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Minnesota Historical Society acquires handwritten Prince lyrics for 1977 song ‘I Hope We Work it Out’

A segment of a lyric sheet acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society, featuring Prince's autograph (Courtesy MNHS)
A segment of a lyric sheet acquired by the Minnesota Historical Society, featuring Prince's autograph (Courtesy MNHS)

by Andrea Swensson

January 03, 2017

The Minnesota Historical Society has acquired a new artifact that documents a pivotal moment in Prince's career: The year he signed his record deal with Warner Bros. and entered into a contract he would wrestle with for much of his career.

Back in 1977, Prince Rogers Nelson was a rising star in the North Minneapolis funk-rock scene, known for playing high school proms and "Battles of the Bands"-style showcases with his group Grand Central. With the help of his first manager, Owen Husney, he would fly out to California to ink the deal with Warner Bros. that would ensure the nationwide release of his debut solo album, For You — and to say thanks, he wrote Warner Bros. a little song, ominously titled "I Hope We Work it Out."

The handwritten lyric sheet for that unreleased song was acquired through auction by MNHS, who will house it in their massive permanent collection in St. Paul. The lyric sheet is one of several Prince artifacts in the collection; most notably, they also have the infamous purple jacket, white ruffled shirt, and studded pants Prince wore in the movie Purple Rain, and a pair of purple lace gloves from the same period.

Here is the full item description from MNHS:

Prince. "I Hope We Work it Out" lyrics, 1977.  0.1 cubic feet.  Single sheet holographic document, signed by Prince, containing working lyrics for the unreleased song "I Hope We Work it Out".  Written on lined yellow paper, the lyrics contain Prince's embellishments in the title and numeric notations on the bottom of the page.  The song was presumably recorded at Sound80 in Minneapolis in 1977. This song was written at the suggestion of David Rivkin and was played at a private luncheon when Prince flew to California to sign his contract with Warner Brothers (referred to as W.B. in the lyrics).  Purchased at auction with the assistance of Adam Scher.

The lyric sheet also includes a little math in the bottom left corner, where someone (presumably Prince) needed to subtract 10 from 74 and and crunch a few other numbers.


The song was never officially released, but a version of it (labeled "We Can Work It Out") exists on YouTube:

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.