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“It’s not what Prince would have wanted”

By Reverend
“It’s not what Prince would have wanted” 1
Artwork by Reverend

“It’s not what Prince would have wanted” – a statement we often see in Housequake’s Facebook comments and Twitter replies whenever there’s a new announcement or development coming from the trustees of his estate.

While it’s comforting to think we, as longtime fans, knew the real Prince, the reality is he was a deeply complex and contradictory character. Perhaps the most obvious indicator of this was the contrast between the exuberance, flamboyance, and power of his stage persona, and his reticent, guarded and private nature off stage.

So what is it that fans mean when they claim to know what Prince would have wanted?  Most of us are likely making educated guesses based on his past actions and statements.  The problem with this is Prince was prone to changing his mind a lot, and not just on trivial matters, but on life and career changing decisions.

After all, this is the man who, with great fanfare and umbrage, discarded his iconic name (at the time declaring “Prince is dead”) and replaced it with an unpronounceable symbol.  He shunned his longtime record label and recorded an album that he declared would never be released by them.  Needless to say, The Gold Experience eventually came out on Warner Brothers records, and a few years later he reverted his name back to Prince.

It’s relatively easy to cherry-pick events or statements from Prince’s past to create our own personal, hagiography of him.  His fondness for speaking cryptically certainly meant his words were often open to numerous interpretations, but there are many more examples throughout his career of confounding behavior and radical changes in his personal philosophy.

We can claim he would never have sanctioned some of the things the trustees are doing, but as well as being an artist, Prince was a businessman, and comfortable with striking deals that would see him financially well rewarded.

The truth is there is no definitive answer to the question of what Prince wanted to happen to his music and his possessions after his death.  In the absence of a Will (not altogether surprising given his past aversion for written contracts), it seems Prince has left us with one last mystery, and proved himself to be as enigmatic in death as he was in life.

So while we all want to see Prince’s legacy treated with the respect and reverence it deserves, perhaps we should be less quick to judge and bemoan every effort of the trustees to monetize his music, and certainly less inclined to state with surety that we know what Prince would have wanted.

A version of this article first appeared on the Housequake Facebook page in December 2016.

About the author

Reverend

I’m a graphic designer based in the UK. Became a casual fan in the late 80s on the back of the Batman album - an underappreciated classic in my opinion (though admittedly not one many Prince fans share), before graduating to a more full-time fan role in the early 90s. First saw him live on the Ultimate Live Experience tour of 1995. My favourite album is Sign ‘O’ The Times (an uncontroversial choice), and if I had to pick a single favourite song it would be If I Was Your Girlfriend, which I think encompasses a lot of what made Prince a genius of his craft.

2 comments

  • Thanks Rev., and thank all u other girls & boys from the Hq-team. I am looking forward to more articles, now I am just impressed by ur graphic skills (Rev). I remember how good u are, so impressive, like always. About ur article most fans are not that impressed, so true, about what has been released of the rare Vault materiel, since he passed, I am wondering this myself. Why haven’t they released more rare stuff already, hmm, still I am supporting the re-releases, (not being that critical myself), and, I love the purple vinyls, looking forward to “Ultimate Rave” CD/DVD next month (april). Although, I hope the future will show some more essential “good and rare” recordings. Ps) I used to be Danceelectric – now I am using my own name Bo E. instead, thanks once again, this place I hope it will carry on in the excellent spirit from back then, Hq was essential to a lot of fans, therefor: I really wish U all some luck.. yes!

  • I believe that if Prince was truly concerned about what would happen to his music after he was gone, he would have had a will in place. Maybe he ultimately didn’t care how it was heard when he was gone…more conjecture on my part just like the others. Each ‘friend’ should just evaluate the circumstances that they encounter new music, new releases and decide if the conduit is respectful to them. If so then enjoy the fruit.

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