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New song by Prince’s father released to mark his 101st birthday

John L. Nelson, as seen in a promotional video for 'Don't Play With Love.' (Sharon Nelson)
John L. Nelson, as seen in a promotional video for 'Don't Play With Love.' (Sharon Nelson)

by Jay Gabler

June 29, 2017

Today marks the 101st birthday of Prince's father John L. Nelson — a professional musician whose stage name, Prince Rogers, became his son's given name. To mark the occasion, Prince's half-sister Sharon Nelson has released a new recording of one of her father's songs.

She says that "Heart of Mine" is the first track from a forthcoming album, Don't Play With Love, The John L. Nelson Project, to be released Oct. 27. Sharon Nelson "produced the album in January at Paisley Park from her father's sheet music," reports the Associated Press.

"Our dad wrote and composed many songs, but they were never recorded until now," said Sharon Nelson in a statement. "Contrary to what has been written about our dad, he was a loving, caring, hardworking father, and a prolific jazz musician."

In a promotional video for the project, Sharon Nelson explains further: "These sheets came to me early in 1978. One day I was throwing away old things, as we do, and these sheets fell out — just like in Purple Rain."

Sharon Nelson is a musician with one album, 57th Street Sound (2009), to her credit. She also co-produced Father's Song, a 1994 EP by John L. Nelson, who died in 2001 at age 85. Born in 1940, Sharon is the eldest child of John L. Nelson; her mother is John's first wife, Vivian.

"Father's Song" is also the title of an instrumental piece co-written by Prince and his father, featured in Purple Rain as music written by the father of Prince's character "the Kid." This month's Purple Rain deluxe edition made the full-length version of that song available to the public for the first time.

Prince helped to provide for both of his parents in their later years. In the mid-1980s, John L. Nelson moved into the legendary purple house on Lake Riley in Chanhassen, when Prince upgraded to a larger house in the area. Neighbors remembered the elder Nelson living there with a pet cockatiel. After John L. Nelson's death, Prince razed the house; the site was just sold earlier this year, and the new owners, who are Prince fans, plan to build a new house.

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