It’s been exactly a year since Prince passed away. The body of the pop legend was found in his home in Minneapolis, after an accidental opiate overdose. Prince was famously careful in how he presented his image to the world. But a mess of litigation and conflict has plagued his legacy. Today was supposed to be the release of an album recorded about ten years ago. But this week, Prince’s estate filed a federal lawsuit to block the album. That means those who were looking forward to remembering Prince today with six new songs may have to wait a lot longer. Camila Kerwin reports.
KERWIN : It’s Thursday night, and a bedazzled line of Prince fans is forming outside House of Yes, a dance club in Brooklyn. But they’re not here tonight just to dance. They’re here to remember how Prince factored into their lives.
Christopher Jimenez: Well when I was a kid I remember we had the Batman 1989 I believe movie on VHS.
KERWIN: That’s Christopher Jimenez, from the Bronx.
Christopher Jimenez: And I remember there was that one scene where Jack Nicholson would come out as the joker on the parade float. And Trust was playing by Prince in the background, and it was just so infectious, just that Minneapolis sound that he had, those like pounding bass drums and the snare with the reverb, and I always loved it.
KERWIN : Here’s that scene he’s talking about: Prince was known for being, well, a little unknowable. He rarely did interviews. In the 90s, he famously changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. This smoke and mirror effect of his life has carried on beyond his death. Today, his estate blocked the release of what would have been his final album: the “Deliverance EP.” Andy Gensler is the editor for Billboard.biz, a music and entertainment site.
Andy Gensler: You know it’s amazing to see the amount of litigation surrounding Prince. And it’s been almost nonstop. And I think part of that’s because he didn’t prepare. He didn’t have a will that explicitly explained everything.
KERWIN: For all his careful maintenance of his persona during life, Prince didn’t go to great pains to leave things in order for after his death. According to Gensler, that’s part of the reason fans won’t get to hear his Deliverance EP, which was scheduled to be released today. His estate, which is being controlled by a bank, doesn’t want to give up rights to his content.
Gensler: You know, for somebody like Prince who cared a great deal about his career and had such struggles with the record labels, I think..you know I hate to say this but I think he would have been very unhappy to see that like, two major labels are tussling over his music.
KERWIN: Gensler says this disarray, on top of the recent coverage that suggests Prince struggled with an addiction to painkillers — it tarnishes his legacy. But still, he says the music transcends all that. That’s exactly what Caran Menardy believes. She’s selling memorabilia in front of the Apollo Theater. She is purple from head to toe: purple heart-shaped sunglasses, purple wig, purple pants, purple lipstick. She shows me the top of her left hand, which features a tattoo of Prince’s symbol. Menardy wishes the Deliverance EP had been released today.
Caran Menardy: More music from Prince, this is what I want, I wanna hear. I mean he’s not here, the music is here. Why not hear the music. I mean it’s a way of keeping him alive.
KERWIN: Five of the six songs from the disputed EP will remain unavailable until at least May 3rd, when the restraining order is set to expire. But there is one song fans can enjoy right now: Deliverance.
Camila Kerwin, Columbia Radio News.