For his tour in support of the album “Purple rain,” Prince had planned to sing a song while sitting in a tub 10 feet from the floor. As he was rehearsing the scene in a Minnesota arena, the tub broke, causing Prince to fall to the floor.
“He fell 10 or 12 feet with him in it. I’ve never moved so fast in my life, ”recalls Alan Leeds, Prince’s tour manager at the time, in the new book, “Nothing compares to 2 U: an oral history of Prince”, by Touré (Permuted Press, August 24).
“After that, his back ached day after day. Then in LA, he slipped and injured his knee. He took meds and finished the tour, but I don’t think his hip and leg are ever completely normal after that.
These incidents, as people close to the superstar have recalled, marked the start of a painful life for Prince which most likely led to the addiction that killed him. Prince died in 2016 accidental overdose of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
For those who knew and loved him, the way Prince had died was particularly ironic, as he was fiercely anti-drug from his teenage years until his days of musical royalty.
“He wasn’t plugged in at all. Prince was a bob, ”Prince’s cousin Pepe Willie said of the musician’s teenage years.
“We would go outside, smoke a doobie and come back upstairs, and he was like, ‘Oohhhh, ooohhh, look at you! Your eyes are red! Look at you, look at you! ‘ And we’d be like, ‘Oh, man, come on.’ He was square.
During his teenage years, Prince only experimented with drugs once, surprising a good friend and future leader of Time, Morris Day with a demand for psychedelic mushrooms. The trip did not go well.
“I had mushrooms and we both tried them. We went to a club and this guy is starting to panic, ”Day told Touré. “The next thing I know is he’s sitting on the floor with his head in his hands, and he stumbled like his mind was playing games on him.” He said, ‘I’ll never do that with you again.’ “
Even in the cocaine-rich 80s, Prince would occasionally record in the studio for over 24 hours on a clip fueled not by drugs, but by dessert.
“During his marathon sessions, he ate cake. He loved, loved, loved cakes, mostly vanilla with chocolate frosting, ”said Susannah Melvoin, Prince’s former fiancée and singer in several of his bands.
“I would do it regularly for him and it would keep him alive. He would come up from the studio, take another slice, come back down. That’s how he continued.
Prince would not tolerate drug use by members of his band, and Touré writes that friends of Prince have claimed he even dumped singer Vanity as his girlfriend because she liked to get high.
“If he saw two crew guys in a corner that looked suspicious he would ask me to check it out,” Leeds said. “He had borderline paranoia of having someone around him who was addicted to drugs. “
So it was a shock to everyone around him when, at the time of the commercial failure of the 1988 album “Lovesexy”, Prince started taking ecstasy and hallucinogens for recreation, according to a former girlfriend. .
“He started doing hallucinogens with [his then-girlfriend] Ingrid Chavez and all these different people and looking back to me that’s a red flag, ”said Jill Jones, a backing singer for the star who also dated him on and off in the 1980s.
Drugs even affected key decisions about his music. Prince was about to release an album called “The Black Album”, which Touré describes as an “obscene and aggressive record”, but unexpectedly rejected it.
“He had a bad feeling about the album while doing ecstasy with his then girlfriend Ingrid Chavez and decided to put it aside at the last minute,” Touré wrote. .
He recorded and released “Lovesexy” instead. (Prince eventually released “The Black Album” in 1994.) At least part of the reason for this album’s failure was a rushed rollout due to the last minute change.
While indulging in these drugs, Prince also suffered from constant pain from his injuries while on tour. Touré writes that Prince, who did not like doctors, was perhaps treating himself “from the beginning of the 90s”.
Morris Hayes, Prince’s keyboardist for nearly two decades, believes Prince went to rehab in 1994.
After hearing that Prince was having fun with drugs and that he believed he was treating the group even more brutally than usual – Prince was still a strict master builder – Hayes confronted him nervously.
“Hey man, I don’t want to cause any trouble,” he told his boss, “[but] you’ve been really weird and acting really out of character lately. It is said in the streets that you are playing with drugs.
“Oh man. I don’t do no such thing,” Prince replied, according to Hayes. “I work, I do stuff. It’s not like that. It’s cool.”
Hayes was relieved until the next day when Prince did not show up for rehearsal. It was remarkably out of character for a man who had no other life than to record music.
Prince returned a week later. He told Hayes that he had spent the whole week, for the first time since he was a teenager, without playing the guitar or writing a song.
“I took the time to lie and calm down,” Prince said, “and thank you for coming here and saying something.”
To Hayes, this explanation seemed incomplete.
“The fact that he didn’t act or write for a whole week was really a big deal. I’ve never seen Prince go a day without doing something musical, let alone a week, ”says Hayes.
“I was like, ‘Well, what did he do? We haven’t heard from him; no one in the group did. I don’t know what he could have done other than go somewhere where he was kidnapped. I think he went to rehab. I hope he went to rehab. I think he was facing a problem and I hope he did.
While no one really knows when it escalated, in his later years Prince relied on opiates to keep his pain at bay.
“I think the thing that controlled him was his drug addiction,” says Wendy Melvoin, Susannah’s twin sister and guitarist for Prince’s band, The Revolution.
“His use of painkillers probably took longer than some of us might have thought because when he started having aches, I think he really relied on it,” she said. added. “And he was small. I think it only got worse for him over time.
“I feel like the whole thing with the fentanyl was just that it got off the hip pain and it got out of hand,” said Mark Brown, the Revolution bassist Prince named Brown Mark.
“[He needed] something to take that pain away, but then it got to the point where the addiction sets in, but he keeps it hidden because the thing he was living by [was], ‘Don’t let anyone see you sweat.’ ”
Prince died on April 21, 2016, at the age of 57. According to Wendy Melvoin, Prince, who weighed around 145 pounds when in good health, had dropped to around 107 when he died. Jones noted that when he died there were “thousands of pills all over the building.”
While nothing about Prince was conventional, from his scholarly talent to a lifestyle that excluded everything but music, ultimately the tragic manner of his death was the most normal thing about him.
“He didn’t take drugs like a hedonistic rock star,” Touré wrote. “It was to take drugs like so many working-class Americans who need pills to get broken down bodies throughout the workday so they can show up for the people who depend on them.