Prince Turns Tragedy Into Song With ‘Comeback’
Prince didn't make a name for himself as the sensitive singer/songwriter type, but he drew on his personal experiences to make music just as much as any acoustic guitar-toting troubadour — even when they were among the most painful losses anyone could suffer, as he proved when writing and recording his 1998 The Truth LP.
Initially made available as part of Prince's Crystal Ball release, The Truth was conceived as a largely acoustic project, lending itself aesthetically to more introspective material such as the album's penultimate track, "Comeback." The briefest song on the record, clocking in right around two minutes, it sifted through the emotional wreckage left by the loss of a loved one, frank about the singer's sadness but resolute in the belief that death is not the end.
As fans would later come to understand, the song came from a particularly personal place for Prince. Two years prior to releasing The Truth, he'd suffered through the death of Amiir Gregory Nelson, his first and only child with wife Mayte Garcia; diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, the baby boy lived for only a week before passing away. The trauma cratered the couple, who'd divorce in 2000, but for at least a few moments, Prince was able to channel it into a graceful benediction of heartbreaking beauty.
"If you ever lose someone dear to you," urges one passage, "Never say the words 'They're gone' / They'll come back." That insistence in the face of death, especially coming after a verse in which Prince sings about crying after feeling a "sweet wind" that he "realized ... was you," is soothing for anyone who's lived through the bottomless grief of losing a child, but it isn't a cure for the pain. As Garcia wrote years later, even hearing the song for the first time prompted sadness.
Hear Prince Perform "Comeback"
"My heart fell," Garcia recalled. "The beauty and power of the song deeply moved me but at the time, it was too raw and for me, too soon. Writing the song allowed him to grieve about Amiir in a way that was difficult for him to do in person, even with me, his wife. But music was his refuge. It’s what he knew how to do — what he had to do — as an artist."
Though the couple parted, their shared sadness remained a bond — and when Prince passed away in April of 2016, it was to Amiir that her thoughts turned. "He’s with our son now," Garcia remembered thinking when she heard the news. "I know they’re finally together."