On His 60th Birthday, This Unreleased Prince Song Will Make You Weep (Audio)

Prince would have turned 60 years old today (June 7). More than two years after his death, the Purple One’s discography remains active. Prince’s estate and his label for many years, Warner Bros. Records, are releasing Piano & A Microphone: 1983 on September 21. The first single “Mary Don’t You Weep” is made available to the public on the icon’s birthday, and it is a present for Prince’s millions of fans.

At the piano, Prince’s vocal oozes soul. He begs the character not to be sad as Prince uses the instrument for accents to his voice to suggest some devastating news. In the background, one can hear sporadic elements of percussion, possibly Prince’s foot on the floor to emphasize the song. In the early 1980s, Prince was regularly photographed and presented with a guitar in hand. However, the prodigy whose album credits stated that he played 27 instruments on his 1978 debut For You shows that he knew how to get something unique out of the ivories.

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The song’s performance dabbles in Gospel, lounge Jazz, Blues, with a strong element of Soul. “Mary Don’t You Weep” is a famed spiritual that was a song sung by slaves during the American Civil War, and a century later during the Civil Rights movement. Figures from The Bible were used to illustrate a message of faith and resistance. Hip-Hop Heads may recognize the song as the performance heard at the beginning of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “Crossroads” video version. Aretha Franklin and The Soul Stirrers both recorded popular versions.

In this ’83 recording, Prince uses the framework of the song or Biblical allusion (its title and first few words) and takes it somewhere altogether different. The pain and gravitas are there, but the song seems removed from scripture and on display in Prince’s chapel of sound and soul. A pop culture cue (especially in the Black church) that is believed to be more than 120 years old at the time Prince sat at the piano became something modern, palpable, and universal. The reference is no accident, but it is merely a thin foundation for Prince to construct his vision. For nearly five minutes, he shows the full potential of that sonic architecture. This is the latest example of those vaults the legend kept.

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As the LP title suggests, these recordings are from a period between landmark albums 1999 and Purple Rain. The sessions were recorded at Prince’s then-home studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota, ahead of the later construction of Paisley Park.

According to Pitchfork, the collection of songs includes a pre-album rendition of “Purple Rain,” “Strange Relationship,” and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s beloved 1971 ballad, “A Case Of You.” Spike Lee is using “Mary Don’t You Weep” in his upcoming BlacKkKlansman film.

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The tracklist is as follows:

01 17 Days
02 Purple Rain
03 A Case Of You
04 Mary Don’t You Weep
05 Strange Relationship
06 International Lover
07 Wednesday
08 Cold Coffee & Cocaine
09 Why The Butterflies

Happy birthday, Prince. Thank you for your many gifts.