Remembering Prince

By
Photography Ellen von Unwerth

Published April 21, 2016

2016 is quickly becoming the worst year for the history of music. First we lost David Bowie, last month we lost A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, and today, news outlets across the world are reporting the death Prince at the age of 57. Though not much is known regarding the cause, Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson) was found dead at his Paisley Park estate earlier this morning. Cultural icons ranging from Samuel L. Jackson to Katy Perry have expressed their grief via social media and we’re certain that the masses will soon gather for unofficial remembrance ceremonies. In memory of the Oscar and seven-time Grammy Award winner, here we reprint some of our favorite quotes from his May 1997 interview with Spike Lee along with archival photos featured in Interview.

NEVER SAY NEVER: I have written a song that says: If you ever lose someone dear to you, never say the words, “They’re gone,” and they’ll come back.

FREEDOM: Something happens when you get emancipated. You approach life differently. You eat differently. You respect yourself more. You respect the gift you have been given. Everything has changed for me since I’ve changed my name. It’s one thing to be called Prince but it’s better to actually be one. I have such a reverence for life now. And I have stopped eating all animal products… Towards the end I was a little ashamed of what Prince had become. I really felt like a product, and then I started turning in work that reflected that. I had no problem with people saying I was repeating myself. 

IN THE NAME: You know, black people still call me Prince. Sometimes I ask them, “Why do you call me Prince?” And people say, “Because you are a prince to us.” Usually when they say that, you know my heart goes out and I have to say, “I don’t mind your calling me that.” If there is a pronunciation to my name in the future, I hope it will be “Prince.” That’s my dream. But until that say, I’ll just go by this. [holds up a necklace with his symbol on it] This is my “X.” 

THE WRITING PROCESS… is different all the time. The main way that something comes [to me] is fully completed. And the fun part then is just listening. When I’m writing, some days the pen just goes. I’m not in charge and I’m almost listening outside of it. That’s when I realize that we all have to start looking at life as a gift. It’s like listening to a color and believing that these colors have soul mates and once you get them all together the painting is complete. 

ON EBONICS: Comedian Chris Rock said it best: There is language that will get you a job and there is language that won’t. Make that choice as an American. This is where you live now. 

LIFE IS MUSIC, MUSIC IS LIFE: The music I make a lot of the time is reflective of the life I am leading, and “Sexy MF” came during the period I had at the Glam Slam disco [in Minneapolis] and I was hanging out a lot. There was a dance troupe there, and the sexier the dancers, the bigger the revenues and the nosier the crowd. It’s funny, but you have to remember that was during the time when the biggest club song was “Bitch Betta Have My Money.” When you hear something constantly, you can get swayed by the current. I was swayed by hip-hop at the time. 

FAMILY AND THE SPIRIT: My wife’s pregnancy made me an adult four times over. Kids will do that. Just dealing with every circumstance is an emotional roller coaster, but nevertheless I have grown so much as a soul. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel a lot better now.  I am a firm believer in reincarnation for people who either have more work to do or have so much debt to pay back that they have to be here. I hope for me it is the former, and my work was finding Mayte and having a child…What people have to realize is that if one has a firm belief in God and the spirit then one does not make statements that are negative and untrue. I would have been lying to myself and the spirit of the child. I have a very thick skin. I take everything that comes and let it bounce right off me because I know the time will come when nobody will be able to speak falsely. Mankind doesn’t understand the whole process yet; that we have to ask for the ownership of our own masters, instead of taking the Cadillac, so to speak. 

NUTRITION:  I’m ready to put a farmer on my payroll. We’ve got to get back to growing our own food. You are what you eat!