The music video for Prince’s version of “Mary Don’t You Weep” comes to us one day before the release of the artist’s posthumous album, Piano and a Microphone 1983. Prince recorded the album’s nine songs 35 years ago in his Minnesota studio, where they were found on a cassette tape after his death in 2016.
“Mary Don’t You Weep,” is a pre-Civil War spiritual that became a sort of liberation anthem during the Civil Rights movement. Many artists have covered the song or variations on it over the years, including Aretha Franklin and James Brown, and the lyrics served as the inspiration for the title of writer James Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time. “Mary Don’t You Weep” is indelibly tied to America’s troubled racial history (much like “Baltimore,” the opening song of the artist’s final album, Hitnrun Phase Two). Prince’s version of the song is beautifully performed, with emotive, bittersweet vocals and a bluesy piano.
Filmed in New York City and directed by Salomon Ligthelm, the new video begins with a quote from a speech Prince made during his 2015 Rally 4 Peace benefit concert in Baltimore, following the protests against police brutality. “The system is broken,” the epigraph reads. “It’s going to take the young people to fix it this time. We need new ideas, new life.” Here, the images show the aftermath of a shooting and a family and a community in mourning, alluding to the pervasiveness of such tragedies in America.