It's been 37 years since Prince released 1999, but this week, the Prince estate will reissue a remastered version of the iconic album—this time with 35 previously unreleased tracks. During his lifetime, Prince was notoriously protective of his music, both released and unreleased. Notably, he had a long-term public battle with Warner Brothers over rights to his masters and sued Facebook users for posting links to unauthorized music. To learn about the estate's decision to release the record after his death, NPR's Michel Martin spoke with Michael Howe, the archivist for the Prince vault.
On the role of "Prince's archivist:"
The overarching thrust of the job is to organize and preserve Prince's audiovisual legacy—his vault—and the extension of that is to be the A&R guy for everything that comes out of the vault. So I'm responsible, to some degree, for contextualizing and preserving Prince's life work. It's a pretty daunting proposition, as you might imagine.
On the rationale for releasing these songs right now: