April 25, 2016
What will happen to Prince’s memoir?
by Michelle Waters
On Thursday, April 21st, legendary musician Prince—he of the smoldering stare and funky stage presence—was reported dead at age 57. The icon’s death follows last month’s announcement that Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Penguin Random House, was to publish his memoir in fall 2017. Now, according to Elizabeth Whitman of the International Business Times, it’s unclear what will happen to the memoir-in-progress: on Thursday, Spiegel & Grau declined to comment on its status.
Prince announced that he was at work on the book with “my brother Dan”—Dan Piepenbring of The Paris Review—at a pop-up performance in March, reports the New York Times’ Joe Coscarelli. (In true superstar fashion, reports Eben Shapiro of The Wall Street Journal, he arrived hours late to the event.) “We’re starting from the beginning, from my first memory, and hopefully we can go all the way up to the Super Bowl,” Prince told the audience.
Spiegel & Grau’s executive editor Chris Jackson, known for his work on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me, acquired world rights to the book from Esther Newberg and Dan Kirschen of ICM Partners. At that time, Newberg noted that Prince had submitted fifty pages of the manuscript—a number that doesn’t bode well for the release of a complete and comprehensive memoir following his death.
Often inscrutable, always compelling, Prince certainly wasn’t short on material for a memoir: his career spanned five decades and 37 studio albums, including Purple Rain, the album that launched him to superstardom in 1984 and spent 24 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, according to the Hollywood Reporter’s Andy Lewis. Born Prince Rogers Nelson, he won seven Grammys, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. And it’s Prince we have to thank for those ubiquitous “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” stickers. In 1984, TIME’s Gilbert Cruz reports that a concerned Tipper Gore was inspired to found the Parents Music Resource Center, which slaps the black-and-white warnings on album covers, when she heard Prince sing about a girl named Nikki’s hotel-lobby shenanigans.
“You all still read books, right?” Prince asked the crowd at the March event, Coscarelli writes. Though, sadly, it remains to be seen if we’ll be able to read his.
Michelle Waters is an intern at Melville House.