Though best known as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Prince was also an accomplished pianist—it was the first instrument he learned to play, taking after his father who was a piano player in a jazz band. Things would come full circle in Prince’s final concert series, the ‘Piano & A Microphone Tour’ of 2016, in which he reinterpreted his band-backed electric hits in an intimate setting as a solo pianist. The Toronto Star opened their review of his March 25th show: ‘It probably comes as little surprise that Prince, the legendary singer and songwriter who is as prolific as he is enigmatic, is as big a monster on piano, technically speaking, as he is on guitar.’ As a purple piano played by the man himself, this is an outstanding piece of Prince history. From the collection of an early Prince insider.
BOSTON, MA – (February 16, 18) An incredibly rare original 1987 U.S. first pressing of Prince’s “The Black Album” sold for $42,298 according to Boston-based RR Auction.
The album is factory sealed in its original shrink-wrap, complete with affixed peach-and-black sticker and parental advisory.
This is the last of five sealed copies of The Black Album recently discovered in the collection of a former Warner Bros. Records executive. Prior to that discovery, only three copies of the original 1987 U.S. pressing had surfaced.
The Black album, also known as The Funk Bible, was originally intended to be released on December 8, 1987, with an entirely black sleeve and no printed title or song credits.
A week before its release date, Prince had the album withdrawn after having a spiritual experience that convinced him the album was ‘evil.’ Warner Bros. worked extremely hard to destroy all of the 500,000 copies that had been pressed—very few survived, making extant examples among the rarest records in the world.
The Black Album was later released as a limited edition CD and cassette by Warner Bros. in 1994, and then digitally via Tidal in 2016—however, no U.S. vinyl version of the album was ever commercially released.
“An original copy of Prince’s ‘The Black Album’ is one of the rarest, if not the rarest vinyl records by the music legend— and therefore highly sought after by collectors,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction. “His legions of fans worldwide still mourn the loss of this larger-than-life talent that forever changed the music landscape.”
Highlights from the sale include, but are not limited by:
Purple piano played by Prince sold for $30,370 (below).
Prince’s stage-used microphone used during the Purple Rain Tour sold for $22,869.
Prince handwritten draft of the lyrics to Sign ‘O’ the Times’ “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” sold for $20,886.
Prince signed Purple Rain promotional poster sold for $18,375.
Prince handwritten signed speech for the 1988 Minnesota Music Awards sold for $12,251.
Prince’s ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ cufflinks sold for $7,840.
The Prince auction from RR Auction began on January 19 and concluded on February 15. More details can be found online at www.rrauction.com.
Purple piano: An upright piano which was kept at the home of an early Prince insider and was personally played by Prince frequently throughout his career. The piano was originally picked up by the touring crew of Earth, Wind & Fire around 1978, and was delivered to the consignor’s home in Los Angeles (where Prince was living at the time) as a gift specifically for Prince. This was his favorite piano to play because he loved the distinctive ring-like sound it made when he played it.
It was in Los Angeles that Prince most frequently played this piano—he spent many, many hours at these keys. He would wake up in the middle of the night, saying that God dropped songs on him that needed to be played then and there, no matter what. Even with a multitude of pianos at his disposal, this one was Prince’s favorite to play. The piano was painted pink when the consignor moved to Miami in the early 1990s, around the same time that Prince opened the ‘Glam Slam’ club. The piano was subsequently painted purple to match new decor.