Artists (And Attitudes) We Love: Prince

A charming little video clip from 1970 surfaced recently. It’s a local TV news story about a Minneapolis teachers’ strike and in it, an 11-year-old Prince Rogers Nelson voices support for the teachers. It was probably the last time Prince did an interview without his guard up.

Prince wasn’t a “no interviews” guy, but he was definitely a “not very many interviews” guy. And if he deigned to talk, he wanted to stay on topic.

“I wanted [the press] to concentrate on the music,” Prince told Rolling Stone in an interview published in September 1985.

He’d produced enough music in the eight years since singing with Warner Bros. in 1977 to keep any reporter busy. He made seven albums of his own and at least eight more for proteges such as The Time and Sheila E. He wrote hits for other performers and had a legendary vault rumored at one point to contain 8,000 unreleased tracks.

He may have taken the stage in bikini panties and a trench coat, but his work ethic was as solidly Midwestern as anyone’s. So was his attitude toward putting his business in the street – he didn’t like it and he didn’t do it.

How could a performer reach the heights of popularity that Prince did and still hold onto – in his own strange way – old-fashioned virtues such as hard work and keeping one’s private life private?

Maybe because he never left Minnesota. When Prince built his mansion on the hill – Paisley Park, a combination home/recording studio/occasional performance space – it was in Chanhassen, a Minneapolis suburb.

Something in Prince’s makeup must have felt the connection with his hometown deeply. The Land of a Thousand Lakes is known for many things but glamor and celebrity-coddling aren’t among them.

Tucked away in Chanhassen, Prince could live without his every move being filmed, photographed and scrutinized. Ensconced in Paisley Park, Prince could work to his heart’s content – I mean, those 8,000 unreleased tracks aren’t gonna record themselves, are they?

Would Prince’s music have suffered if he’d relocated to Hollywood? No way for us to know, but the evidence suggests he might have thought so. He was born and grew up in the Midwest and chose to stay there when he could have lived anywhere. I guess the cold never bothered him anyway.

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