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.
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.