The Town Hall Presents PRINCE: THE BEAUTIFUL ONES
One of the great songwriters, performers, and all-around creative figures of late-20th-century, Prince Rogers Nelson, known to the world simply as Prince, told his story in song and on film. But when he died unexpectedly in April of 2016 at 57, he had just started a tantalizing project -- writing his memoirs -- and it appeared to have been lost with him. It was not.
The Beautiful Ones, which Prince himself named, choosing the title of one of his iconic songs from Purple Rain, was completed and will be celebrated with an exclusive special event at The Town Hall in New York on Monday, November 18 at 8pm.
Prince: The Beautiful Ones - A Celebration of his Memoir, Life and Art will feature performances by The New Power Generation, Prince's former backing band from 1990 through 2013, and special musical guests. Speakers include filmmaker Spike Lee, Prince's editor Chris Jackson, and Dan Piepenbring, Prince's handpicked co-author for the book. The Town Hall event is presented in partnership with Strand Books and directed by artist/activist Gbenga Akinnagbe, fresh from a year-long run in Aaron Sorkin's Broadway smash To Kill A Mockingbird. All ticket sales include a hardcover copy of The Beautiful Ones. Proceeds from the event will benefit Harlem Children's Zone.
Prince won seven GRAMMY® Awards, a Golden Globe Award (for best original song, "The Song of the Heart" from Happy Feet) and an Academy Award® for the film Purple Rain. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, the first year of his eligibility.
"Prince is a once in a lifetime artist. I count myself thoroughly blessed to have lived during his musical reign," said director Akinnagbe. "And he did so much for others during his life. With this event benefiting Harlem Children's Zone, we continue his legacy,"
A deeply personal account of how the kid from Minneapolis, Minn., became the global figure we know, The Beautiful Ones, (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House) spans from Prince's childhood and his early years as a musician to his arrival at the cusp of international stardom. Piepenbring, an editor at the storied Paris Review, provides an extensive and insightful introductory essay and annotations that provide context to the book's images. He recalls Prince telling him he was "sick of playing the guitar, at least for now. .." and what he really wanted to do was write. "In fact, he had so many ideas for his book that he didn't know where to begin," writes Piepenbring, who got to collaborate with Prince in just the last three months of his life.
A day after one of their in-person encounters, he recalls reading "about 30 pages" of handwritten notes on a legal pad. "Prince's handwriting was beautiful, with a fluidity that suggested it poured out of him almost involuntarily," notes Piepenbring in his introduction. "The pages were warm, funny, well-observed, eloquent, and surprisingly focused. This was Prince the raconteur, in a storytelling mode reminiscent of his more narrative songs, such as 'The Ballad of Dorothy Parker' or 'Raspberry Beret.'"
Since at the time of the artist's death there was not enough material for a conventional memoir, Piepenbring went back to Paisley Park, Prince's compound in Chanhassen, Minn., to search the vaults and the musician's personal archives.
The resulting The Beautiful Ones includes Prince's writings, a scrapbook of his personal photos, and memorabilia, including contact sheets, rare promotional photos, and the lyrics to his 1983 hit "Little Red Corvette," handwritten in red ink. The book tracks Prince's evolution through deeply revealing, never-before-shared images and memories and culminates with his original handwritten treatment for his masterwork, Purple Rain.
Editor Chris Jackson noted that Prince's death "was an unfathomable loss, but this book-full of writing from his own hand and images that he carefully preserved at Paisley Park-is a beautiful tribute to his life. It's also much more than that: it's a genuinely moving and energizing literary work, full of Prince's ideas and vision, his voice and image. It's a treasure not just for Prince fans but for anyone who wants to see one of our greatest creative artists and original minds at work on his greatest creation: himself."
In his essay, co-author Piepenbring writes of Prince: "Being an artist was a constant evolution. Early on, he'd recognized the inherent mystery of this process. 'Mystery' is a word for a reason, he'd said. 'It has a purpose.' The right book would add new layers to his mystery, even as it stripped others away."
But Prince also wanted a book that would be "a handbook for the brilliant community-wrapped in autobiography, wrapped in biography," as well as a primer on African American entrepreneurship. It was clear, says Piepenbring, that "It was incumbent on us to help people, especially young black artists, realize the power and agency they had."
As Prince sang in "Gold": "Everybody wants to sell what's already been sold / Everybody wants to tell what's already been told / What's the use of money if you ain't gonna break the mold?"
And so, he set out to do just that.