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When Prince passed away on 21 April 2016 he left behind a rich musical legacy that had lasted for almost forty years. Having first emerged during the late 1970s with his overlooked debut For You, the young singer and multi-instrumentalist soon gained the attention of the world with a slew of critical acclaimed albums that would include such timeless masterpieces as 1999, Purple Rain and Sign o’ the Times. Prolific and always experimenting with numerous musical styles, the Academy Award winner spent the 1980s moving between critically acclaimed classics and side projects that would ultimately be abandoned, before bringing the decade to a close with his successful soundtrack to Tim Burton’s highly-anticipated adaptation of Batman.
His success continued into the 1990s with the hit singles Gett Off and The Most Beautiful Girl in the World but a dispute with his longtime record label Warner Bros. led to the artist refusing to record or perform under the name Prince, instead adopting the ‘Love Symbol’ moniker, or simply the Artist Formerly Known As Prince. ‘The first step I have taken towards the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Brothers was to change my name from Prince,’ he declared at the time, during which he took legal action against his label. ‘Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music I wrote.’
Eventually splitting from Warner Bros. Prince continued to release albums at a constant rate, exploring an array of genres from funk and jazz to rock and R&B, all issued through his own company NPG Records. Shortly before Christmas 2015 he released what would prove to be his final album Hit n Run Phase Two. Four months later he would pass away after taking an accidental overdose of pain medication fentanyl at the age of fifty-seven. At the time the world was still reeling from the death of another musical icon David Bowie, who had lost his battle to liver cancer just three months earlier. Both artists had survived through various changes in the music industry over the last few decades while both willing to adapt and innovate.
Following the posthumous release of Piano and a Microphone 1983, a collection of demos that he had recorded earlier in his career, it was revealed in December 2018 that a feature film had entered development at Universal Pictures that would utilise music from throughout his career to form a narrative. ‘Insiders stress is that the film is not a biopic but an original story with Prince’s classic songs driving the plotline,’ claimed Variety during their initial report. ‘Sources close to the situation say the estate and Universal already felt that the biopic angle had largely been covered by Prince’s 1984 star-making film Purple Rain and wanted to do something original and outside the box.’
The story of Prince, from his childhood and through his rise to fame, will be documented in another form, with the late artist himself being the one to tell the tale. As originally revealed by publishing agent Esther Newberg at the time of his death the singer had been working on his memoir, which would document the life and success of Prince Rogers Nelson, who was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1958 and would release his first album through a major record label at the age of nineteen. Shortly before his death in April 2016 Prince submitted approximately fifty pages of a handwritten manuscript along with previously unseen photographs and a scrapbook.
The Beautiful Ones, which takes its name from a track first released on 1984’s Purple Rain, has now been given an official publication date of 29 October 2019 via Random House, who revealed in their statement that, ‘The Beautiful Ones is the deeply personal account of how Prince Rogers Nelson became the Prince we know: the real-time story of a kid absorbing the world around him and creating a persona, an artistic vision and a life, before the hits and the fame that would come to define him.’ At two hundred and twenty-eight pages, the book will also include various lyrics along with his handwritten treatment for what would become Purple Rain.
‘It’s also much more than that: it’s a genuinely moving and energising literary work, full of Prince’s ideas and vision, his voice and image,’ claims editor Chris Jackson, who helped to complete the author’s vision. ‘It’s a treasure not just for Prince fans but for anyone who wants to see one of our greatest creative artists and original minds at work on his greatest creation: himself.’ Confirmation of the publication date was revealed via the Associated Press who also announced that the introduction, penned by Dan Piepenbring of The New Yorker, will ‘touch upon Prince’s final days, ‘a time when Prince was thinking deeply about how to reveal more of himself and his ideas to the world, while retaining the mystery and mystique he’d so carefully cultivated.” Prior to its publication, the Prince Estate will be reissuing the singer’s 1999 album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic alongside its remix counterpart Rave In2 the Joy Fantastic as a new set entitled Ultimate Rave, which will also include Prince in Concert: Rave Un2 the Year, a concert DVD first released that would include appearances from Lenny Kravitz and Purple Rain veterans Morris Day and the Time.