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How a Stunning 1983 Prince Recording Was Lost and Found

"The things [Prince] left behind are, in many cases, better than another artist’s very best work," said Michael Howe, chief archivist for the Prince estate.
Prince performs on October 11, 2009 at the Grand Palais in Paris. The artist's posthumous album, 'Piano and a Microphone 1983,' is an unusually intimate glimpse of his creative process.
Prince Piano Microphone Source: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty

"Can you turn the lights down?"

With that request to an engineer, a 24-year-old Prince sat down at a piano in his home studio and, in a single 34-minute take, delivered extraordinarily potent sketches of  songs that would define the golden age of his career. He sang three future classics in embryonic form (including just over a minute of “Purple Rain”), two covers (one a Joni Mitchell song, the other a slavery-era spiritual), one already-released slow jam and three gems that would never surface in completed form.

It was 1983, and after the one-two-three punch of , and , Prince was a singular star, one who held nothing back. During this session, he sounds funky, inspired and disarmingly intimate.

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