According to official record, Prince Rogers Nelson would have turned 58 today. But if the late star were still alive, he might not have agreed with this simple statement of fact. As he told Dutch TV host Ivo Niehe during a 1999 interview, Prince made a point of never celebrating his own birthday.
Prince lays out his philosophy to Niehe as though it were a philosophical riddle. He asks the host how many birthdays he has celebrated; Niehe deflects the question, and Prince answers for him: “I know that you had one birthday,” he begins. “You were born on a certain day. You had no more birthdays after that.”
He then goes on to explain how his refusal to commemorate his own birthday keeps him young. “I don’t celebrate birthdays, so that stops me from counting days, which stops me from counting time,” Prince begins, and then lapses into a silly voice, “which allows me to still look the same as I did 10 years ago.” The artist follows up the statement with an impish victory dance.
Prince was clearly joking around with Niehe, but his no-birthdays policy wasn’t something he made up on the spot. He also addressed the matter in another interview the year prior with Mel B (a.k.a. Scary Spice), which took place at Paisley Park. At the 7:20 mark, when she asks him to discuss why he doesn’t like birthdays, he gives a well-reasoned response. “We came here not knowing that we were gonna die,” he says. “Somebody told us that. And if we never knew we were gonna die, we wouldn’t celebrate a birthday.”
Prince continues with a calm definitive statement that now scans as somewhat eerie: “I’ll celebrate the day I die.”
“Oh, because you’re gonna move on to the next path in life?” asks Mel B.
“Yes,” answers Prince, giving the thumbs-up, while seeming as confident – and enigmatic – as ever.
Several years later, the world would learn of Prince being a member of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, a group that, as a rule, doesn’t celebrate birthdays. As far as which day to celebrate going forward, that’s a decision that each Prince fan will have to arrive at independently.