The Beautiful Ones is one of my favorite Prince songs. So, I was pleased to see the book title of the same name. I was excited to start reading, because I have been a Prince fan for decades. Before I even opened the book, I noticed that it was heavy. It’s not a thick book (288 pages), but it had some weight to it. Must be the paper. At the time I bought it, I had no idea at which point in his life he wrote the book. All I knew was he wrote it and I wanted to read it.
I read a recent comment on Facebook that the book was too short. I agree that the book was heavy physically, but light on telling the complete story. But, there is an important thing to consider. Prince died before it could he could write any more. So, the book starts with an introduction into how it came to be. The co-author, Dan Piepenbring, talked about how he was chosen , his initial interactions with Prince, and gives some behind the scenes information about him. Until recently, he had always led a very private life. What makes Dan’s perspective unique is that he didn’t know Prince personally. Before he was chosen he was just a fan like the rest of us.
The Beautiful Ones is a memoir, written by Prince. Essentially, he gave Dan the beginning of the book handwritten on notebook paper. Because he died before writing any more, those pages (along with items found at Paisley Park) became the book. But, there is a lot of great stuff in the pages that he wrote. It may not have been the complete story, it did give us an intimate look into some of the formative years of Prince. For example, his nickname as a child was “Skipper”. I didn’t know that… It also revealed that Prince was quite the “character”. He was intense, but he had a sense of humor. And, he was every bit the eccentric that I expected.
As a longtime fan of Prince, I loved the book. You get a glimpse (through words and pictures) of Prince the man that has never been available. To that end, it is filled with pictures: childhood pictures, pictures of his parents and sister, even the pictures of the handwritten pages. You can choose to read them in his handwriting if you’d like to create a different experience. There are also some of his drawings (with captions), and sheets of paper that he wrote the lyrics to some of the songs. Those are gems, as it lets you tap into his part of creative process.
“Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied”– Prince
Given the circumstances, the final result was worth buying. The book is very well done. As you will read, when he was planning to write the book – he wrestled with what the book would be about. What story would he tell? In his own words:
“If I want this book to be about one overarching thing, it’s freedom to create autonomously. Without anyone telling you what to do or how or why”– Prince