Prince’s death in April continues to baffle his fans. Slowly, a narrative seems to be emerging from the few details about his life that have leaked out in the past few weeks. The Minneapolis musician may have been suffering from a super-secret addiction to painkillers, one brought on by his chronic hip problems after years of energetic performances had taken a toll on his body. John Eligon, Serge F. Kovaleski, and Joe Coscarelli present their findings in a New York Times piece entitled “Prince, Addiction, And An Intervention Too Late.” As that title indicates, someone in Prince’s inner circle was concerned enough about the music legend to consult an addiction specialist, Dr. Howard Kornfeld of Mill Valley, California. Kornfeld sent his son Andrew to Minneapolis on what he described as a “lifesaving mission.” But it was too late. The younger Kornfeld was among those who found the musician collapsed in an elevator at Paisley Park.
So what, exactly, went wrong here? The situation is complicated, the article states, by the fact that Prince was extraordinarily private and sheltered when it came to details of his personal life. Unlike other megastars at his level of fame, he was also “surprisingly autonomous,” preferring to handle matters personally whenever possible. The multi-instrumentalist may have been abusing painkillers for decades in order to keep performing at the level to which his fans were accustomed. “He was that kind of old school, the-show-must-go-on kind of guy,” says Alan Leeds, who was Prince’s tour manager in the 1980s and later the president of Paisley Park Records. Another factor is that Prince was extremely religious and a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. Therefore, he may have been unwilling to openly discuss his possible addiction. As a non-drinking vegetarian, he might have felt “a sense of shame about his growing dependency on medication,” the article speculates.