A strong spirit transcends rules.
And nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative.
—President Barack Obama
Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis, MN, on June 7, 1958, to musician parents. His mother, Mattie Shaw, was a jazz singer. His father, John L. Nelson, was in a jazz band called the Prince Rogers Trio, and he named his son Prince Rogers Nelson after his band. Prince likely heard music while still in his mother’s womb, whenever his father struck notes on a nearby piano.
It’s been written that as his father played the piano, young Prince pestered him, vying for his own time to play. The competition for the piano served to challenge Prince to be as good as his father. By the age of seven, Prince had created his first song, “Funk Machine.” His father moved out a couple of years later and left the piano behind. Though his father was gone, Prince now had the piano all to himself as well as the freedom to create music whenever he wanted to. He fought for creative freedom throughout his entire career.
I believe that we all have a purpose and unique gifts to share, although some of us are more aware than others about what we have to offer. It’s up to each one of us to cultivate our conscious awareness and choose how to share our talents.
In an interview with Larry King, when asked where he got his musical inspiration, Prince humbly responded, “It is from God.” Prince always had deep spiritual beliefs and was outspoken about them. He spoke sincerely from his heart whenever he expressed his beliefs about God.
Prince had more stamina and energy than anyone around him, often forgoing his physical needs, like hunger, thirst, and need for sleep, staying up for twenty-four and even forty-eight hours straight. He could write and produce a song in a day and as many as three albums in a year. He expected perfection from himself and brought out greatness in his proteges. His neverending drive was fueled by a deep, abiding commitment to offer his musical creativity and spirituality in service to a better world.
He spoke of constantly hearing music and lyrics in his head, including while he slept. As a teenager, he worked tirelessly in his friend’s basement, then in a rented warehouse used for tire storage. With the tremendous success of the movie and soundtrack to Purple Rain, Prince finally had the means to build a state-of-the-art home studio, Paisley Park, which was completed in 1988. This enabled him to create music as it came to him. His bandmates, sound engineers, and other key members of his staff spoke of being on call at all hours to meet with Prince when he wanted to turn his musical inspiration into a completed song or video.
A few more highlights
- By the time Prince was eighteen, he had secured a contract with Warner Bros. Records to produce three albums. He produced, composed, and sang all the songs on the albums, and he also played every instrument.
- His career spanned forty years and generated thirty-nine albums as well as scores of records and videos and innumerable finished and unfinished songs, which he meticulously cataloged and labeled by hand and stored in a vault.
- He earned seven Grammy awards, a Golden Globe award, and an Academy Award for original sound track in the motion picture Purple Rain.
- Prince was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
- His awards, colorful clothes, specially designed musical instruments, and handwritten original lyrics are preserved for all to see at Paisley Park, his private sanctuary in Chanhassen, MN. In Prince’s words, “Paisley Park is pretty much representative of everything I am musically.”
- It’s not widely known that Prince also was a humanitarian and philanthropist who secretly gave millions of dollars to charities. “He cared about ordinary people,” his friend Van Jones said on CNN on the evening of Prince’s passing. Prince supported The Harlem Children’s Zone, Rebuild the Dream, Yes We Code, and many other educational organizations, schools, and hospitals. According to Jones, “He even had solar panels installed for people who were unaware he was the benefactor.”
Although Prince wrote songs that reflected his values throughout his career, in the final years of his life, he was becoming more of an activist for social justice. As a presenter at the 2015 Grammys, he said, “Like books and black lives, albums still matter.” He also celebrated his heritage by wearing his hair in an Afro.
One of Prince’s last songs was Baltimore, a protest song that is even more timely today. While performing the song at his Rally 4 Peace in the aftermath of the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, he led the refrain, If there ain’t no justice then there ain’t no peace. And he sang, We’re tired of the cryin’ and people dyin’, let’s take all the guns away.
Prince still has more to say—a postscript (p.s.) from PS (Prince-Spirit), if you will. He has messages and lessons to share from his new perspective in the afterlife—about love for God, self-worth, sexuality, romantic love, the afterlife itself, and much more.
As I converse with Prince, I feel the tremendous love that still flows through him. He inspires me to express all of who I am and share the precious gift of our connection with the world.
I hear the melody of Prince’s soul through his music, and I know the beauty of his soul through the loving energy that lives in my heart.
You can find out more about Prince’s life at prince.com
Image credit: painting by Alena Galayko