Prince often played special concerts on June 7, his birthday — the most elaborate was probably a full-scale show at Detroit’s Cobo Arena in 1986 — and since his death in 2016, has observed the date with special events (like Spike Lee’s block party in Brooklyn in 2017) or releases (like last year’s “Originals” album).
For a number of reasons, 2020 is different, not least because of the nationwide protests against police violence that have spiraled in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of law-enforcement officers in Prince’s beloved hometown of Minneapolis.
Rather than an elaborate release or event, on his 62nd birthday, Prince’s estate has shared a handwritten note from the artist about intolerance, as well as a remembrance of his 2015 concert and song commemorating Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of Baltimore police.
“Prince dedicated his life to speaking out against injustice, advocating for black excellence, and spreading the message of ‘Love 4 One Another,’” the caption reads. “In this note that he kept in his personal archives, he wrote a message that still resonates today. ‘Nothing more ugly in the whole wide world than INTOLERANCE (between) Black, white, red, yellow, boy or girl. INTOLERANCE.’”
Prince spoke out against intolerance and in support of black empowerment with words and actions throughout his entire career. He challenged stereotypes with his music, his collaborators and bandmembers — nearly all of which were multi-cultural and featured both male and female musicians — he was unafraid to dress provocatively and at times androgynously, and he quietly supported many causes and charities with financial donations.
In “Baltimore,” he sang:
“Does anybody hear us pray/
For Michael Brown or Freddie Gray?/
Peace is more than the absence of war/
Are we gonna see another bloody day?/
We’re tired of the crying and people dying/
Let’s take all the guns away.”