1 year ago the musical genius Prince passed away. Completely unexpected. It was rumored he had the flu at the time of death. Now we know differently. He was using pain-medication. All of those years of dancing, jumping, running and walking on high heels, had damaged his body. The official cause of death was an accidental Fentanyl overdose.
This article is about the last year. The focus has been on the cause of death, the inheritance, the lack of a will and arguing, among immediate family as well as between so-called ‘fans’. Should you want to see and witness Prince as the phenomenal live performer he was (I can imagine you would) I gladly refer to the video of the outstanding Prince – Motherless Child.
Cause of death
So, drugs after all… Or not? In the meantime, a criminal investigation has been started. Apparently an illegal market has emerged in the USA surrounding the illegal Fentanyl (last year there have been reports of the drug turning up in The Netherlands). The pills found with Prince allegedly contained the Fentanyl substance illegally. The theory is that Prince wasn’t aware he took such heavy medication. He definitely did not have a prescription for Fentanyl.
Just one day prior to his death Prince (or those close to him) reached out for help to a doctor specialized in addiction to painkillers. The next morning the doctor arrived at Paisley Park only to find Prince unresponsive in an elevator.
To put Fentanyl into perspective: Fentanyl is hundred times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl seems to be some kind of trend in the USA at the moment. Several cases are known where users are unaware of taking pills that contain the drug Fentanyl.
In 2013/2014 over 700 (!) Fentanyl overdoses were reported by the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Since 2013 over 5,000 deaths have been reported wherein the ‘medicine’ played a part.
In March of 2017 the United Nations enforced tight control measures on chemical substances used to create Fentanyl, hoping to contain the growing number of overdoses on the drug.
It’s ironic that Prince, after his passing, is connected with drugs. His aversion to drugs was legendary. He didn’t tolerate drug-use within his inner circle; it was reason for immediate termination of employment. It was a widely known fact he used XTC once. That one time had far reaching consequences (withdrawal of The Black Album). Songs like Pop Life (What you putting in your nose? / Is that where all your money goes?) and No (The reason why my voice is so clear / Is there’s no smack on my brain) reference drug (mis)use directly.
Anyway, Prince died accidentally. Or perhaps not? As a sign of the times, a lot of conspiracy theories have been made up surrounding Prince’s death. Just as it is common practice in the political arena nowadays, these theories are presented as alternative facts (as if such a thing even exists). The lack of proof for these theories is compelling proof the theories are correct. Well, of course… Communities exist that busy themselves with the ‘inquiry to the murder’.
A murder does need a motive. Of course, no lack of motives:
- He had AIDS (?);
- The autopsy and cremation were suspiciously fast; it must have been because this ensured evidence on his body was destroyed;
- Prince was a threat to the establishment with his fight for music-rights;
- Because of his knowledge of (the practices of) music publishing companies he was a threat to the status quo;
- He has at times spoken publicly about chem-trails (the condensation or white tracks airplanes leave behind in the sky, that, apparently, really contain all kinds of chemicals), which seems to be motive for murder also;
- The Illuminati: a secret order that founded the New World order, which actively seeks control over the world; the evil empire of the Antichrist.
And finally, he left ‘clues’ that he knew he was going to die soon. On April 16th he appeared on the Paisley Park stage ensuring he was alright, stating ‘Wait a few days before you waste your prayers on me’. According to many this is immediate proof he knew he was going to get murdered a few days later.
… Just to be clear: I don’t believe in any of the plots mentioned above. Prince’s death was nothing more than a tragic concurrence of circumstances.
Prince = Victor
The funniest thing I saw/read is the story that Prince wasn’t Prince for a long time anyway.
In short: the real Prince died in 1985 in a motorcycle accident. Because the (financial) interests were that great, Prince was replaced, by a, surgically enhanced, copy named Christopher. This Christopher, however, was a very religious person, who was deeply troubled by the sexually oriented music and lyrics of the ‘old’ Prince. Because the ‘old’ Prince had recorded so much music, Christopher was able to slowly live up to the standard. All material up to, and including, The Black Album was already done. But Christopher was up-to-speed a lot quicker than anticipated and thought The Black Album wasn’t suitable. It is also Christopher that is to blame for the name-change. He wanted to use his own name, but the record company didn’t allow him to. After a long fight Christopher gave up and returned to being called Prince. Oh, by the way, The Revolution wasn’t let go. They hated Christopher and quit themselves. They never talked about the replacement in fear of getting killed by the record-company.
All good fun, but there are actually people that believe these fairy-tales. But, to be fair, the story is funny. See this article on the blog by Shane Speal for the complete story.
It’s remarkable that Prince (apparently) didn’t leave a will. Almost immediately after his death the search for possible siblings started. According to the laws of the State of Minnesota, when there are no children in play, brothers and sisters, including half- brothers and sisters, each have a right to an equal share of the inheritance. In order to not ‘forget’ possible heirs, people were given the chance to respond within a limited period of time. A number of wives, children and other heirs were found, but (DNA) research showed this wasn’t the case, so the already established group of people remained unaltered. Sister Tyka Nelson, the only full blood relative, became the public face of the family. Not an easy task, especially for someone not used to that kind of attention and the usual amount of gold diggers.
One of the first things that needed attending was to place the music rights under the wing of one party. It was placed with Universal (*). But Tidal, the online music service, where his music was streamed for a period of two years, disagreed. Tidal sued, but lost. All music rights, including the streaming rights, are handled by one party. As a consequence, the free exchange of Prince music, which was started up through, for instance, YouTube, was once again being limited. Based on random quotes from the (rich) Prince past the choice for Universal or any other record company is denounced by some Prince music lovers. The fact is, however, that Prince himself wasn’t really consistent with releasing his music and whoever got the distribution rights. Availability on streaming platforms like Spotify could change suddenly. The same thing happened with Warner Bros., the enemy during the TAFKAP period, with whom Prince signed a deal for the simultaneous 2014 release of Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age. Part of that deal was that a compilation album would be released and that Purple Rain would be released as a reissue. On November 22nd 2016 compilation album 4Ever was released. The Purple Rain reissue is planned to be released on June 9th 2017 and will contain, according to early announcements, “two incredible albums of previously unreleased Prince music and two complete concert films”.
(*) There are rumors going round that Universal feels betrayed, because Universal reportedly only acquired the rights to music from 1996 and onward and to the vault music, but not to the commercially interesting period 1978-1995. These rights lie with Warner Bros…
The second thing that had to be arranged was the Paisley Park complex. It was clear early on that it was to be a museum. The first visitors were let in as early as October 2016. That was also heavily criticized. It was too soon, Paisley Park was defiled, Prince would never have wanted this, distasteful greed, etc. The question whether or not Prince’s urn should be on display can be debated, but given the many (positive) reactions from visitors, it clearly fulfills a purpose. At given times Paisley Park Parties are organized, during which archive concerts are shown, which were never before made available to the public.
During the course of 2016 a document appeared online, wherein arrangements were described for turning Paisley Park into a museum, dating back to 2011: Collection Management Policy, The Prince Rogers Nelson Paisley Park Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 7, 2011.
After his death, I published stories on Prince on Facebook, among which my Prince top 50 songs and the Prince satellites. Reactions to those stories made me decide to make them available on a wider scale. The start of this blog on July 1st 2016 is a direct result of that decision. Prince has been the subject of more than one article since.
My preference for his artistically most relevant period (running for a record-breaking 8 years from 1980 to 1988) is also met with criticism: Prince got on with his career and I didn’t progress/was left behind. As if it seriously is a question whether Condition Of The Heart is better than Diamonds And Pearls or When Doves Cry is better than Jughead. There simply is no competition, they’re coming from completely separate worlds. Moving on is not the same as moving up. Of course Prince released some great music, after his golden period (The Gold Experience, The Rainbow Children, N.E.W.S.). However, the frequency was decidedly lower and oftentimes accompanied by lesser, or sometimes even bad, songs.
It’s funny that Bowie music lovers never criticized the claim I made in that Bowie’s golden period was between 1976 and 1980/1981: not one word. What causes that difference? Are Bowie fans more realistic? Looking at the careers of both artists there are many similarities. After their golden periods both made the occasional great record, next to many albums considerably lesser than before.
The very first tribute took place just four days after his passing. Organized in a very short time was a concert at Paradiso, Amsterdam. As sympathetic as the initiative was, it was oftentimes cringingly bad. Two nice performances, but the rest of it was very hard to listen to. As a (probably unplanned) result, the loss of Prince was made very, very palpable. On October 13th the ‘official’ Prince tribute took place in Minneapolis, which garnered mixed reviews. I didn’t see much of it. At four major events Prince tributes were organized:
- On May 22nd 2016 Madonna and Stevie Wonder paid tribute during the Billboard Music Awards, which was very badly received;
- On June 26th 2016 various artists (among which Erykah Badu, The Roots, Bilal, Maxwell, Janelle Monáe and Stevie Wonder) paid tribute during the BET Awards, which was closed by a (well received) Sheila E performance;
- On February 12th 2017 The Time (in the original line-up) and Bruno Mars paid tribute during the 2017 Grammys;
- On April 7th 2017 Lenny Kravitz paid tribute during the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony.
Also, many former colleagues, band members and close friends made themselves heard. Sheila E released the song Boy Meets Girl, a monster of a song, and tried to play the role of Prince’s ‘conscience’, venting all kinds of opinions on the family, the future of the estate and legacy, etc. Luckily, that’s back to normal nowadays.
Jill Jones released the song I Miss U. This seems to be sincere and honest. A fine tribute.
The Revolution regrouped last year and played a number of shows at First Avenue in Minneapolis to commemorate Prince. Apparently that felt very good: since then a summer tour, which is to take place in the spring and summer of 2017, has been announced. Ticket demand is high, since many of those shows are sold-out. Reportedly, preparations for a tour of Europe are underway.
The New Power Generation, with a strong emphasis on the first incarnation, has identical plans. A European trek seems to be more sure.
The question, of course, is whether or not this has a point. Backing bands without the main focus? Personally, I might consider seeing The Revolution, but will probably pass on The New Power Generation (his worst two albums were made by Prince and that band).
The ‘body snatcher argument’ seems plausible here. Why are they doing this? As a tribute? That can be done at one show (or 3 or 4), but is a tour really necessary?
Mayte Garcia, Prince’s ex-wife, wrote a book: The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince. Just prior to its release some samples were made available to the public, which focused on the tragic loss of their first child, who was born severely handicapped and deformed: a huge shock to both of them. The vindictive vitriol that was bestowed upon Mayte, by so-called Prince fans, is both shocking and inhuman. The moronic way in which people feel inclined to react is inconceivable to me. She doesn’t accuse, speaks ill, but gives an honest account of the way she went through life at the time she was with Prince. I think that even Neanderthals were more civilized than some of the people ventilating their venomous reactions. Some even harass people in their private mail, accusing them to be ‘Mayte spies’… I know this is just the way some of us express themselves in this day and age, but still I’m sincerely shocked by the uneducated, retarded hate some people feel they need to vent.
A lot of those people also call up not buying new Prince albums, like 4Ever or the upcoming Purple Rain reissue, because ‘Prince would not have wanted this’. As a seasoned bootleg-buyer, this argument is not for me. For, in the end, it’s all about the music. When new music is made available, I want to hear it. I, for one, want very much to know the planned Purple Rain reissue, which is slated for a June 2017 release.
Take this beat, I don’t mind
I got plenty others and they so fine
© 1988, Prince – I Wish U Heaven (Part 1, 2 & 3)
The question that needs answering, of course, is what is to be done with the enormous legacy left behind by Prince. There is an enormous amount of first-rate material that was never (officially) released. Like engineer Susan Rogers stated in a Red Bull Academy interview in 2016: ‘release it all’. I agree 100%.
Opinions on the subject are diverse:
- He hasn’t released it at the time, so why do it now?;
- At the time it didn’t fit a certain concept, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit today;
- Outtakes are unfinished, so incomplete statements are sent out in to the world.
But what was Prince’s opinion? As he did often, he was cryptic about the subject. However, in a broadcast of morning show The View on September 17th 2012 the question ‘I heard that you have a vault of hundreds of unreleased song. Are you ever going to release them and let us hear?’ was answered by Prince: ‘One day someone will release them. I don’t know that I’ll get to release them’. Clarity, that’s it then.
According to several former engineers that worked for Prince, his modus operandi for recording was that he came in to the studio with a complete idea, in his head, for a song. He often started with the drums, after which he added bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals and backing vocals, and extra’s if needed. Oftentimes several mixes were made, so a 12-inch or extended version was ready. Only if others were needed, who weren’t on call, a song was worked on for more than one day. In general work on a song lasted a day, after which it became part of a project or was stored in the vault (for possible later use). Completed movies and (video)clips are rumored to be included in the vault. It may be that not everything can be released, but a great deal of it is certainly release-worthy.
Personally, I would like to see all albums being re-released, containing extra material from the era, such as extended versions and/or 12 inch mixes (of the time!), including songs that didn’t make the album (which will make a rather great Sign O’ The Times release ). Complete the package with a concert of the period. The Smashing Pumpkins set a perfect example with the splendid reissues of their albums.
Release all earlier configurations of albums that were never released. It would be extremely cool if, for example, all pre-Sign O’ The Times albums, Dream Factory, Camille en Crystal Ball, were to be released in their original running order.
Also, all satellite/Paisley Park/NPG Records releases, that weren’t released under the Prince moniker, should be released the same way as the regular Prince albums. The Time, The Family, Jill Jones, The New Power Generation, etc. all contain Prince music, many of that equal to his greatest solo work. It deserves care and attention.
Continuing, it would be fantastic if the example of Bruce Springsteen was to be followed. Next to the official releases a separate site exists, (live.brucespringsteen.net, that specializes in releasing live albums from the (personal) archives of Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen has recorded every concert he has ever given. A special team decides what’s relevant in the huge collection of tapes and concerts are regularly released. Many gems have been released already.
Prince also recorded all his concerts, which are rumored to be in the vault as well. A number of concerts could be released immediately, such as the legendary First Avenue concert of 08/03/1983, during which the basic tracks of three Purple Rain songs were recorded. That show is considered to be one of the most important ones of his entire career.
The bootleg release live box City Lights could be an example: a box containing 9 shows, 1 or 2 shows of each tour supporting the Prince to Parade albums, with crystal-clear sound quality.
Of course a show of the last tour should be released. His Piano & A Microphone tour was intimate, but the very first concert of that tour, in Paisley Park on 01/21/2016, was, according to those present, very special. Prince spoke a lot and seemed to tell his life story at the show. Start with that one!
But above all, let someone who knows what they’re doing, like Susan Rogers of former manager Alan Leeds, cooperate on the releases or even compile them, thus ensuring that these releases are compiled with attention, coherence and content. This also ensures that no-one gets the improper thought of censoring, altering, remixing the original music and let the music be released just as it is: a valuable piece of history and art.
The case of the planned release of Deliverance is an example of how not to do future Prince releases. Illegal recordings, altered by a third party, who also claims to be a co-author. As pleasant as it is to hear new songs, which I didn’t even know they existed, this way of working is not the way releases should be handled. The judge shares this opinion and the release has been forbidden.
A month prior to his death it was announced that Prince was working on his autobiography, called The Beautiful Ones, which would focus on his early youth to his 2007 Super Bowl performance. According to the book’s publisher Prince delivered a first draft containing 50 pages. Perhaps these pages can be published.
Partly because of my blog and Prince articles, I came into contact with lots of people who are nice and have enriching things to say or add. Thanks to these contacts I have seen and heard some things I wasn’t aware of. Many of these things are extremely good, and are part of my regular repertoire now. So, a big thank you to all those who contributed to that!
Top 10 albums
As unbelievable as it sounds, but it seems there still are people that don’t own a Prince album. I guess they’re overwhelmed by his genius and don’t know where to start. To help them, I present my top 10 Prince albums. There are more great albums, but choosing one (or several) from the albums mentioned here, guarantee hours and hours of listening bliss. All are essential, all are indispensable!
- Parade (1986)
- Sign O’ The Times (1987)
- Lovesexy (1988)
- Around The World In A Day (1985)
- Purple Rain (1984)
- Dirty Mind (1980)
- The Black Album (1987/1994)
- 1999 (1982)
- The Gold Experience (1995)
- The Rainbow Children (2001)
Prince articles published on A Pop Life blog
Let’s hope that much more great music will be released in a respectful way and that people who weren’t there will learn in time that silence is still golden.
Rainbow over Paisley Park just after the announcement of Prince’s passing image: Getty Images
Prince – Pills found at Paisley Park image: abcactionnews.com
Fentanyl image: the guardian.com
Prince – Death conspiracies, plots and cover-ups image: gossipcop.com/youtube.com/apoplife.nl
Prince = Victor image: shanespeal.com
Prince – Inheritance image: thewrap.com
Prince – 4Ever image: treblezine.com
Prince – Official Paisley Park image: facebook.com
Prince – Urn image: nytimes.com
Prince 1958-2016 image: onbekend
Prince – 80s vs 90s image: martinhoment.com/apoplife.nl
Prince – Tributes 2016 image: pitchfork.com/oogeewoogee.com/picclick.ca/apoplife.nl
Sheila E – Boy Meets Girl image: pinterest.com
Jill Jones – I Miss U image: pulsemusic.proboards.com
Prince – The Revolution logo image: facebook.com
Mayte Garcia – The Most Beautiful – My life with Prince image: mayte.com
Susan Rogers image: vibe.com
Prince – The View, 17-09-2012 image: fuse.tv
Prince – Bas spelen in de studio image: pinterest.com
Prince – Purple Rain deluxe edition image: popjustice.com
Prince – City Lights bootleg image: rateyourmusic.com/apoplife.nl
Prince – 08/03/1983 ad & Piano & A Microphone, 01/21/2016 images: princevault.com
Prince – Deliverance image: princerogersnelson.com
Prince albums images: allmusic.com/apoplife.nl
Prince And The Evolution image: troygua.com
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