Tuesday, September 13, 2016

CULTURE SPOT - The Stranger Language of Children

Scene from the NETFLIX series Stranger Things
By StoryPaul

As a kid who grew up in the 1980s, I can tell you. Things were very different.  In fact, they were a little strange. First, it was the pre-internet world, so you couldn't Google your way out of trouble. Gadgets were large and clunky. Music was epic and enjoyed with friends. And friendship did not require that really strange thing called... Facebook.

So when Netflix released its new sci-fi mystery show Stranger Things which takes place in the 1980s, I knew they had me.

The Story
A group of friends investigates the disappearance of one its members near a suspicious government facility. While searching for clues, they find evidence of a strange creature with a big appetite that lurks in the forest. But most importantly, they also meet Eleven, a young girl with special powers who escaped from the government lab. Naturally, Eleven and the boys join forces to find the missing boy, fight the bad men from the government and deal with the creature.

The Language
Stranger Things - created by The Duffer Brothers - is a non-stop 8-hour epic ride with obvious references to the works of filmmaker Steven Spielberg and writer Stephen King during that strange decade. But if I had to pinpoint its greatest achievement, I would say it has nothing to do with science fiction and mystery. In fact, I would say the greatest achievement of the writers is how they depict the way children speak. They nailed it!

The Scene: "You look pretty"
As a sample of what I mean, WATCH the following scene. Then, READ the copy of the transcript. Situation: The boys argue about whether their missing friend Will is still alive. To find out, they agree to invite Eleven to collaborate with them on a mission outside of the house. -- Pay attention to:
  • how they interrupt each other
  • how they speak in fragments, single words, not always completing sentences
  • how they mostly use simple vocabulary

Scene Transcript

(Radio frequencies tuning) (Indistinct whimpering) 
Mike: We keep losing the signal, but you heard it, right? 
Lucas: Yeah, I heard a baby. 
Mike: What? 
Lucas: Mike, you obviously tapped into a baby monitor. It's probably the Blackburns' next door. 
Mike: Uh, did that sound like a baby to you? That was Will! 
Lucas: Mike... 
Mike: Lucas, you don't understand. He spoke last night. Words! He was singing that weird song he loves. Even El heard him! 
Lucas: Oh, well, if the weirdo heard him, then I guess... 
Dustin: Are you sure you're on the right channel? 
Mike: I don't think it's about that. I think, somehow, she's channeling him. 
Dustin: Like... like Professor X. Yeah. 
Lucas: Are you actually believing this crap
Mike: I don't know, I mean... Do you remember when Will fell off his bike and broke his finger? He sounded a lot like that. 
Lucas: Did you guys not see what I saw? They pulled Will's body out of the water. He's dead! 
Dustin: Well, maybe it's his ghost. Maybe he's haunting us. 
Mike: It's not his ghost. 
Lucas: So how do you know that? 
Mike: I just do! 
Lucas: Then what was in that water? 
Mike: I don't know! All I know is Will is alive. Will is alive! He's out there somewhere. All we have to do is find him. (Static crackling on radio) This isn't gonna work. We need to get El to a stronger radio.
Dustin: Mr. Clarke's Heathkit ham shack.
Mike: Yeah. 
Lucas: The Heathkit's at school. There is no way we're gonna get the weirdo in there without anyone noticing. I mean... look at her.

(after Eleven's makeover)
Dustin: Wow. She looks... 
Mike: Pretty. Good. You look pretty good. 
Eleven: (whispers) Pretty.

If you like good storytelling, and you have a chance, don't miss Stranger Things. Seamless storytelling, impeccable acting, mystery of the highest order and a very realistic depiction of the strange language of children.

  1. Using the collocation believes that, describe what each of the boys believes about their friend Will.
  2. When Lucas says, "You're not actually believing this crap", he's using present continuous with a stative verb like believe. Normally, you're not supposed to do that, but why is it OK in this case?
  3. How do the boys plan to take Eleven to school without anyone noticing?
  4. Compare the difference in meaning when Mike says that Eleven looks "pretty"to when he says that she looks "pretty good". (What part of speech is the word "pretty" in each case?)
  5. What do you know about the 1980s?
See what the strangeness is all about.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

STORY SONG: How to Ask Questions About Experience

By StoryPaul

Asking questions in English always poses a challenge for learners. One of the reasons is that unlike other languages, in English you must add auxiliary verbs to create the question form.

Of course, there are many types of questions. Among them, one that is essential to understand and to master is the question about experience. People ask each other questions about experience all the time. It happens among friends, strangers and in especial situations like job interviews.

To make a question about experience, we use the form:

Have + you (ever) + Past Participle of the MAIN VERB 

The adverb ever emphasizes the idea of experience from the time you were born until today.
  • Have you ever studied abroad?
  • Have you ever wondered why we have deja vus?
  • Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?
The last question was asked by the roots American rock band Credence Clearwater Revival in their classic hit "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?". This is a song from 1971 when rock bands were asking questions and using metaphors - such as this one - to protest the war in Vietnam. This song, however, has lived beyond that era and has been covered by dozens of artists, among them: The Spin Doctors, REM, and Rod Stewart.

It's a simple song that asks a simple question, which may go a little deeper. Think about what it means to you, as you watch the lyrics video.

Can you make a question about life experience with: HAVE YOU EVER... ?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

TALKING OBJECTS: a FUN activity for the #ZeroResource Classroom

Language classrooms don’t always have a lot of resources like video projectors, smartboards, and wi-fi. In fact, sometimes they have very limited or no resources at all. This is the case of Heart ELT school located in the Domiz camp for Syrian refugees in Iraq - a school founded by English teacher Julie Pratten that is giving hope to kids who have lost it all.

So as you can imagine, the wonderful volunteer teachers who share their time with these kids are in need of not only resources but also of activities they can do with limited resources - in what is better known as the #ZeroResource classroom. For more information, please visit Heart ELT today and find out how you can help out by purchasing excellent educational materials or by giving a little bit of your time and skills.

What follows is a lesson plan I created for the #ZeroResource language classroom. It's one that I’ve used many times before. I call it “Talking Objects”.

Talking what? That’s right. Objects. I’ve done this with kids from limited-resource schools, but also with their more fortunate counterparts. Bottom line: kids love mysteries. They’ll go for this one. This activity stimulates imagination and allows for silliness as well. As a teacher, you only need to get into it yourself in order for it to work.

LEVEL: Up to B1
TIME: 30 - 45 min depending on size of group
AGE: Under 14
RESOURCES: Paper, pencil or pen, objects the teacher brings to class, heaps of imagination.

The teacher brings objects that are safe and age-appropriate to class. Safe means nothing sharp or where anyone can get hurt. Age appropriate I trust you understand. It will also be useful to bring some paper and something to write with (pencil, pen, etc) if the learning area lacks such elements.

So what kind of objects? Well… They may be old. They may be new. They may be orange. Or they may be blue. They may have letters. Or perhaps numbers. Easy to understand. Or leave you to wonder. Dig around. You’ll come up with something.

The idea is to create a communication activity centered around a series of objects that will allow kids to ask simple questions and provide simple answers. With kids, this is fun because you can do almost anything imagination allows. If you try doing this with adults, you would have to first sell them the idea that an alarm clock will talk about himself during the lesson.

STEP 1: Distribute the Objects

Break up the classroom into groups. Each group gets an object. Be smart in how you distribute the objects. Why? Because members of each group cannot show their object to the other groups and they don’t get to see what object the other groups got.  

STEP 2: Make Them Talk

Explain that their job is to describe that object to the other groups. But there is a catch. These are talking objects. And it is their job to make them talk. They might wonder, “How do you make an object talk?”. Simple. Pick up an existing object and make it talk. Pick up a pencil, hold it in front of you and say, “Hi, my name is Ziggy (or some other imaginary name). Look at me. I am long. I am thin. I help people write. Can you guess what I am?” Elicit replies. If no one says anything, you may ask, “Am I a book? Am I a door?”. Perhaps, somebody might say, “You are a pencil.” (or some other guess) If no one guesses it, then suggest it, “I am a pencil. I am Ziggy, the pencil”.

STEP 3: Working in Groups

The teacher goes around and helps each group describe their object. A few sentences will do. The students should give a fun name to their objects. Then they should make sentences in 1ST PERSON. “I am round. I am made of metal” describing it. This is also a great opportunity to teach ADJECTIVES. You may have to draw on your paper to teach some adjectives. The students in each group should learn the actual name of their object. So if it's a clock, they should know. This is a clock. However, they must not give it away when they present it to the rest of the class.

Since the teacher cannot be with all groups at once, while she is with one group, the other groups should come up with a fun name for the object and with words that describe it. Shape. Color. Size. Material. Anything else they can say about it.

STEP 3: Showtime

Each group presents their object. The teacher calls up a group and prompts the question, “So group A, who are you?” Let’s suppose Group A has a clock. So a member of Group A comes up to the front of the class, holds the clock in front of her and starts, “My name is Leeloo. I am round. I have numbers…”. She will continue with a few more descriptions, but stop short of saying, “I am a clock”.

The other groups take turns guessing what object “Leeloo” really is. Depending on the level of your students, it might be a good idea to make a list from where they can guess some options. This list should have the objects that each group has, plus a few more to generate some mystery. If you have no chalkboard or whiteboard, you can write the list on a paper and pass it around so the guessers can choose from there.

Again, depending on the level of your students, you may have to model for them how to ask a simple YES / NO Question in the 2ND PERSON, “Leeloo, are you a pencil?” Then “Leeloo” will reply, “No, I am not.” Likewise, help students as is needed in modeling these yes / no questions.

When a participant guesses correctly, then his / her group gets to go to the front of the classroom and present their object. And you help them by modeling questions and answers, as needed. You may also draw the ADJECTIVE descriptions. So when a student says, “I am round”. You can draw a round shape on the paper. And you might even ask them to repeat it once or twice, “round… round”, as you show your hand drawn circle to everybody. And you can seal the deal by saying, "Leeloo is round."

Of course, you can correct as the activity happens but try not to get too much in the way of the fun. The key objective is communication and fun, not accuracy.

STEP 4: Review

After each group has finished and all objects have been guessed. You can show the objects once again and call on individual students to describe them, by going around and asking questions. You may first try to go for the shyer students who did not participate as much in the earlier activities. Pick up each one of the objects presented and ask questions about them. Correct answers as necessary and always reward students for participating, regardless of the result.

  • What’s this?
  • Is it round?
  • What does it have?

Obviously, here both you and the students are using 3RD PERSON. During the previous activity, it was all about 1ST PERSON statements and answers to 2ND PERSON questions.There's no need to point that out. If they can acquire it naturally, so much the better.

So you brought a few things to class and got students to make believe they were alarm clocks, dice and brushes. You could probably get a job at Hogwarts. But before that, you may want to repeat this activity another day with new objects. And then, after they have learned many objects, you may review it all with classroom game of 20 QUESTIONS. http://www.wikihow.com/Play-20-Questions

Try to see if you can you come up with an activity for the #ZeroResource classroom. And if you do, please share with those who need it most.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

LANGUAGE FOCUS: How to Describe Nature Pictures in English

By StoryPaul

Cruising Lago Argentino (Santa Cruz, AR)... BRRR!!!
A great way to practice English fluency is to describe things. It sounds easy, but there is always some challenge to it. So the question is: what things can learners describe?

Pictures provide great opportunities to describe things. Today on the internet we can find a lot of pictures to describe. We can also take pictures with our cameras or phones.

Recently, I was challenged by a colleague to share nature pictures for one week. I accepted the challenge. So I shared them with friends and colleagues. But then I realized something. Nature pictures provide a great opportunity to show learners how to describe things in English.

So here we go. Click!

Nature Picture 1: Miami Dolphin

Where did I take it?
I took this one off the coast of Miami.

Let’s describe the picture:
There is a dolphin swimming underwater.
The water is turquoise.

What else can you say about this picture?

Let’s look at the language:

To TAKE a photo / picture (collocation- We take photos or pictures. (We shoot video)
  • I took this picture / this photo.
  • I took this one.

THERE IS / THERE ARE (collocation)- Most common way to describe the existence of anything in English + followed by a verb in GERUND (ing) form
  • There is someone doing something.
  • There is a dolphin swimming.

TURQUOISE (Describing color in English)- When we describe a color, we use the VERB to BE followed by the color, but we do not need to use the word “color”, as in other languages.
  • The water is turquoise color. (incorrect)
  • The water is turquoise. (correct)
*a collocation is a group of words commonly used together to express an idea

OFF THE COAST (collocation- describes a location that is near a coastal area

Nature Picture 2: Lago Acigami

Where did I take it?
I took this picture in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

Let’s describe the picture:
There is a huge lake surrounded by tall mountains.
The water is completely still.
The scene is grayish blue.

What else can you say about this picture?

Let’s look at the language:

HUGE (adjective)- describes when something is very, very big
STILL (adjective) - describes when something is not moving
GRAYISH BLUE (language pattern of combined colors)- used when we talk about one color having its effect on another. We add the suffix -ish to the first color.

  • blueish gray
  • greenish white
  • reddish brown

Nature Picture 3:  Piedmontese Wine Country

Where did I take it?
I took this one in Nizza Monferrato, Italy.

Let’s describe the picture:
There are dozens of green vineyards as far as the eye can see.
It is a radiant summer day.
You can see an olive tree in the foreground.

What else can you say about this picture?

Let’s look at the language:

AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE (collocation) - describes something that can be seen from near to far until it cannot be seen any more:
RADIANT (adjective) - sending out light; shining or glowing bright
YOU CAN SEE (phrase) - commonly used to indicate what is visible
FOREGROUND (noun) - refers to the things that appear closest to the camera taking the picture

Nature Picture 4:  Desert by the Sea

Where did I take it?
I took this photo in Paracuru, Brazil.

Let’s describe the picture:
There is a vast desert made up of dunes down below.
There are blue skies and some clouds up above.

What else can you say about this picture?

Let’s look at the language:

VAST (adjective) - describes a great extent or quantity; something immense.
MADE UP OF (collocation) - to be composed of, be constituted of, consist in, consist of
DOWN BELOW (collocation) - located at the bottom of a determined area
UP ABOVE (collocation) - located at the top of a determined area

Nature Picture 5:  Medusa, the Spotted Jellyfish

Where did I take it?
I took this one at the Aquarium of Genova, Italy.

Let’s describe the picture:
There is a spotted jellyfish shaped like a mushroom.
The jellyfish has tentacles that look like transparent curtains with flowers.
The jellyfish appears big in the picture but is actually tiny.

What else can you say about this picture?

Let’s look at the language:

LOOK LIKE (collocation) - appear like; be similar or bear a likeness to
SHAPED LIKE  (collocation) - have a shape like something else
ACTUALLY  (adverb) - in fact, in truth (SPANISH SPEAKERS, it does not mean "right now")
TINY  (adjective) - very, very small

Nature Picture 6:  The Land of Ice and Snow

Where did I take it?
I took this picture at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Santa Cruz, Argentina.

Let’s describe the picture:
There is a huge mass of ice surrounded by forests and mountains.
It reminds me of Superman's fortress of solitude.

What else can you say about this picture?

Let’s look at the language:

SURROUNDED BY (collocation) - be in the middle of
REMINDS ME OF  (collocation) - used to express when one thing makes you think about something similar

Nature Picture 7: Dino Walks the Town

Where did I take it?
I took this photo in the City of Buenos Aires, near a science exhibition featuring dinosaurs.

Let’s describe the picture:
There is a silhouette of a dinosaur in front of a street corner.
There aren’t many people on the street, only a man passing by who turns to look at the dinosaur.

What else can you say about this picture?

Let’s look at the language:

SILHOUETTE (noun) the dark shape someone or something against a brighter background
FEATURING (gerund) showing
IN FRONT OF (collocation) - be positioned forward of a person or thing
PASS BY  (collocation) - go past someone or something
TURN TO LOOK  (collocation) - turn one's head in the direction of something

Are you READY to describe pictures in English? All you have to do now is get your camera (or phone). Take some pictures and talk (or write) about them in English to someone. See if you can USE some of the vocabulary from this post. Share your pictures and descriptions in English with friends. Have fun!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

CULTURE SPOT: A Legendary Interview with a Legend: PRINCE

By StoryPaul

In language learning, one's understanding of pop culture is often as important as grammar, pronunciation, and fluency. But unlike them, pop culture is not an easy concept to define. For the sake of simplicity, we could say it is the sum of ideas, objects, notions, sounds, images, events and personalities that are well known to many people, especially in a particular culture.

However, in our interconnected world, pop culture crosses boundaries. One of the ways that it does is through music. And certain artists are particularly successful at crossing boundaries. One such artist was the late multi-talented African-American singer-songwriter, Prince.

As one of the most successful artists of all time, Prince also crossed musical boundaries between funk, soul, rock and pop and produced a powerful volume of pop hits known throughout the world throughout generations. A great stage performer, with a sensitive eye for costume and theatrics, his style was as unique as his voice. Yet what is also interesting about his voice - especially for English learners - is how calm and easy going it was when he spoke.

In 1999, CNN Talk Show host Larry King interviewed Prince in what has become his most legendary interview. At a key moment in his career, Prince talks about his background, influences, beliefs and how he views music and the industry. It provides an opportunity for a great pop culture listening exercise and allows the listener to learn more about the man behind the myth that he has become. A man, an artist and a voice who will be dearly missed.

See the ACTIVITY we recommend below:

ACTIVITY (Intermediate Learners and Above)
  • If you are not familiar with Prince at all, watch his biography here.
  • WATCH the 1st Segment of the INTERVIEW (Until the First Commercial)
    • Take Notes on a paper or document, separating it into 2 columns (K for Larry King and P for Prince)
      • Write down key ideas and phrases you hear, don't worry if it is not exact. FOCUS on the main idea.
  • READ the 1st Segment of the TRANSCRIPT (Until the First Commercial) - Transcribed below.
    • COMPARE your notes and complete and correct the ideas on your NOTES (try to use another color)
    • MAKE NOTE of new words and expressions and search for their meaning in online dictionaries and idiom-dictionaries.
  • ROLE PLAY: One participant plays Larry King, the other plays Prince
    • If there are many participants, break up the interview into smaller parts or repeat a second time. Have fun with this!
  • RETELL what the interview is about (the first segment) for next class.
    • Orally
    • Or as a written assignment
  • OPTIONAL: Repeat the Activity for another segment of the interview

------------------------------------- TRANSCRIPT -----------------------------------------

Larry King Interviews Prince on CNN (1999) - FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he's rocked, he's shocked, he's been telling us to party like it's 1999 for 17 years, the artist formerly known as Prince is our guest, a music world original, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We're back in New York tonight. Never know where we are. This is our millennium month on LARRY KING LIVE.


It's a great pleasure to have with us tonight the artist formerly known as Prince. His first album in three years has just been released. It's called "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic." There you see the cover of the CD.

And for the artist, the obvious first question is, why three years?

THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE: Well, there's three things I wanted to get out of my system, mainly "The Crystal Ball Project," which was a reissue of a lot of the bootlegs that have been coming out all over the world. I am probably one of the most bootlegged artists out there. I wanted to clean that up and get the real good mixes out, let people hear what they're really supposed to sound like if ever given the chance to complete them.

KING: So that's the reason for this space of time?

THE ARTIST: Yes. We did a couple of other projects. I was working with Chaka Khan. I did an album with her, Larry Graham.

KING: She's terrific.

THE ARTIST: Yes, she is.

KING: What can an artist do about bootlegging?

THE ARTIST: What -- the best thing you can do is go back and get those mixes again and fix them up the way you always saw them completed, and then, you know, reissue them.

KING: Does the listener know if they buy one of these in Germany that this isn't what you intended?

THE ARTIST: A lot of my so-called fans do, and they actually thrive off the fact that it's stolen property, you know.

KING: You are -- you would admit to yourself, an unusual personality?

THE ARTIST: It depends.

KING: Well, let's say you're different.

THE ARTIST: As compared to what?

KING: As compared to most people in, let's say, show business, you're an unusual person. Most people don't get famous with one name and then change it, right, would you say? What's the story on that, by the way?

THE ARTIST: Well, I had to search deep within my heart and spirit, and I wanted to make a change and move to a new plateau in my life. And one of the ways in which I did that was to change my name. It sort of divorced me from the past and all the hangups that go along with it. I was -- as it's been well chronicled in deep dispute with my record label...

KING: Which is Warner Bros., right?


KING: Which owns this network, I might add, just to throw...

THE ARTIST: Oh, they do?

KING: Yes.

THE ARTIST: They -- we had some issues that were basically about ownership of the music and how often I was supposed to record and things like that. We got along otherwise. We just had came to a head in those types of...

KING: So there was no clash over what you would record or what kind of music you were singing, et cetera? None of that?

THE ARTIST: No, no creative issues whatsoever. And they were gracious enough to allow me a very wide palate to, you know, put colors onto.

KING: About the highest risk one would think someone who gets famous would take is to drop the name that got them famous.

THE ARTIST: Well, that was one of the things that I dealt with, is that I really searched deep within to find out the answer to whether fame was most important to me or my spiritual well being, and I chose the latter.

KING: Was it difficult to not be what you had become known as?

THE ARTIST: You mean...

KING: I think -- well, let's say -- the only other famous person I know who did this was Cassius Clay. He's a dear friend, and he changed his name to Muhammad Ali as heavyweight champion of the world. That was incredible to change your name. That was due to a faith belief. But he wasn't selling records. He was in the ring, as long as he won, it sold. You, though, a person in show business, is almost dependent on recognition. You stopped being Prince.

THE ARTIST: Well, I -- that's a good point. I pretty much wanted to be dependent upon God. And when you get the inner calling to do something and you know that you're being inspired by God, you pretty much know you'd better answer that call or suffer the consequences.

KING: Do you think this was God inspired as well?

THE ARTIST: I do believe, yes.

KING: Why, then, did you choose "the artist formerly known as?"

THE ARTIST: Well I didn't choose that. That was...

KING: ... chosen for you.

THE ARTIST: Yes, pretty much.

KING: What would you have chosen?


KING: I mean, did you think of a name? What is your name at birth?

THE ARTIST: My name at birth was Prince Rogers Nelson.

KING: So did you think of Nelson?


KING: Rogers?


KING: Were you thinking of a name?

THE ARTIST: No, it didn't come to me like that.

KING: So how did "the artist formerly known as" come about?

THE ARTIST: That came up through people's problem with -- mainly the media's problem with not having a pronunciation for the symbol. So they had to come up with something I guess.

KING: So "the artist formerly known as" is a media invention.


KING: Not your invention?

THE ARTIST: No, sir.

KING: You're a symbol. OK, how do you promote a symbol?

THE ARTIST: Well, what we found is throughout the world, if you hold this up and show it to people, what they think of, they will say, Prince.

KING: Obviously.


KING: So you obviously made it famous.

THE ARTIST: Yes. I think so, yes.

KING: Can you tell us what it signifies?

THE ARTIST: Well, me.

KING: No, but I mean, how you chose it. You designed it?

THE ARTIST: It's sort of come about over time. I've always morphed the female and the male symbol together.

KING: Show me again. Let me see it. Yes, and it works.

THE ARTIST: It's pretty cool. It makes for great jewelry, too.

KING: Has it been copied?

THE ARTIST: Oh, yes.

KING: Stores sell this everywhere?

THE ARTIST: Well, a lot of times, you'll find, like I say, so- called fans on the Internet, which is kind of a problem sometimes because once they use the symbol, it's as though I've endorsed whatever it is that they have for sale, and...

KING: Can you copyright that?

THE ARTIST: It is copyrighted.

KING: So you can't be ripped off by it?


KING: We've been showing it on the bottom of the screen, so that people tune in, they know who we're watching here.


KING: There it is. Look at that. See that?

THE ARTIST: All right.

KING: That's cool, right?

THE ARTIST: That's a class act. This is a...

KING: Hey, this is CNN, man. We don't fool around.

We'll be right back with the artist formerly known as Prince. We're going to talk about his album, his extraordinary life. We'll be taking your phone calls as well. He's got a concert coming up. And the album "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic" is now out. Don't bootleg it -- buy it.

We'll be right back.



KING: We're back with the artist. And the new album is "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic." And he now calls himself "the artist." In print, however, it is just a symbol. We gave him the name. He -- one traces early life an incredible story. But you live in Spain, right?

THE ARTIST: I like to say that I live in the world but I am not of it. I travel a lot. I call Spain home now. I also have a home in Minnesota.

KING: Still in Minnesota?


KING: Roots?


KING: Why Spain?

THE ARTIST: I -- what I found that I like most is from 2:00 to 5:00, everything just shuts down. So...

KING: Siesta -- Fiesta -- siesta.

THE ARTIST: Yes. And everybody just chills and they take a moment just to gather their senses. I think, you know, we probably need to do that here in America sometimes.

KING: Let's -- so in other words, at 2:00 every afternoon you stop doing whatever you're doing?

THE ARTIST: Well, there's no stores and shopping and things like that. All that shuts down and just allows everybody a chance to just regroup and, you know, think about life.

KING: Do you still have a fondness for Minneapolis?

THE ARTIST: Oh, yes, absolutely.

KING: What was it like growing up there? Aren't many blacks in Minneapolis, right? I was talking to Dave Winfield the other night, one percent maybe.

THE ARTIST: Yes, it was interesting for me because I grew up getting a wider array of music. I grew up with Santana and Larry Graham and Fleetwood Mac, all kinds of different things, you know? So that was -- that was very cool.

KING: Good place to grow up?

THE ARTIST: Yes, sir.

KING: You had a rough childhood, didn't you?

THE ARTIST: In some respects.

KING: Did that affect your music?

THE ARTIST: I don't think so, no. I -- I think it probably helped me to look inside to know that I had to do for self, you know?

KING: You had a rough time with parents -- I mean, that's all resolved now, but your father -- you had a rough time with your father, right?

THE ARTIST: I wouldn't call it "rough." I mean, he was a very strict disciplinarian, but all fathers were. I learned the difference between right and wrong, so I don't -- I don't consider it so rough.

KING: Would you look back and say you're glad he was that way?

THE ARTIST: Well, you know, as I go through this journey, I don't look back much at all. I try to stay in the now and live in the now. I think it keeps you young.

KING: So you're not a reminiscencer?


KING: When did you...

THE ARTIST: Is that a word, Larry?

KING: No, I invented it. Maybe it's my new symbol -- inventing words.

THE ARTIST: It's hipper, brother, so I know. I like to learn, but you know...

KING: When -- good -- good point. When did you decide music would be a career?

THE ARTIST: Well, I -- I learned early on this was what I wanted to do, maybe about 12 years old I knew that this is what I would want to do the rest of my life, yes.

KING: You knew it then?


KING: And how -- what burst you on the scene? How did the world get to know Prince, the then Prince?

THE ARTIST: Well -- by the way, I'm still Prince. I just use a different sound for my name, which is none.

KING: But it's hard not to refer to you. It's hard to call you uh.

THE ARTIST: It's cool. It's cool.

KING: You're understanding of this plight we're faced with.

THE ARTIST: Oh, yes, no problem.

KING: Thank you.

THE ARTIST: What was the question?

KING: The question was -- good, you threw me. I forgot the question. The question -- what was the question? I just asked a question. I forgot the question.

THE ARTIST: You were saying how much you love live television.

KING: Yes. That wasn't the question, though. No, the question was, how did you get famous? How did you -- how did the world get to know you? What happened? Was it a record, an appearance, something?

THE ARTIST: Well, it started with a lot of appearances I was doing in and about Minneapolis. And word just spread about...

KING: So you were a local man?

THE ARTIST: Yes -- what I could do. And then I was taken out to Los Angeles by my first manager, whose name escapes me. And other people started getting to see what I could do.

KING: And then did you have a hit record?

THE ARTIST: No, we were just talking about making one right at that point.

KING: And what burst it for you?


KING: What did it for you?

THE ARTIST: The song?

KING: Yes.

THE ARTIST: The song was called "Soft and Wet."

KING: And that...

THE ARTIST: That was the first.

KING: ... immediately became a hit, and you were known?

THE ARTIST: Quietly, but a lot of people knew about me because I was -- I used Stevie Wonder as an inspiration, whom I look up to a great deal just for the way that he crafted music and his connection to the spirit. And, boy, back then I used him as a role model in trying to play all the instruments and be very self-contained and keep my vision clear. So word spread very quickly about what I could do. A lot of people knew about it.

KING: How would you describe your music? What idiom would you put it in?

THE ARTIST: The only thing I could think of, because I really don't like categories, but the only thing I could think of is inspirational. And I think music that is from the heart falls right into that category, people who really feel what it is that they're doing. And ultimately all music is or can be inspirational. And it's -- that's why it's so important to let your gift be guided by something more clear, you know?

KING: The thing is, we don't know -- you think you know where that gift comes from?

THE ARTIST: Oh, yes, absolutely.

KING: We're going to talk about that in a minute.

We're going to see as we break -- here's a portion of a video from that brand-new album "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic."

Our guest is the artist.




KING: By the way, all of those things that you just saw, the -- the videos they do you do in your own studio in Minneapolis? THE ARTIST: A good portion of them.

KING: So we don't think of L.A., Nashville, all these hotspot New York places. Minneapolis gets it done, too.

THE ARTIST: Minneapolis has always been the bomb. You don't have to go outside of that.

KING: Where does your inspiration come from?

THE ARTIST: I like to believe that my inspiration comes from God and that...

KING: Did you always believe that?

THE ARTIST: No. As you grow older, you learn and you start to -- you get smarter, yes.

KING: Because you were once kind of raucous, right? Right? I mean, you would say you were, well, not anti-spiritual. You certainly would not think of you as a great believing soul.


KING: True or not?

THE ARTIST: I don't believe that to be true.

KING: Always were?

THE ARTIST: I have always known that God was my creator and that without him, boy, nothing works. It works to a point, and then it just kind of deteriorates. Entropy takes place.

KING: When bad things have happened to you, do you blame him?

THE ARTIST: Absolutely not, no.

KING: How do you explain -- how do you resolve it in yourself?

THE ARTIST: I learn from it. And I don't wallow in it. I don't spend time in a place. I let myself move on, you know? Right today, I could sit and say, I have animosity towards...

KING: ... a record company.

THE ARTIST: Yes, a company that owns the rights to my work, you know. They're businessmen. They're doing what it is that makes their business successful, and I also am allowed to do things that make my business successful. And for me, that would be to own my work. So I just chose to step away from that. And knowing that, I sent a nice letter to the president -- then-president because they changed a lot weekly during that time, and I told him that I loved him, and that, you know, I was glad that I had this experience, you know.

KING: So you would say, even though we don't like to look back, that dispute turns out now to be an experience that worked for you?

THE ARTIST: Well , I think my understanding of it is what worked for me. I don't consider it proper that my creations belong to someone else. I can go up to a little kid on the street and say, do you know that I don't own "Purple Rain," and they're appalled by that. So my understanding of it is what pretty much...

KING: Do you still not own "Purple Rain?"

THE ARTIST: No, I'll have to rerecord it to own a new master copy of the -- we've done that with the song "1999." There is a new master recording of it.

KING: I want to ask you about that and how you looked ahead when "1999" came out in the early '80s.

We'll be right back with the artist formerly known as Prince. We'll be including your phone calls at the bottom of the hour. Don't go away.



KING: I know you're going to do a pay-per-view special the year 2000. It's going to air New Year's, and you say that's the last time you're ever going to play "1999," right?

THE ARTIST: Yes, sir.

KING: Tell me the origin of that. How -- what were you thinking in 1980 -- what was it -- '2?

THE ARTIST: 1982 I wrote that. We were sitting around watching a special about "1999," and a lot of people were talking about the year and speculating on what was going to happen. And I just found it real ironic how everyone that was around me whom I thought to be very optimistic people were dreading those days, and I always knew I'd be cool. I never felt like this was going to be a rough time for me. I knew that there were going to be rough times for the Earth because of this system is based in entropy, and it's pretty much headed in a certain direction. So I just wanted to write something that gave hope, and what I find is people listen to it. And no matter where we are in the world, I always get the same type of response from them.

KING: Dick Clark just rated it one of the 10 greatest songs of the millennium.


KING: Great records of the millennium. Did you have any idea it would be as, one, prophetic as it was and as successful as it was?

THE ARTIST: Not to sound arrogant, but there was a point during rehearsal, we were working on it, and the song was going to be sung in a three-part harmony like Sly and The Family Stone's song, and I -- we all got together, and we started singing it and it wasn't really working, so what we did is I said, all right, you sing your harmony for the first part, then you sing your harmony for the second part, and I'll sing my harmony for the third. And it broke. When that breakup happened like that and everybody got their part separated, then I knew we had something real special.

KING: Are you surprised at how long it has been around?

THE ARTIST: Well, I've been around for a while, so.

KING: But I mean, now 1999 is here. Were you right?

THE ARTIST: Well, when you listen to the music, there are a lot of people running around kind of Y2K-ing it, and we just kind of chilling and studying...

KING: Are you worried about Y2K?

THE ARTIST: No, sir.

KING: Not at all?


KING: Some computer is going to go wrong -- you'll fly?

THE ARTIST: I don't worry about too much anyway.

KING: You don't?


KING: Did you ever? When you had disputes, arguments with record companies, taking a stand, were you a worrier?

THE ARTIST: No, I think once I started writing "slave" on my face, I pretty much knew the outcome. I mean, you have to understand that that word on one's face pretty much changes the dynamic of any meeting that you're in when they see it.

KING: How did people react to you when they did see it?

THE ARTIST: Well, the record company didn't really say too much. They just kind of -- all right, what's the business at hand today, you know, and that was it.

KING: We'll take a break and we'll come back with the artist formerly known as Prince.

You have got a concert coming up?

THE ARTIST: Yes, sir.

KING: Where?

THE ARTIST: It's going to be from our sound stage at Paisley Park. And you need to come. It's going to be off the chart.

KING: When is it?

THE ARTIST: Well, it's going to be on the 18th.

KING: Why do we have to -- we can't announce when it is?

THE ARTIST: No, because it's going to air on...

KING: Oh, it's going to air, I see.

First secret I ever -- feel like I am doing the old game show.

We'll be back with the artist formerly known as Prince.

Don't forget the concert. It's on -- don't go away.



KING: His pay-per-view concert will air New Year's Eve for only $19.99. That's as low as you get on pay-per-view. And you can order it from In Demand. A lot of guest stars on this show?

THE ARTIST: Oh, yes. I just spoke with Lenny Kravitz. He's going to come jam with us. We have got Maceo Parker, Larry Graham, the Family Stone, trying to get Sly out of his crib so he'll come down. Who else? Mavis Staples. She is going to do a couple of numbers.

KING: The great Larry Graham is going to join us at the end of the show. He's maybe the greatest bass player in the world, certainly one of the best.

THE ARTIST: Well, if you ask me...

KING: Legends live.


KING: You are now what, 42 years old?

THE ARTIST: So they tell me. I don't...

KING: Do you feel 42?

THE ARTIST: No, no, I don't count birthdays.

KING: You don't celebrate them either?


KING: No happy birthday, "the," right? OK, let's take call, St. Louis for the artist formerly known as Prince -- hello.

CALLER: Hi, how are you?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: Good. I have been a friend since '78. My favorite cut on the "Rave" album is "So Far So Pleased," and I wanted to know what inspired you to add this to "Rave" because it seems like it's really different from the rest of the cut, so I just want to know.

THE ARTIST: I think my love of rock music and living in Minneapolis, I am always going to have my guitar in the mix somewhere. And my -- the chance that I got to work with Gwen Stefani, I wanted something that she sounded really cool on so I put that on there.

KING: Has a lot of music affected you, like do you like jazz music?

THE ARTIST: Oh, yes, sir, Miles Davis I learned a lot from. I learned a lot about space from Miles. Space is a sound too, and it can be used very inventively if...

KING: He was also technically a great player, was he not?

THE ARTIST: So they say, yes.

KING: The "Purple Rain" concept, autobiographical?

THE ARTIST: Semi, yes. Albert Magnoli wrote that, the script for that. My whole thing was to -- I really wanted to chronicle the life I was living at the time, which was in a area that had a lot of great talent and a lot of rivalries. The time -- and I forgot to mention, they will be on the pay-per-view special. You have got to see them now, they're crazy. So I wanted to chronicle that vibe of my life.

KING: Were you surprised at its success? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) maybe you weren't, maybe you knew you had something.

THE ARTIST: Well, you know, you can kind of get a feel. There was no movie out like that at the time. That's what I tend to do in all the things that I do is, you know, the idea with art and inspiration is to try to let it grow and move forward. If there's stagnation, you can always come with something and cut through the maze.

KING: So do you sense that you're different in that regard? Certainly, you are unique.

THE ARTIST: Yes, my music, I think, is different, yes.

KING: Cambridge, hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: Hi. What a pleasure it is to see you in an interview situation.

THE ARTIST: What a pleasure to be seen.

KING: He doesn't do many.

CALLER: I know, I know, it's great, I am having a great time watching this. I am a huge fan, and I have been for a long time.

THE ARTIST: Thank you.

CALLER: Since you have been called Prince, and the artist formerly known as, and the artist, and the symbol. And I can't help but wonder, what do your friends call you? What do your closest friends call you?

KING: Good question -- meet you on the street, OK, what do they say?

THE ARTIST: OK, Larry calls me baby brother, Mayte calls me honey. Let's see, my enemies call me squiggle, and, you know, all kinds of crazy.

KING: What do you call your -- let's say you call me. Hello? What do you say? This is who?

THE ARTIST: I don't say that too much.

KING: What would you say? You must make some -- do you ever call anyone?

THE ARTIST: Very seldom, I don't like telephones.

KING: You don't?


KING: So it's rare that you hit a button and dial a number?

THE ARTIST: Usually, the people that I call are people that are -- that I'm close to, and they know my voice.

KING: What does Mayte call you?

THE ARTIST: Honey -- she never really calls me Prince.

KING: She never -- even when you were Prince?

THE ARTIST: Yes, she never...

KING: There she is. How is she doing?

THE ARTIST: Oh, perfect.

KING: She is in Spain? THE ARTIST: No, she's in Miami now. She's visiting her mother.

KING: So on the "Purple Rain" thing, you could say you expected it? Not surprised that it went as well as it did?

THE ARTIST: I expected it because, I think, because there was, like I said, there was nothing out like it at the time -- and if only for Morris Day's performance. I thought he was incredible in it. And the music -- we were at a very good place musically. Right today I feel like I could put together something equally as interesting, and it would be as successful if the right people are getting paid. You know, that may sound strange, but this is a business, and when people are involved in it, you have successes, you know? And I understand that, and I knew there would be times where records wouldn't sell as much when I got away from those particular people, but I was cool with that because success pretty much is what you make it to be.

KING: So you're saying, then, you do need the suits, so to speak?

THE ARTIST: It depends on what you gauge success to be. I...

KING: What do you? Is financial your gauge word?

THE ARTIST: No, not so much because once I do the music, it's a success there. I mean, that's it for me. Now, on the selling tip, for example, if an album goes down the chart, that isn't something I can control. I just did the music, you know?

KING: But you want people to tune in New Year's Eve. You would like to have a lot of people call In Demand and order to see you. You're want -- you are an artist, you want to be seen.

THE ARTIST: Yes, but if it's an auditing situation where I don't know how many people are actually tuning in, it's not something I can control. They can actually say anything to me, right?

KING: Correct. And you go -- you have to go -- trust?

THE ARTIST: Oh, that's why contracts don't work. They're not based in trust.

KING: Do you therefore -- have you lost, even as a spiritual person, lost trust in people?

THE ARTIST: Oh, no, no. I have lost trust in contracts. I don't believe in contracts.

KING: Do you have a contract for the pay-per-view night? Or a shaking hand, or...

THE ARTIST: I'm not certain. I can go check, but...

KING: But you're not into them?

THE ARTIST: I'm not into them, really.

KING: Our guest is the artist. We'll be back with more phone calls at the end of the program. We'll are going to meet the great bassist Larry Graham as well.

THE ARTIST: Yay, yay. Sorry.

KING: "The" is applauding. We -- he never calls anybody, weird though. Hello? No one's there. We'll be right back with more phone calls. If we take two or three more, we'll break a record here. Don't go away.





KING: A lot of people were telling me today -- I was just telling the artist -- that, boy, you're going to have the artist on for an hour? it's going to be very hard because he's very hard to talk to. Now you're not hard to talk to. Where did this reputation begin that you are difficult, do you think? I imagine you're not hearing it here for the first time.

THE ARTIST: Probably where all reputations begin. I think the media plays a big part in one's perception of me. Until one actually sits down and talks to me they can't really know me.

KING: Well, should you have been more public? Should you have done more of things like this?

THE ARTIST: No, I kind of did what I wanted to do. I wanted my music, as even now, to speak loudest for me.

KING: But you -- you're not uncomfortable here, are you?

THE ARTIST: No, not at all.

KING: But the reputation is that you would be. How do you fight that other than by counteracting it?

THE ARTIST: Well, I -- I'm not -- I don't think in terms of fighting. I'm not -- I don't think that you win anything by fighting. I'm the type of person that likes to look at things for exactly the way they are. And...

KING: Do you get angry? You're a perfectionist musically, right?


KING: You must get angry then?

THE ARTIST: I use my anger with humor. I have a way of being very stern, but I always find the irony in it, and I always make it funny. I make it funny for myself and the person that I'm...

KING: So the person you're directing it at is not humbled or made to feel less than a human.

THE ARTIST: Well, no one can make you feel anything. You pretty much are going to fall in there if you, you know, aren't spiritually based.

KING: How do you handle that aspect of the media which has often given you trouble, the tabloids?

THE ARTIST: I don't have trouble with anybody.

KING: You don't? Do you read them?


KING: Do you hear about them?

THE ARTIST: Very seldom.

KING: Do you think any part of a personality's private life is our business? Do you think your marriage is our business?

THE ARTIST: Well, you know, I'm like this. My music is my music. That's pretty much what you come to the party for.

KING: Naturally.

THE ARTIST: If I give you something else, that's me giving you something else. If you seek something else, then there's something inside of you that's lacking, I would think. So I think that personal actually means personal.

KING: But do you wonder why the public wants to know? Don't wonder?


KING: Are you interested in the personal lives of other people?

THE ARTIST: Let's see, Michael Jordan? Let's see, who...

KING: Yes, are you interested in -- Michael Jordan, you're a big fan of Michael Jordan.

THE ARTIST: Big fan of Michael Jordan.

KING: Are you interested in how his marriage goes?


KING: No. Interested in how he gets along with his children?


KING: You know what...

THE ARTIST: I'm just interested in how he gets along with that rim.

KING: Well said.

We'll be back with more of the artist formerly known as Prince. This is LARRY KING LIVE.

Ted Turner Monday.

Don't go away.



KING: Don't forget, New Year's Eve special with the artist on pay-per-view. Before we take a break and meet Larry Graham, let's take another call. Houston, hello.

CALLER: Hi, pleasure to talk to you, sir. I've always known you to be -- I've always known you to be a spiritual and God-loving person, and I've always respected that and your music. And I've known that you've always thanked God on every one of your CDs, and that has inspired me all of my life. I love God myself.

KING: I can't -- we lost that. What? Oh, I'm sorry. We lost the call.

THE ARTIST: I can finish it for her.

KING: What was your earliest inspiration, she asked. That was...

THE ARTIST: I was discussing this with Larry today, and we were just discussing the word "inspiration" and where we think it originated from.

KING: And?

THE ARTIST: And ultimately, you know, if you go back, your father may inspire you, and then your father, his father inspired him, and his father may have inspired him.

KING: So eventually we get to Adam.

THE ARTIST: Yes, eventually. Adam had a father.


THE ARTIST: Yes. Inspiration comes from God. That's the original source. And so to use your gift in a creative fashion, that's the best thing you can do.

KING: We're going to take a break and come back, and we'll be joined to finish the program by one of the great bassists of all time. He now is the bassist with the artist -- the great Larry Graham will join us right after this.



KING: You'll see the artist in a great concert, an all-star concert on New Year's Eve. And in that concert will be his bassist, the great Larry Graham.

How did you hook up with this? Why are you part of "the" concert?

THE ARTIST: We got a new name. Wait a minute, now.

KING: What else would -- what do you want to be called?

THE ARTIST: There go the media again.

KING: OK, you name it. Tune in for what?

How did you hook up with him?


LARRY GRAHAM, BASSIST: Well actually, just let me say something right quick before we get into that. Thank you for having me on the show. And I have watched many of your shows, and I think you're a great person. The pictures you just showed me of your little baby just blew me away. Congratulation on that.

KING: Little Chance -- you like him, too?

GRAHAM: Oh, yes. But thanks for having me here. I've watched many of your shows. I think you're wonderful, and I thought about what am I going to wear? So I think I'll let Larry King inspire my attire. This is my Larry King look.

KING: The King look. Well, we're close on time, so tell me how you got together.

GRAHAM: We were in Nashville, and I was playing a concert at the smaller venue and baby brother was playing a concert at the larger venue, and he found out I was there, called me, and said, hey, we're going to have a jam session tonight after the show, would you like to come? And so I went, and we walked into the club. And my wife reached in her purse and pulled out my fuzz peddle and my chords...

THE ARTIST: There's love. That's love.

GRAHAM: ... and hooked me up. And that was the first time we got a chance to play together. And that night, we said everything that we never got a chance to say to each other over the years. We talked through our music. And when that night was finished, I knew so much more about him and he knew so much more about me, and we connected from then on. And after that, you know, he said, well, I am going to be going on tour, would you join me? And we did one show, then another show, then another show.

KING: How important is the bass?

THE ARTIST: Oh, man, the bass is -- that's it. It's b-a-s-e not b-a-s-s. That's a fish.

KING: Good point. How good is he?

THE ARTIST: That's -- man, he's taught me so much about respecting one another, musicians listening to one another, and just the sound of his bass is -- it's undeniable.

KING: How good -- you're putting your jacket on, you're cold, huh?

GRAHAM: Yes, it's cold.

KING: We might tell the audience.

GRAHAM: Yes, it's freezing in here.

KING: This is above and beyond -- it's purple heart night.

GRAHAM: And don't want my voice to start shaking and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) think I'm nervous.


KING: We're almost out of time. How great is he?

GRAHAM: Well I'll tell you this, the greatest musician that I have worked with. because I've worked with other musicians that were great, but they didn't allow me to really have the freedom that I needed to be able to give them all that I could give them. With baby brother, he allows me the freedom to give all that I can give, and as a result, what we're doing now, when you hear it, you can see that it's coming from the heart, which is why we're touching hearts.

KING: Unselfish.

THE ARTIST: Totally unselfish.

KING: Great pleasure meeting you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

THE ARTIST: I'm honored, and wait -- let me show this ring to folks. Put the ring up there. Look at that ring.

GRAHAM: It says "Graham." That's in case I forget my name.

KING: And those are diamonds. And thank you, little brother.

THE ARTIST: All right.

GRAHAM: Baby brother.

KING: We hope you enjoyed tonight's edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We certainly did. Thanks for joining us. We're going to leave you with a nice shot here. Watch.