The Little Prince: Footage Gets Unearthed Of the Pop Star at Age 11

Prince left us a vast body of work, with much rumored still to be await­ing release in his vault. But among his many albums already avail­able, I still hold in espe­cial­ly high regard For You, the debut he record­ed while still a teenag­er. Not only did he put out this first LP at an unusu­al­ly young age, he pro­duced it and played near­ly all its instru­ments. Though Prince seemed to have emerged into the world as a ful­ly formed pop-music genius, he had to come from some­where. Indeed, he came from Min­neapo­lis, a city with which he remained asso­ci­at­ed all his life. Now, near­ly six years after his death, a Min­neapo­lis tele­vi­sion sta­tion has dis­cov­ered a pre­vi­ous­ly unknown arti­fact of the Pur­ple One’s ado­les­cence.

In April 1970 the teach­ers of Min­neapo­lis’ pub­lic schools went on strike, and a reporter on the scene asked a crowd of near­by school­child­ren whether they were in favor of the pick­et­ing. “Yup,” replies a par­tic­u­lar­ly small one who’d been jump­ing to catch the cam­er­a’s atten­tion. “I think they should get a bet­ter edu­ca­tion, too.”

Not only that, “they should get some more mon­ey ’cause they be workin’ extra hours for us and all that stuff.” None of this was audi­ble to the pro­duc­er at WCCO TV, a Min­neapo­lis-native Prince fan, who’d brought the half-cen­tu­ry-old footage out of the archive in order to con­tex­tu­al­ize anoth­er teach­ers strike just last month. But in the young inter­vie­wee’s face and man­ner­isms he saw not just a local boy, but one par­tic­u­lar local boy made enor­mous­ly good.

No one who’s seen Prince in action ear­ly in his career could fail to rec­og­nize him in this long-unseen footage. But it took more than fans to con­firm his iden­ti­ty, as you can see in the WCCO news broad­cast and behind-the-scenes seg­ment here. A local Prince his­to­ri­an could pro­vide high­ly sim­i­lar pho­tographs of the star-to-be in the same year, when he would have been eleven. Even­tu­al­ly the inves­ti­ga­tion turned up a child­hood neigh­bor and for­mer band­mate named Ter­ry Jack­son, who watch­es the clip and breaks at once into laugh­ter and tears of recog­ni­tion. “That’s Skip­per!” Jack­son cries, using the nick­name by which his fam­i­ly and friends once knew him. “I nev­er referred to him as Prince. He might even have got mad at me when he got famous.” Ascend to the pan­theon of pop music, it seems, and you still can’t quite make it out of the old neigh­bor­hood.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Read Prince’s First Inter­view, Print­ed in His High School News­pa­per (1976)

Prince’s First Tele­vi­sion Inter­view (1985)

The Life of Prince in a 24-Page Com­ic Book: A New Release

Aca­d­e­m­ic Jour­nal Devotes an Entire Issue to Prince’s Life & Music: Read and Down­load It for Free

Watch Prince Per­form “Pur­ple Rain” in the Rain in His Tran­scen­dent Super Bowl Half-Time Show (2007)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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