When we think of our favourite musician, especially when confronted by an oversized talent like that of Prince, it’s almost impossible to consider them as a child, with all the awkwardness and growing pains that can involve. So when my local news channel WCCO (CBS Minnesota) thought they had landed on a piece of video of Prince as an 11-year-old boy at school, it was quite the surprising find.
Prince was one of the most prolific artists ever, writing and recording thousands of songs, many of which were accompanied with spectacular videos and even movies. It is safe to say Prince’s image is one of the most immediately recognizable in popular culture.
Even though he continually evolved and changed his style, like David Bowie and Madonna, you know when you are looking at Prince. To me, it is his large, expressive eyes that pull you in and connect with you, no matter his hairstyle, facial hair, or clothing.
Still, being sure that a young boy interviewed outside his high school in 1970 was indeed the musician that would one day be known all over the world, was an important fact to get right for any news outlet. And so, WCCO started searching for an expert to verify the identity of the boy in what turned out to be a very serendipitous discovery.
See Prince as a child in this video
Knowing I was one of only a handful of people on the planet who saw the video at the time – one year ago today, was humbling and a bit nerve-racking, to be honest. Knowing how deeply loved Prince is, I did not want to get it wrong!
But as soon as Jeff Wagner, the WCCO reporter, handed me the phone, pushed play on the video, and I saw that little boy’s beautiful eyes, I knew immediately it was Prince. The boy then did Prince’s famed side glances and other mannerisms which sealed it for me, but it was those eyes that pulled me in.
I appreciated Terry Jackson, a school friend and former bandmate of Prince’s, picking up my call that day, as he always does when I reach out to him. He was able to provide the TV crew with a first-hand account from a friend who was with Prince at the time the footage was recorded.
Having Terry as that primary source to verify the boy in the video was indeed “Skipper from the Northside” was magical.
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The story was picked up by news organizations around the world. The Guardian, The New York Times, and even Rolling Stone quoted me about the video and what this find – seeing Prince as a child – meant to fans and for our cultural history.
These are the moments that I as a historian, music fan, and Prince lover, live for – the chance to see something new, to be able to contextualize him and gain a deeper understanding and connection to him.
It is what led my dear friend and collaborator Sarah Lee and I to developed SoundAround Tours because we know we are not alone – that many of you out there love music history as much as we do.
We will not only take you there – to see the places musicians have made famous – but we will also give you a deeper understanding of music history in a place and how the society, culture and climate in a place influenced your favorite artist.
Stay tuned for more information on our first tours launching this May – including Prince’s Minneapolis!