On April 21, 2016, pop and rock music icon Prince Rogers Nelson, better known simply as Prince, was found dead in his home near Minneapolis after an accidental drug overdose. Fans who bonded over his music and avant-garde style mourned the loss of one of pop culture’s most indelible stars.
What many may not know is that, shortly before that tragic day, Prince had flown writer Dan Piepenbring out to his office compound in suburban Minnesota to write a memoir — one that Prince hoped would encapsulate his mystery, his style and his profound talent.
Now, three years since the untimely death of the artist formerly known as Prince, his posthumous memoir “The Beautiful Ones” has finally been released to the public. While it may not be the larger-than-life artistic statement Prince envisioned, it is still a touching and engaging homage to an artist who dared to challenge the status quo of postmodern pop music.
The memoir, written by Piepenbring and supplemented with much of the material Prince had written before his death, is constructed with very little narrative content. Brief but impactful conversations with Prince are regularly referenced as well as various aspects of his artistry, private life and childhood, which are described as more of a point of reference as opposed to a tell-all.
The majority of the book is comprised of photocopied notes that were written by Prince at notable periods in his life, as well as old photographs of the star ranging from his childhood to the height of his career.
Many of the pictures, both as a young person and a celebrity, are accompanied by commentary by Prince, documented by Piepenbring and other various interviewers over the years.
Prince has been known throughout the years to value his privacy and conserve the mystery that surrounds his lifestyle and career. A major recurring theme throughout the book was the sheer enigma that Prince’s personality generated. In an effort to maintain the mysticism, Prince refused to be recorded, but Piepenbring’s vivid description of the icon’s personality and behavior sufficed.
Piepenbring uses simplistic descriptions to bring the alluring world of Prince to life in a way that was able to maintain the air of ethereal secrecy that shrouded the singer. However, the same use of emotional and genuine language allows the reader a strange and almost tragic look into Prince’s own world.
Coupled with the photographs, notes and commentary, the memoir was able to paint a down-to-earth portrait of a man who some have described as larger than life, while also accentuating the sadness of a star who fell before his time.
Even if one isn’t familiar with the legacy Prince created over his lifetime, “The Beautiful Ones” can serve as an interesting coffee table read for people who may only know a few songs.
“The Beautiful Ones” is the perfect book for a cold winter night escape into the life and times of the one and only Prince, whose legacy will live on thanks in part to Piepenbring’s careful encapsulation of the pop icon.