Prince: The Beautiful Ones

Prince would have never released this memoir. If you know anything about Prince, you know he was a creative perfectionist. Tinkering with songs until they were impeccable, throwing ideas around until they had real heft, practicing the guitar for hours on end, that was Prince’s way. This patch-work story failed to meet Prince’s standards and our own.

And to be brutally honest, it is entirely the ‘editors’ fault. Dan Piepenbring made a name for himself entirely off of someone else’s work. He threw Prince’s drafts together, added an introduction, and sent it to print. Not only is that something that Prince would never have done, it is an insult to his memory, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth. After reading this memoir, not only don’t I dislike Piepenbring’s character, but I refuse to read anything else he touches.

We all know that Prince died too soon. But he did not die without an ambition for his memoir. Something that Piepenbring attests to in his very long introduction. During those pages, Piepenbring recounts meeting Prince and the many ideas they talked about.

Prince wanted to discuss racism. And how controlling one’s artistic rights is a form of liberation from capitalistic slavery. He wanted to talk about art in the eye of the beholder and how popularizing music styles was a form of rebellion and cultural integration. He wanted to showcase how his life was an example for other artists out there. Prince wanted to explain the mistakes he made from a business point of view and artistic one. He hoped others artists would feel the same freedom he had when he won ownership of his songs after a long and drawn-out legal battle. Prince wanted to tell a story that people could learn from and think about. Because Prince wasn’t just a musician, he was also the embodiment of desire. Of all desires and of one specific zeal, he was the question, how can we make this world into what we want it to be?

As much as we all wish we could’ve read Prince’s full thoughts on these ideas and questions, it’s just not possible. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore them as though they died with him. Prince as an idea is immortal and should’ve been paid that respect when compiling this memoir.

There were so many artists and friends and family in Prince’s life. People he talked to, people he worked with, people he spent time with and admired, having some of those people write essays and the missing parts from his incomplete story would’ve been an easy and respectful way to complete his memoir with the purpose it desired. Alicia Keys, Barack Obama, historians, anthropologists, entrepreneurs, they were and are all great choices that come to mind.

If Piepenbring had done that, then maybe I would be saying something different about his work right now. But as it stands, this work, is not his. This memoir is exactly what Prince had fought against his whole life. Prince wanted to control his work and the quality of it, he didn’t want others benefitting from his name, yet that’s what Piepenbring did. He released the drafts of the stories Prince had been working on, something he would never have done himself, added an introduction to claim his right, and released it. I know I’m repeating myself when I say this, but the obvious disrespect Piepenbring brought to Prince’s name is astounding.

I do not recommend reading this memoir or benefitting Piepenbring in anyway.

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