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Prince was a musical genius, one of the most talented, beloved, accomplished, popular, and acclaimed musicians in history. He was also a startlingly original visionary with an imagination deep enough to whip up whole worlds, from the sexy, gritty funk paradise of “Uptown” to the mythical landscape of Purple Rain to the psychedelia of “Paisley Park.” But his most ambitious creative act was turning Prince Rogers Nelson, born in Minnesota, into Prince, the greatest pop star of his era.
The Beautiful Ones is the story of how Prince became Prince—a first-person account of a kid absorbing the world around him and then creating a persona, an artistic vision, and a life, before the hits and fame that would come to define him. The book is told in four parts. The first is composed of the memoir he was writing before his tragic death, pages that brings us into Prince’s childhood world through his own lyrical prose. The second part takes us into Prince’s early years as a musician, before his first album released, through a scrapbook of Prince’s writing and photos. The third section shows us Prince’s evolution through candid images that take us up to the cusp of his greatest achievement, which we see in the book’s fourth section: his original handwritten treatment for Purple Rain—the final stage in Prince’s self-creation, as he retells the autobiography we’ve seen in the first three parts as a heroic journey.
The book is framed by editor Dan Piepenbring’s riveting and moving introduction about his short but profound collaboration with Prince in his final months—a time when Prince was thinking deeply about how to reveal more of himself and his ideas to the world, while retaining the mystery and mystique he’d so carefully cultivated—and annotations that provide context to each of the book’s images.