A memoir that the “Purple Rain” singer was working on at the time of his sudden death in April 2016 has been released and includes that tidbit. The book — titled The Beautiful Ones, like his song title — features other personal musings, drawings handwritten lyrics and unseen photos. It was pulled together by author Dan Piepenbring, who Prince hired to help work with the book three months before the star’s accidental overdose.
While expressing his worry about the future of radio, Prince said, "They keep trying to ram Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran down our throats and we don't like it no matter how many times they play it."
It was more than just a swipe at those two pop stars though.
"To be honest I was so much in agreement with him on that subject that there didn't seem to be any more to say about it at the time,” Piepenbring said. “More than a grudge with a few artists in particular, what he was bemoaning was a culture that simply doesn't allow artists to color outside the lines."
Prince’s book, which was meant to be the first of a series, went outside the lines of typical celebrity memoir fare with 28 hand-written pages about his childhood, including comic strips he created (“Prince’s Funnies”), details about his coming of age (his first kiss) and stories about his family life. One about his mother, jazz singer Mattie Shaw, talked about how “she would spend up what little $ the family had 4 survival on partying with her friends, then trespass in 2 my bedroom, ‘borrow’ my personal $ that N’d gotten from babysitting local kids, & then chastise me 4 even questioning her regarding the broken promise she made 2 pay me back.”
Yes, the “I Would Die 4 U” singer had a unique long-hand writing style. He used “N” in place of “I” and “U” for “you,” which is just so very Prince.
The book also covers the epileptic seizures Prince had as a child — and more light-hearted stories, like a story about performing in a school talent show — during which he tap danced, sans music, for nearly 30 minutes.
Piepenbring was a 29-year-old editor at The Paris Review — and Prince fan — when he was called to Prince’s home at Paisley Park to interview for the memoir-writing job. While he only knew him for three months, it was quite an adventure. For instance, Piepenbring talked about Prince renting out his local cinema in Minneapolis for a screening of Kung Fu Panda 3 — of all things — for friends and bandmates.
"He had his assistant bring him some popcorn," Piepenbring recalled. "He sat alone in the back row, but I remember hearing him laugh a few times. Right when the credits rolled he got up and skipped down the stairs. He was wearing these light-up sneakers. He was so childlike in that moment. I know he also liked Finding Nemo. He enjoyed these fairy tales."
Piepenbring said that he wasn’t sure what would happen to the book after Prince’s fentanyl OD. The singer had no will, so his estate has been run through the Carver County Court in Minnesota. However, he was granted limited access to Prince’s vaults.
“We were struck by the sheer breadth and volume of it,” Piepenbring said to The Guardian of the infamous Paisley Park vaults. “For someone who spent much of his career saying he didn’t like to dwell on the past, it seems like he was hanging on to everything — wedding programs, wedding gifts, a set of his-and-hers bowling balls,” belonging to him and first wife Mayte Garcia.
“The sheer quantity of paper was surprising,” he continued. “There was no real method to the madness. In one room you’d find something from 1979, and within arm’s reach there’d be something from 2002. There’d be these moments of intense intentionality — he’d gathered up all his handwritten lyrics from across his career, clipped them together, and kept them in one place. Or he’d gathered artifacts pertaining to his father’s jazz band. It seemed very ad hoc and very personal.”
The Beautiful Ones is out now — and can be purchased here.
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