In Owen Husney’s memoir, Famous People Who’ve Met Me (2018), all roads lead to Prince. While, given the remit of this website, it may be tempting to consider Husney’s volume of recollections solely through the lens of his relationship to Prince, it cannot be denied that the author himself frames his own life and career within these terms also.
All Roads Lead to Prince
Of the book’s roughly two hundred and eighty pages, Husney’s discovery and subsequent professional relationship with Prince occupies roughly one hundred pages and does not begin until around the ninety-page mark. Either side of these one hundred pages, Husney recalls his career leading up to the start of his professional relationship with Prince, and his career in the wake of the dissolution of that same partnership.
Yet even though Prince occupies a little over a third of the book’s page extent, it cannot be denied that he looms large over the entirety of the volume, whether he is present or not. Not only does a picture of Prince (photographed with Husney himself) adorn the memoir’s front cover, but the book’s very subtitle ‘A Memoir by the Man Who Discovered Prince’ reinforces the centrality of Prince within the author’s autobiographical narrative.
Husney’s volume features many recollections and anecdotes of his numerous encounters, both professional and personal, with such cultural icons as The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to name but a few. Yet out of all the numerous prominent cultural figures invoked across the book’s two hundred and eighty-odd pages, it is still Prince who remains front and centre and is afforded the most prominence within Husney’s memoir. Such a decision on the part of the author merely serves to reinforce the notion that although this book is about Owen Husney’s life and extensive professional career, it is still to some extent framed within the confines of the author’s relationship with Prince.
Often Absent, Always Present
Indeed, Husney makes the narrative trajectory of the Famous People Who’ve Met Me very clear from the book’s opening prologue which features a number of brief, cursory anecdotes about the author’s early forays in the music business. Husney states that those “experiences taught me how to fight for an artist, how to promote an artist, and how to do it with class” and that “Prince gained incalculably from my instincts and experience.” As such, though he is mostly absent from the book’s opening ninety pages, Husney makes it fairly explicit that it is those professional experiences recounted in those opening pages, that lead him inexorably to the author’s discovery and subsequent professional relationship with Prince.
Even among these opening ninety pages, where Prince is largely absent, Husney always makes the reader aware of the book’s ultimate destination. One such instance occurs when the author recounts his experience on the road with actor turned singer, Richard Harris in the late sixties. Husney then flashes forward to 2016 where he is attending a concert by Jimmy Webb, who penned the song that propelled Harris to musical stardom, ‘MacArthur Park.’ Husney recalls how he attempted to talk to Webb about how “the genius of his song ‘MacArthur Park’ gave a twenty-three-year-old kid from Minnesota the credibility to start a business” and that consequently those experiences with Harris on the road “had lead to my eventual discovery and management of the artist Prince.”
“The Man Who Discovered Prince”
Given the prominence Husney affords Prince within his own memoir, one could be tempted to interpret the book’s subtitle ‘A Memoir by the Man Who Discovered Prince’ as an arrogant declaration of self-importance. However, any such notions immediately dissipate upon reading the principal substance of the book. Husney is a man who, though bursting with the supreme confidence and self-belief necessary to have succeeded in the music business, likewise never appears to take himself too seriously. The fact that Husney is indeed “The Man Who Discovered Prince” cannot be disputed, but as much of the book’s recollections and anecdotes bear out, there is more to him than just this moniker, despite the primacy he affords Prince within the text. This tongue in cheek tone likewise extends to the volume’s primary title, Famous People Who’ve Met Me, a statement which articulates Husney’s stated notion that “A good dose of my sarcastic humor lets them know I don’t take myself too seriously.”
Famous People Who’ve Met Me, a statement which articulates Husney’s stated notion that “A good dose of my sarcastic humor lets them know I don’t take myself too seriously.”
And yet even though he is certainly deserving and worthy of the title “The Man Who Discovered Prince,” Husney makes it explicitly clear that he is not solely responsible for Prince’s success and was merely one (important) part of a greater whole. Indeed, after the initial meeting between Prince and Husney, the author recalls “As they drove away I remember thinking that I could not do this alone. This effort would take a team.” The recognition Husney expresses for the part he played in bringing Prince to the masses is further expressed when the author details the dissolution of their business relationship. He states that he “was perceptive enough to know where I fit in with regard to Prince’s career” and that his “calling was to garner a historic record deal” and “establish early control for him in a budding career.” Husney ultimately concludes that “My job was now complete. Prince was free to move on to his next phase.” He recognises that he was most certainly an important piece of the puzzle, but a piece nevertheless and gives credit where credit is due to all those other pieces that would eventually form the picture of Prince’s early career and beyond.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Likewise, Husney’s depiction of Prince within the book is fundamentally an honest one. It is a portrait of a man and an artist who was immensely talented, gifted and driven, but also not without his foibles, many of which have likewise been documented elsewhere far and wide. But where others merely seek to shine a light on the artist’s perceived “rudeness” or “weirdness”, for tabloid sensationalism, Husney presents these apparent foibles with a sense of understanding and justification.
One such instance occurs when Husney recalls the comments of a man who delivered a synthesiser to Prince in the studio and was then subsequently told to “to go home after [he] showed [Prince] how to program the thing” resulting in the delivery man dubbing Prince a “prima donna”. However, Husney proceeds to state that “Prince couldn’t help it” and that “this was the brain he was born with.” He more than once notes Prince’s proficient ability to learn new skills at a lightning-fast speed and that “once he had absorbed everything in your brain, and all your talent, it was time for you to go home.” It was “Nothing personal.” Husney does not excuse such behaviour on the part of Prince, but he does explain it and as such, rather than presenting an idolised version of the pop-cultural icon, Husney puts forth a more nuanced portrait of the man behind the music at this early stage in his career.
‘Sometimes It Snows In April’
Though Prince is not the primary subject of Famous People Who’ve Met Me, he most certainly lies at the heart of the book’s autobiographical narrative in more ways than one. There are some intriguing insights to be found here regarding the lead up to and the making of Prince’s debut album, For You (1978), and the subsequent dissolution of the personal and professional relationship between the two men. And just as Husney’s book moves inexorably towards his discovery of Prince, it equally moves unavoidably to a recollection of the events of the 21st of April 2016, the day when any hope of future reconciliation between the two men was made well and truly impossible.
Famous People Who’ve Met Me: A Memoir By the Man Who Discovered Prince – Owen Husney (2018)
“Famous People Who’ve Met Me” is an outrageous collection of true stories starring oddball characters, behind the scenes gurus, scoundrels, and brilliant superstars in the music business straight out of Minnesota. The stories reflect not only his crazy, sometimes dark experiences but also his contributions to the world of music — from Elvis to Al Jarreau, Hendrix to K-Tel, Prince to The Revolution.
A well-written and interesting review by Declan McCarthy.