Prince recently revealed that he struggled with epilepsy as a child during an interview, and while he kept the medical problem a secret, it has shaped his legendary music career. The singer told PBS that an angel had visited him.
“I’ve never spoken about this before, but I was born epileptic,” the Grammy winning singer said on the Tavis Smiley show. “I used to have seizures when I was young. And my mother and father didn’t know what to do or how to handle it but they did the best they could with what little they had.”
Prince said the illness helped shape his over-the-top persona.
“From that point on, I’ve been having to deal with a lot of things, getting teased a lot in school,” the Purple Rain singer said Monday night, wearing a high-collared white satin shirt and high-heeled black and white spats. “You know, early in my career I tried to compensate for that by being as flashy as I could and as noisy as I could.”
A Jehovah’s Witness who weaves spiritual themes through his songs, Prince said his faith also helped him cope.
“My mother told me one day I walked in to her and said ‘Mom, I’m not going to be sick anymore.’ And she said ‘Why?’ And I said ‘Because an angel told me so.’ Now, I don’t remember saying it, that’s just what she told me,” Prince said.
He didn’t say whether he grew out of the illness or continues to live with epilepsy, but in a song titled “The Sacrifice of Victor,” Prince tells the story of a boy who was “Epileptic ’til the age of seven.”
Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, the first year he was eligible. He told Smiley that he taught himself to play music after his musician father left his piano at the house when he moved out while Prince was a kid.
“When he left, I was determined to get as good as him,” Prince said. “I just stuck with it, and I did it all the time. And sooner or later, people in the neighborhood heard about me, and then they started to talk about me. And it wasn’t in a teasing fashion. It was more like, ‘Wow, look what he can do.’”
He said the support motivated him to write his own songs, and once he got that, he believed he could do anything he wanted.