Prince’s death in April 2016 was a shock to his fans. The artist was only 57, he’d played lots of shows in the months leading up to it, and appeared spry and happy on stage. As far as we knew, he wasn’t ill. Afterwards, it turned out that he had suffered from chronic hip pain – "all the time", according to bandmate and friend Sheila E. – which led to a dependency on painkillers and the overdose that killed him. He rarely did interviews and cameras were banned from performances, which made the prospect of a documentary about his final year intriguing.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Channel 4's Prince: Last Year of a Legendcouldn’t offer much insight into Prince’s emotional life in the final year. In the absence of a will, his estate is still being wrangled over – 700 people came forward and claimed to be his descendant a few weeks after his death – and no family or members of this band 3rdeyegirl were interviewed.
Instead, the talking heads were civil rights activist Al Sharpton, Cee-Lo, who saw him shortly before he died, broadcaster Van Jones, who described Prince as Batman to his Robin, and a few performers who’d sung or played with him, none of whom seemed to really know what was going on with Prince in his final year. In the absence of close sources, it focused on his secret political activism and shows (New Year’s Eve on Roman Abramovich’s yacht, for example). “They’re having the best moment of their lives, they’re going to talk about it forever,” was the sort of commentary. Unfortunately the only footage available was from camera phones, which, inevitably, looked and sounded poor.