If ever there were two people unlikely to be linked in the public’s mind, it might be Prince and Betty Eadie, the author of the number-one New York Times bestselling book Embraced by the Light, Eadie’s account of a near-death experience. But linked they were, and the contact lasted for some 25 years.
The link between Eadie and Prince, which I’d learned about only recently as I delved into research on Prince’s spiritual and religious journey, became more concrete yesterday when the official music video for “Dolphin” was released on the Prince YouTube channel. As with most Prince videos, it raises many important questions for the Purple Family to debate, including why keyboardist Morris Hayes is wearing a top hat, why Morris and keyboardist Tommy Barbarella are playing air piano on a bedspread, and how Tommy manages to execute yet another perfect hair toss. Mayte Garcia, dressed in an angel costume, does a ribbon dance and caresses Prince’s face as he appears to either go to sleep or perhaps go to final rest, depending on your interpretation. Mayte’s presence is a visual (and highly literal) reference to the concepts of reincarnation and the afterlife referred to in the song.
On her site, Eadie says Prince dedicated “Dolphin” to her, after reading her book about her near-death experience, which became a worldwide publishing phenomenon. She says she met Prince shortly after Embraced by the Light was published in November 1992, when Prince attended a speaking engagement Eadie had in Minneapolis. (For a moment, let’s imagine looking out at the audience as you’re on a book tour and seeing … Prince (!)).
Eadie recounts that after her Minneapolis speaking engagement, Prince approached her and invited her to Paisley Park. She says she saw his personal rooms and describes sitting on a “decorative love seat” with Prince as he spoke openly to her about his childhood, his music, and the torment he felt with his record contract. She says he sought her advice on how to deal with the trauma which made him feel he was a slave to the music industry.
For her part, Eadie says she told him he had a mission to fulfill, and encouraged him to return to the name “Prince” and “the man everyone loved and admired.” (It’s here where the chronology of Eadie’s story seems confused, as Prince would not officially change his name until June 7, 1993).
However, the timing of the creation of “Dolphin” does indeed sync up with the publication of Eadie’s book. PrinceVault states that Prince did the basic tracking for “Dolphin” in January 1993, which was about two months after he met Eadie. The video, however, was not filmed until mid-1994, and it opens with a shot of Prince’s jawline and the word “slave” penned on his cheek.
Eadie’s site provides links to two articles that corroborate her story. One is written by Minneapolis-based journalist Jim Walsh and published on the day Prince died. Walsh talks about writing the liner notes for The Gold Experience. He writes that “During the making of it (The Gold Experience), he (Prince) was enamored with Betty Eadie’s book Embraced by the Light, a first-person narrative on near-death experience, and that theme also peppers the record, most explicitly on the reincarnation dream `Dolphin.’ It is also implicit on several other tracks that ponder birth, death, life, and rebirth, and one man’s own expectations and perceptions of himself.”
According to Eadie, for the better part of 25 years, she and Prince maintained contact. Prince wanted to help with promoting Embraced by the Light and at the end of his life, was in contact with Eadie again.
“We have recently been in contact with the possibility of him being a part of our current film project,” Eadie wrote around the time when Prince died. “His abilities to write incredibly beautiful music would have been a perfect fit for what I wanted for the film. Yet, now, Prince is on a different journey . . . ”
(You can read the full text of Eadie’s description of their encounter here).