened the next six square inches of a page his knees would start to buckle. If you opened the entire thing, Michael was fully orgasmic-- I mean in a non-sexual way.
The first law (of science) is the law of courage, the second law (of science) is the law of courage and awe. Michael had that wonder and awe that's dictated in the second law of science more than anybody I've ever, ever met in my life. He was also one of the primary exemplars of the first rule of science: the truth at any price, including the price of your life. When you sat down to discuss a difficult issue like him cancelling his tour and convincing him that he couldn't cancel it, it felt as if Michael's chest opened like golden gates and you could see 10,000 fans inside of him. His job was to champion those fans. He felt God had given him a gift. It was this gift of enormous awe and wonder. It was his job to give that gift of awe, wonder and surprise to his audience. His audience were his kids and you could feel them in his chest. It was an astonishing experience and he would give anything that it took to give that audience surprise, wonder and awe.
Michael, because he represented the biggest thing in the music industry, was surrounded by sharks-- at least by one shark--and somebody was busy undercutting his career. Somebody was leaking negative stories about him to the press and leaking documents to back up the negative stories. The documents were phony in the sense that they weren't finished documents, they were lawyer's drafts. Lawyer's drafts are always monstrous. You have to get your lawyers to tone things down. They always think their job is to be an attack dog on your behalf, even if you're not a person who attacks. There had been a string of negative stories about The Jacksons by the time I came on the scene. Remember, Michael's primary obligation was to those 10,000 kids he carried around in the golden gates of his ribs, if you separated Michael from that audience, you were will killing him and negative stories did separate Michael from that audience.
In addition to doing the press, which (was) a big staff, because we did news conferences in L.A. and New York announcing the tour and there were over 3,400 press people at each event, I was supposed to track down the person responsible for all the negative stories and stop him. The closer I got to figuring out who it was, the more he managed to alienate me from Michael, until he finally got me thrown off The Jacksons' tour. About the struggle for Michael's soul: to my mind Michael was on this earth for 50 years. For 25 of those years he was Michael Jackson. For 25 of those years, he was writhing on the cross. He was crucified in the headlines, over and over again with awful stories, that in all probability were not the least bit true, but sold newspapers. That should never have happened. He was the best person I ever met. He was the closest to a saint I ever met on the face of the earth. So, I didn't succeed. I failed in that particular mission.

After a year of asking me to be Bette Midler’s  publicist and hearing me say no, Bonnie Bruckheimer, Bette's assistant, called one day and said “I'm not asking you to be Bette's publicist, I'm telling you that you are Bette's publicist.  So, it would be wise for you to be out here in L.A. tomorrow at 10 a.m. to meet your client.” It probably wasn't after I'd been working with Bette for four months that I realized what was happening. Bette Midler had moved from music into film. Film people generally hate people from the music world; they don't want to have anything to do with them, so making that transition was extremely difficult. Bette's first film, "The Rose," was tremendously powerful. If you ever get to see it, do, it's a terrific film. Then Bette had signed (on) for her second film ("Jinxed"). Her second film had not only been a turkey, it had been a turkey that made headlines. It made headlines as a failure. Bette had been so humiliated, she had a nervous breakdown and had been out of everything for three years. I didn't know that or, if I did know it, I wasn't registering it. So, bringing Bette back in the world of film was far more of a challenge than I realized. So, sometimes I'm slow. Sometimes it takes me a while to realize when there's trouble and then to figure out how to overcome it.

Courtesy of

The Music Business

When I was a kid, somehow the quest for soul—and I mean soul in the sense of Aretha Franklin-- became essential to my life and Black music was vital to it. One of my clients, Ralph McDonald, was the most brilliant percussionist of the 20th century. He was astonishing. He could outdo the atomic clock on perfect timing and he saw everything around him as a potential rhythm instrument. He was an incredible person. At one point, Alex Haley had his book Roots, which was a huge success, and he had a TV series based on Roots, so Ralph decided to trace his musical roots. He traced his family back to Trinidad, well he knew about that, then traced it back to the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. He explained to me that in the Yoruba tribe there were ecstatic rituals and in those rituals there would be drumming. You would dance to the drumming and you danced until you were invaded-- taken over-- by the god of thunder; the god of thunder's name was Chungo. Ralph showed me the Chungo rhythm that had been used to induce precisely the kinds of varieties of the religious experience that I had been after since I was 13 years old. That kind of trance religion made a transition... it showed (up) in macumba in South America and it showed up as juju or as voodoo in Haiti and it showed up in holy roller churches (in the United States).
One of the moments that shaped me was when I was 15 years old and the movie "Black Orpheus" came out. The movie was set in the macumba rituals of South America and I saw people being seized by a god in front of my eyes in this movie. It made a tremendous impression on me. I'd been after this all of my life and  Ralph was showed me that I ended up in the right place. Why? I don't know what it is. Black music has, at its best, a connection with the human soul. The rhythmic sensibility is brought in by the Black music and the harmonic sensibility, that is the melodic sensibility, is brought in by the European components. Put the two of them together and you have absolute magic.
American music had been acknowledging its debt to Black music ever since the 1840s when minstrel shows were going out on the road. You know, white people putting on blackface and doing "Black" music. They couldn't have succeeded with that genre, which lasted over 50 years, if it weren't for the fact that they knew they were exporting black culture across a cultural barrier. They were piping it from the Black community to the white community. Without Black music, you don't have American music; without European melody, you don't have American music. So, it's the two of them combined that makes the astonishment of American popular music. Again, the trance element, the element that gives soul to music-- that is Black music. You never lose trace of the fact that it's two musics miscegenating, if you want to call it that, two musics mating with each other. 
European music and Black music made it possible for the astonishment of American pop music and that made it possible for anyone to go to record stores and collect every race record they could possibly find. What are race records? Well those are Black records in the days when the record industry was rigidly segregated. It was rigidly segregated until 1980 (and) we worked our asses off in the 1980s to break down that barrier. Look what happened in the 1950s: kids in England started going to record stores where they carried race records. Some of those people got together in a group and later called themselves The Beatles. Another group of people who were obsessed with "pure" Black records from the American south, or Chicago...called themselves The Rolling Stones.

My favorite moments in the music business...that Nassau Coliseum date where Prince was so utterly fantastic on stage and where the gods inside, or where God was coming from the ceiling high above us, was a remarkable experience. Sitting down with John Mellencamp and having him educate me about the mythic dimensions of films like "Hud" and "Cool Hand Luke," those were astonishing experiences. Being on stage and being given the Global Entertainment and Media Summit's Award for Lifetime Achievement and Commitment to Excellence, which they created for me--of all people--that was an out-of-body experience. The very first performing experience of my life when I was 16 years old and went on stage and was incapable of dancing, so I improvised a dance in order to advertise a dance the juniors were giving. I felt the eyes of the audience: their pupils dilate, their faces melt. I had an out-of-body experience on the ceiling watching the whole thing happen. When it was over the audience surged down to the foot of the stage as if they practiced this all their lives, they picked me up and they carried me out of the auditorium and up to the building above where (we) had classes. They had never done that before in my life in that school and they never did it again. They'd had no practice. That's what allowed me to understand my artists, because I had that experience in my performing life, too.

Someone I never met, but always wanted to...David Geffen, because he is an absolute master of what he does. I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable with him, but if I did feel comfortable with him it would be remarkable...who else? David Geffen's partner at DreamWorks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, because I knew his assistant, (Jane Rosenthal) and she was extremely good to me. She ended up co-founding TriBeca Films, the whole TriBeca empire with Robert DeNiro, but I never met Jeffrey Katzenberg himself. Most of the people I was interested in, I think I ended up working with one way or another, so I ended up meeting them.

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Pop stars today aren't given what I tried to give to my artists. I tried to find the gods inside. I tried to find the very soul of the artist and introduce that soul to the speaking person; the artist, the person that knew how to say "How are you;" that speaking part of yourself that said "Fine, thank you." Well, (I) needed to introduce those two selves to each other.
When somebody like John Mellencamp would call and say that Heinz Ketchup had just offered him over a million dollars to use his song "Hurts So Good" in their ketchup commercials, I asked John a question: "What do you want to be doing 15 years from now? Do you want to be clipping coupons?" In other words, do you want to be earning the interest off of your investments or do you still want to be making music and still be going in front of audiences? John answered-- and it's the answer of every musician I ever worked with-- is (he) still wanted to be making music. So I said, "Then you have to turn down the ketchup commercial, because right now you stand for the voice of a person who is outside the gates of the establishment, raising your fist and saying (you) have a right to exist. If you enter the gates of the establishment and come to be one of the walls of the establishment yourself, you lose that ability."
Everybody in the music industry these days is so captivated by words like "branding," "marketing" and "product," that they don't see what they really have in their hands. Music is the deepest expression of the human soul. It is the deepest expression of the gods inside of us and it speaks to the gods inside of others. So, there's a soul exchange and that's what music is really all about. It's not about money. It's not about downloads. It's not about pieces of plastic. It's not about CDs. It is about the conflagration that occurs when the soul of a (musician like) Prince sparks the souls of 18,000 people—in the case of his London appearances, 120,000. If you don't recognize that, you don't know what you're dealing with; you can do more harm than good. The phrases like “marketing” and “branding,” they distract you from what music is all about. They show no comprehension of it.
People in the business these days think that career development is a matter of setting up a sponsorship with a cola company, a sponsorship with a ginger ale company or a sponsorship with an automobile company. Well, there's nobody out there who stands for the soul of the audience. There need to be people out there who are stands ins for the soul of the audience, who can evoke the spirit of the audience and raise it to higher levels. There's got to be people out there who are icons, not corporate sellouts and there aren't, because people (are) being misguided as to what music is all about.
I used to call it secular shamanism, a very strange term for a scientist to use, but my goal was to find your soul... (There are) people like Britney Spears, who are immensely talented; her sense of timing is so right on, I (have) very seldom seen somebody who has that precise sense of time and rhythm before. But, nobody was there to help her find out who she was, to help her zero in on it and stay true to it. One result is that she had no idea of who she was or what the value was of what she was achieving. She went through one self-destructive misadventure after another, because she didn't know who she was. She didn't know what she was accomplishing for her fellow human beings. She didn't know what she had to stay true to. I always felt if I were in that situation and I could spend a year or two working with her, that I could help her out of that bind. But, I have my own contributions to make through my books and I'm working on a TV series called the Grand Unified Theory of Everything in the Universe Including The Human Soul. Those are my obligations, so I can't do that (public relations) anymore. But, I think that this soul-finding aspect, finding the gods inside, is deeply, deeply, profoundly needed in the music business these days.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is one of the most understated illnesses you can have, because it isn't fatigue. It's weakness. It's weakness to the point where for five years I could not speak. (I) literally could not use my vocal cords. I didn't have the strength to use my vocal cords. I'd never heard of such a thing. If I hadn't been through it, I wouldn't believe it.
I was so prone to stress that I couldn't have another person in the room with me. My wife at first tried to keep me company and she'd lay on the bed next to me reading the daily news of the New York Post, the great big paper. When she turned the page, the sound of the page would go through me like a cannonball. It (would) feel as if it was ripping me apart. So, I couldn't have anybody else in the room with me. Once, I had two computers set up next to the bed and I had a keyboard jerry-rigged with the kind of foam they put in cushions on couches. It would stand up at an angle so I could see the keys even though I was flat on the bed. But, there were days when I didn't have the strength to lift my forearms to lift my hands to the computer (and) the keyboard. It's dreadful and it disarrays your life, everything that you ever thought you were.
Until you have an illness that serious, you don't realize you have an identity as a human being. You don't realize that identity as a human being consists of a sense of your future, what you're going to be doing, (what) you've delivered to your fellow human beings. When you come down with something this radical, you no longer have a future and when you no longer have a future, you're no longer a human being. You're in state for (which) there are no words, which is about the worst thing you can possibly imagine. (You're) in a state there are no words for, with an illness there are no words for. At any rate, the illness had no name when I first came down with it in 1988. It was 15 years a nightmare and (I) lost my entire sense of identity and humanity.
It took me a long time to realize I could no longer sit up and then I had the computer set up next to the bed. I had to reinvent myself with a whole new group of social contacts and a new identity. I reinvented myself in a place called cyberspace. So, it's as if I was born twice: once in 1943 and once in 1988, when I was reborn into the cyberworld. So, while I was there in bed, while I was too weak to speak, during the course of the 15 years, I wrote three books and  I founded two international scientific groups online:  The Group Selection Squad (1995) and The International Paleopsychology Project (1997).  Since then, I've founded another, the group Buzz  Aldrin persuaded me to create, the Space Development Steering Committee (2007).  Then, thank God, I got better. It was the combination of drugs--at least I believe it was the combination of drugs. For 15 years I just tried things, I kept track of what those things were achieving for me and I had regular help from my doctor. I ended up with a combination of 27-30 different drugs.
At any rate, I think it's the drugs, but to rattle off the list of the drugs is just utterly too complex. Gabapentin is an anti convulsive (drug) and I started to use it around 1988. It has incredible healing properties and in the time since 1988, it ‘s been discovered it has powerful mood-lifting effects. It's a powerful anti-depressant, but, it also is a very powerful energizer, for reasons nobody understands. There is another drug called oxytocin, which is a social hormone, it's a bonding hormone. It makes people trust each other. When mothers lift their newborns to their breast for the first time (and) the baby takes hold of their nipple, many of them go through an oxytocin surge that's almost as enormous as an LSD experience. I take that everyday. In the last two to three months, it been discovered, that one of these things I take, it's not occurring to me at the moment, reverses muscle aging; it doesn't just stop muscle aging, it reverses muscle aging. So, yesterday, I was humiliated, I only did 330 push ups in a row without stopping. Two days after I turned 71, I did 650 push ups in a row without stopping. I think it's a combination of the drugs that I'm taking. So, thank God for the drugs. Thank God for big pharma.


I was successful in coming up with a theory that predicted dark energy in 1959, 39 years before dark energy was discovered. I was successful at accidentally helping found the hippie movement. I was successful as one of the top students in NYU in my year and graduating Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. I was successful in (attaining) four graduate school scholarships in neurobiology and I was successful at evading grad school, (because) I thought grad school was an Auschwitz for the mind. I was searching for the Gods inside and there was no way (I was) going to find these extreme emotional experiences that make the forces of history in grad school. I really didn't want to go to grad school, but, it's very hard to get out of doing that.
I wanted to go into something that was going to take me into the dark underbelly of the culture where new myths were made. Where new religious experiences were made. Where the gods are. I went strangely into popular culture, which I knew absolutely nothing about. Then I succeeded in having the biggest PR  firm in the music industry. Before that, I succeeded in founding a commercial arts studio, which was my periscope position into popular culture, and I ended up on the cover of Art Direction magazine. After I got sickgoing to take me into the dark underbelly of the culture where new myths were made. Where new religious experiences were made. Where the gods are. I went strangely into popular culture, which I knew absolutely nothing about. Then I succeeded in having the biggest PR  firm in the music industry. Before that, I succeeded in founding a commercial arts studio, which was my periscope position into popular culture, and I ended up on the cover of Art Direction magazine. After I got sick (with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), I was successful in founding two international scientific groups (on the Internet). I've written a total of six books at this point and I was tremendously gratified at the end of the 1990s, or around the year 2000, when Channel 4 TV said I was "next in a lineage of seminal thinkers that includes Newton, Darwin, Einstein,[and] Freud."
Yet, despite all of these things, you wake up feeling worthless and you have to prove your worth all over again for the day. It's through perpetually proving yourself in the face of insecurity that you end up achieving something.

What if I was wrong? Wow. Well, what if I was wrong about Prince? But, I wasn't. I absolutely know that I wasn't. I'm definitely sure that I wasn't. I come into situations every day where I second guess something and I think that it will go a certain way and it doesn't. I have a tremendous track record of predicting certain things. In 1995 when my first book came out, (I) predicted that we were going to have trouble with predicting nuclear Iran. Well, what we are having trouble with right now? A nuclear Iran. Then when next book came out in 2000, it predicted that we would trouble with a guy named Osama Bin Laden and a group called the Taliban. Then came 9/11, right? So, that prediction turned out to be true. I've made a whole bunch of others like them.
But, the fact is, once upon a time, when I was stuck in bed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a consultant for the high tech industry, the Silicon Valley people, flew into New York just to see me. I told him that because of all the flaws in Microsoft's software, in the next three years Microsoft was going to find itself up against competition, a Chinese company, and if the Chinese company was more committed to making its product user friendly and getting around the types of problems that Microsoft builds into its software, Microsoft would be out of business... So, (that) was more than ten years ago and Microsoft is still in business. So, I was wrong. Sometimes I make predictions that don't come true.
But, with my artists, my predictions turned out to be accurate. My sense of when they should be touring and where they should should touring-- which is something I did heavily in the case of John Mellencamp and Billy Idol--turned out to be on target. My sense of what to do in order to build their careers turned out to be on target-- unless it was somebody like Johnny Dagger and somehow I completely missed the mark.

There's always...That's a good question, what is there always? I don't know. Sitting in the park, in the sunshine, there are children all over the place. Life has been on this planet 3.85 billion years now and it just won't quit, no matter what disaster scenarios we humans come up with. Even when a massive meteor wiped out the dinosaurs, they just discovered it was good for the trees. Can you imagine that? So, life is a very persistent thing. Thank God it persists.
There's some else that there's always and that's death. That is a difficult thing to accept. Hester Mundes, one of my friends, wrote all of the comedy for Joan Rivers and when you sit down and have lunch with her, you think that you're having lunch with Joan Rivers herself. The two of them share exactly the same body language, they share exactly the same rhythms of speech and they share exactly the same sense of humor. Not surprising, since my friend Hester wrote the material. So, when Joan Rivers died, it was a shock, because everyone thought she was strong as horse and she could endure anything. We're all going to die and that's a very difficult fact to accept. There's so many moments of stress and exaltation in life and, hopefully, they all drive us toward some form of creativity, something we add to other people's lives. That principle-- what's called in my scientific work "opposites joined at the hip"-- the opposition of death and life. The vigor of the two of them, it's what makes things work. We're not quite sure how.
I think Prince is up against these things, too. God knows how he's coping with it. He's in his late 50s, I would imagine. So, his mortality must be something he's aware of, too. Certainly he's lost people around him (whom) he loves. So, we're stuck with (the) bizarre universe of death and life working hand in hand with each other-- death, life and creativity working hand in hand with each other.

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Stay Beautiful, Kristi


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