Despite setbacks and challenges in childhood, the troubled prodigy finds magic in an unlikely place
In my latest book, BlueCloudz, I turn my attention to perhaps the most astonishing creative mind of the last hundred years. Prince achieves unmatched multimedia success — despite difficult circumstances.
From his first memories, his parents fight. John Lewis Nelson quits his marriage as Prince finishes third grade. The boy feels deserted. Mattie Shaw Nelson brings Hayward Baker into her son’s life. Prince mostly rejects him.
In 1968, when Prince is just 10 years old, this happens:
(excerpted from BlueCloudz)
One evening, while Mattie and Hayward are out, Prince tries on his mother’s favorite blouse. It’s lacy and patterned in paisleys. He applies heavy eyeliner. As he stands in front of her vanity, a chill runs down his spine. He likes how he looks. He’s careful not to leave any traces that he’s worn it. The next day at school, Prince asks about paisleys. They recall Zarathustra, a bent cedar planted in paradise. They symbolize strength and resilience.
Prince is born into a musical household with prodigious abilities. That’s a promising plus for his early development. However, he must soon survive a broken family, bullying at school, epilepsy, and racist backlashes from the U.S. Civil Rights Movement (in 95% white Minneapolis) to find steady footing. At age 11, he begins to bounce between homes.
Walking to school barefooted in the snow isn’t a badge of honor to flash for Prince. “Shoeless” is one of the shames his classmates hang on him. For a stretch, Prince discards his shoes. He hopes it will force his mom to let him stay home. School is where classmates tease about his height, the color of his skin, and his eccentricity. But Mattie tells Prince to get marching.
The boy passes plenty of bent, ice-laden trees. Minnesota winters are bitterly cold. Each time, he smiles in that coy way of his — and learns to press onward.
Download BlueCloudz, Eric S. Townsend’s 23rd book, for just $7.77. Be a fly on the wall as Prince grows up and his circle forms. For those wanting a signed paperback, that release date is set for June 7 (what would have been Prince’s 60th birthday). When you spring for the ebook now, the publisher Go Booklets will credit the $7.77 toward your future paperback purchase. So, it’s free (hey, we’d like reviews).