Former music writer and Prince confidante Neal Karlen recalled his decades-old friendship with the late music legend in a new piece for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Karlen, a Minnesota native and former contributing editor for Rolling Stone and the New York Times, shared in his letter that Prince feared one thing — and that was dying alone.
“I just pray Prince wasn’t cognizant, even for a mite of a moment, that he was dying alone in a nondescript elevator, in a Wonder Bread suburb of the city that was one day too late in telling him we loved him as much as he loved Minneapolis,” Karlen writes. “Because there’s one thing I’m positive I know about Prince. After knowing him in forever alternating cycles of greater, lesser and sometimes not-at-all friendship over the last 31 years: His biggest and perhaps only fear was dying alone.”
Karlen recalled how he and Prince would correspond with handwritten letters. The two became such close friends that they worked on a 1993 rock opera called “The Dawn” together. The late “When Doves Cry” singer would oftentimes dial him at odd hours of the night, too.
“I always told Prince I knew he really didn’t consider me a friend, but as one of the few people in Minneapolis who was probably awake, like he always was, in the middle of the night, and was ‘Willing and Able,’ as my favorite song of his is titled, to talk about loneliness and death,” Karlen recalled, as he shared in one Rolling Stone piece how Prince called him at 4:48 a.m. “You never woke me. Well, actually you did a couple times, but I was always happy to hear from you, even when you were so lonely and depressed you could barely speak.”
The writer also shared how Prince influenced his decision to quit music writing. “I told him I wanted to be a real writer, not the Bobo formerly known as Neal,” Karlen recalled. “I wanted to be like [noted novelist and writer] Nathanael West, and though he had no idea who Nathanael West was, he completely understood. And we stayed in touch. … These are the first words I’ve written about Prince since back in the day. Until now I kept a promise to myself that I wouldn’t write about him anymore, and I think he understood.”
Karlen is now the author of eight books, writing on everything from baseball to linguistics to religious fundamentalism. He is also a current creative writing teacher at Augsburg College.
Prince was found dead at age 57 on April 21, in an elevator at his Paisley Park compound in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Local police said that the superstar was alone at the time and fully clothed. There was no cell phone on him, nor was there a phone inside the elevator freight.
Chanhassen Sheriff Jim Olson told reporters on April 22, that there were no signs of trauma and that they do not suspect a suicide. “A sign of trauma is that something violent would have happened,” Olson explained. “There is no sign of that at all.”
His toxicology results are still pending. It was reported that a week before his death, Prince supposedly overdosed on Percocet and diverted a plane to land in Illinois.
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