The world of pop music doesn’t always accommodate true originals. Most record executives prefer to play it safe by signing carbon-copies of existing stars — yet another long-haired guitar shredder or supermodel with a decent voice. Still, sometimes the talent of a sonic genius is too pure to be ignored.
That was certainly the case for Prince, a groundbreaking and mysterious hitmaker with no equal. He delighted fans with his ever-changing persona and catalogue of raunchy tunes. But underneath his flowery clothes and velvet vocals, Prince was carrying a burden that nobody else could’ve imagined.
You must live under a rock — or have never heard of rock — if you can’t name a Prince song. The iconoclastic star pumped out hits across five decades, though he didn’t get his start in New York or Hollywood.
Instead, Prince Rogers Nelson spent his formative years in rural Minnesota. Going by “Skipper” as a child, he was shy and reclusive. The boy was small and suffered from epilepsy, but he had musical charisma running through his veins.
His father, John Lewis Nelson, embarked on a semi-successful jazz career under the moniker Prince, and the boy’s mother Mattie often sang alongside him. Their house was full of music, though the harmony stopped when the couple divorced.
This turn of events sent Skipper bouncing from household to household. Lucky for him, his fragmented family life provided one invaluable experience. His new stepdad took him to see James Brown, and he was in awe of the soul man’s performance.
During his teen years, Skipper explored more of his musical heritage. He picked up various instruments and began writing songs. Meanwhile, he adopted a flamboyant style of dress — he later said he wanted to finally stand out — and started using his given first name.
Prince soon caught the attention of every music aficionado around Minneapolis, though his most fateful admirer was Owen Husney. The businessman signed on as the 19-year-old’s manager and landed him a recording contract with Warner Bros.
Propelled by early hits like “1999” and “Little Red Corvette,” the young Minnesotan soon became the a household name. Music fans couldn’t get enough of his blending of rock, funk, R&B, but his sexually explicit lyrics also turned more than a few heads.
Most notably, his raunchy tunes prompted Tipper Gore — wife of Vice President Al Gore — to petition for parental advisory notices on albums. Every bit of controversy Prince faced, however, only fanned the fire of his stardom.
In 1984, Prince became a movie star in Purple Rain, which featured hit songs from his album of the same name. The multi-platform masterpiece cemented him as one of the all-time greats. Everybody wanted a piece of Prince.
That included countless women, and the rockstar was only too eager to oblige. Besides enjoying the company of Madonna and Kim Basinger, Prince was twice married to younger women. His first wife, Mayte Garcia, was just 16 when they first met.
Though his love life consumed a ton of energy, Prince truly lived in the studio. Marking himself as one of the most prolific musicians ever, he wrote and recorded over 600 songs. He often gave away hits to friends like Sinead O’Connor, Stevie Nicks, and The Bangles.
As the 1990s came around, there was no denying that Prince was all-time rock royalty. But for a moment it seemed that he tapped the depths of his inspiration. He just wasn’t pumping out classics like he used to.
In large part, the musician was fed up by the record industry. He lashed out at his corporate overlords by performing as “the artist formerly known as Prince” with the word “slave” written across his face. His fans wondered if he was about to hang up his phallic guitar forever.
Just as the middle-aged rock god seemed content to disappear, one performance brought him roaring back. At the 2004 Grammys, he and Beyoncé ripped through a medley of hits. That woke fans up to the fact that Prince’s best years could still be ahead of him.
Boosted by a record-breaking $100 million deal, Prince resumed recording and touring with an energy that he hadn’t matched since Purple Rain. Most famously, he enthralled TV audiences with an otherworldly Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2007.
Meanwhile, he did a lot of good behind the scenes. Prince, without notifying the press, gave away millions to schools, libraries, and charitable organizations like YesWeCode. The artist had so many plans for the future, but sadly, most wouldn’t come to fruition.
On an April morning in 2016, an eerie silence filled the halls of Paisley Park, the singer’s magnificent home. The worst fears of his staff were realized when they found him collapsed in an elevator. It was already too late.
At just 57 years old, the dynamo rocker had passed from this world to the next. He accidentally overdosed on a counterfeit painkiller, one that he became secretly dependent on during his final years. Everywhere, music fans cried out for an explanation.
Authorities cleared Prince’s medical team of any criminal wrongdoing, and the investigation revealed much about his inner demons. Besides struggling with two hip replacements, the singer was taking the medication as a way to deal with an opioid addiction. He had no idea they were laced with poison.
One of Prince’s biggest admirers was Tom Petty, who shredded “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” alongside him at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Prince’s demise made Petty realize that rockers were a dying breed.
He’d find out the full truth of that all too soon. Just a year later, in October 2017, every media outlet in the world was spinning a story about Petty’s health. However, nobody could quite agree on the facts.
Some reports claimed Petty suddenly passed away, while others asserted he was still alive. His demise seemed so unlikely, after all. Just one week earlier, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers wrapped up their 40th Anniversary Tour.
Sadly, the rumors proved to be true. Petty died of an accidental drug overdose at age 66. Fans all over the world mourned for him, though those closest to the musician took it even harder.
There were four women determined to protect Tom’s legacy, whatever the cost. The first was his wife, Jane Benyo. She was mostly out of the picture following their 1996 divorce, but Jane did make two lasting contributions to Tom’s life.
Corbis / Neal Preston
Jane gave birth to their two beloved daughters, Adria and Annakim. Both girls worked in the arts and were fiercely protective of their father’s music. After past family drama, they felt particularly cautious about outsiders swooping in and taking over.
Instagram / Annakim Violette
Adria and Annakim didn’t begrudge their parents for splitting up, as the marriage just wasn’t working. They didn’t even resent their dad for remarrying in 2001. But they did want their new stepmom, Dana York, to know that she wasn’t in charge.
That generation divide only widened after lawyers explained the intricacies of Petty’s will. The rocker signed a lot of things in his storied career — including a contract that has torn his family apart.
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Luxurious properties, nonstop royalties, and a fat bank account padded out the late musician’s net worth to just under $100 million. His widow’s and daughters’ biggest concern, however, wasn’t the money.
What they coveted most was control over Tom Petty’s vast catalog. His will named Dana as the sole trustee of his music, but also vaguely stipulated that Adria and Annakim had equal management. Did that make it a 50-50 split, or did the daughters have a majority?
Both sides insisted they had ownership over the Petty legacy, complicated by the fact that they had very different views of how to honor Tom’s wishes. Dueling lawsuits were filed, with many of the most popular songs of the 20th century hanging in the balance.
Tom’s backing band, the Heartbreakers, could only nervously watch and see how the suit played out. They hoped the Petty family would do right by their contributions, but the rockers also realized his work expanded far beyond them.
Petty also explored all manner of solo and side projects. Notably, he teamed up with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne to form the Traveling Wilburys, the most star-studded supergroup ever.
With those high stakes in mind, Dana suggested they hire a professional manager to oversee Petty’s work. Adria and Annakim, in turn, accused their stepmother of trying to misappropriate funds from the family fortune. But she fired back.
Through high-profile lawyer Adam Streisand, Dana alleged that Tom’s daughters sought to sell out their father, who always wanted to put his art and fans first. They supposedly drew up a ruthlessly commercial plan to fill their own pockets.
Dana’s filing claimed, “Adria wanted to authorize Tom’s name and likeness to be used to promote products akin to Paul Newman, whose face adorns bottles of salad dressing and so on.” And that wasn’t the only branding issue the Petty legacy faced.
Dana also clashed with Tom’s daughters over the design of a box set of his greatest hits. Adria insisted on multiple artwork changes and managed to omit The Heartbreakers’ name on the cover. These disagreements put future releases in further jeopardy.
For now, the exact direction of Petty’s body of work is in doubt, though it’s hard to envision him becoming the mascot for a line of foods and sauces. Still, one family member is adamant this conflict will work itself out.
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Adria said she wants to reunite her family and honor her dad. “It’s been a difficult time. But I’ve seen remarkable changes in my family in the best of ways because of this, and I’ve seen a lot of catharsis and healing in the last 16 months,” she expressed.
Fortunately, the music of Tom Petty speaks for itself. With a bevy of hit records, three Grammy awards, and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, fans will enjoy his songs for years to come. But the mixture of business and family is a potent one.
Perhaps Dana, Adria, and Annakim can follow the example of David Cassidy’s family. In 2017, the bubblegum pop singer’s fortune became the focus of one of the sourest disputes imaginable.
David Cassidy danced onto the scene in 1970 as a member of TV’s hit series The Partridge Family. Sensing that America was craving more singing siblings, ABC decided that a show focusing on a traveling family band might prove popular. And they were right.
The Partridge Family was a smashing success and went on to be nominated for numerous awards in its early seasons, including two Golden Globes and a Grammy. The cast even released nine successful albums during its four-year run.
In fact, the show became so successful that Hollywood icons were clambering to get involved. It quickly became known for its high-profile guest stars like Jodie Foster, Farah Fawcett, and Dick Clark. Even pre-Luke Skywalker Mark Hamill showed up!
To everyone watching at home, The Partridge Family felt like an escape. The carefree tunes painted a world that was more wholesome and less troubling than their own. But behind the scenes, things weren’t so rosy for the cast, especially David.
See, David quickly became a teen sensation. He’d routinely come home to find naked women waiting for him in his house, and his face was all over the lunchboxes and t-shirts of young girls everywhere. But fame wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Sony was raking in the cash with promotions for The Partridge Family, but David wasn’t seeing any of that. While millions were being made off his likeness, he was only getting a paltry $600 a week. Even his fan club was run by money-hungry executives.
But because of his contract, there was nothing David could do — until his manager realized something. David had been under 18 when he signed his contract, so Sony had to renegotiate it. But by then, David had already been cut out of most of his fortune.
Angry with the studio, David found other ways he could rebel. The Partridge Family portrayed him as a squeaky-clean teen, so he toyed around with ways to change his public persona — much to producer’s chagrin.
In 1972, David did an interview with Rolling Stone where he talked about things like sex and drugs — definitely not in line with the innocent character Sony wanted him to be. And David took it a step further by posing nude for the magazine cover. Uh oh!
But once The Partridge Family was over, and “Cassidymania” had subsided, David struggled to adjust to his new life. He eventually revealed he was an alcoholic and was later arrested multiple times for driving under the influence.
His personal life was becoming just as chaotic as well. Ten years after leaving The Partridge Family, David had already been married and divorced twice. He later married for a third and final time before getting divorced in 2016.
But in 2017, David revealed something that left his fans speechless; he was suffering from dementia. His mother had struggled with the same disease, but he had ignored the warning signs before then. “I was in denial,” said David, “but a part of me always knew this was coming.”
His struggles caused him to be estranged from much of his family during the last years of his life, but when he was hospitalized later that year, his whole family reunited to support him in his time of need.
David died of organ failure surrounded by friends and family who loved him. But he kept his spirit of chaos even in death. See, David’s will contained a surprise that no one expected…
As it turned out, David had left his entire estate to his son Beau and left nothing to his daughter Katie. In fact, the will went so far as to specify, “It is my specific intent not to provide any benefits hereunder to Katherine Evelyn Cassidy and/or any descendant of Katherine Evelyn Cassidy.”
Fans and family were also stunned to discover that David’s entire estate was only worth $150,000 by the time of his death. It seemed that his chaotic lifestyle had led him to squander the success he had found on The Partridge Family.
Because his relationship with Katie’s mother was so short-lived, David had never felt responsible for her while she was growing up. He recognized the errors of his ways later in life and the two reconciled, so the will came as a shock to many family members.
See, David had written the will back in 2004 when the two were still estranged and never updated it, so it’s unclear if had still been his intention thirteen years later to keep her out of it.
But Katie didn’t have hard feelings and cherished the time she spent with David. “My father’s last words were, ‘So much wasted time,'” she said. “This will be a daily reminder for me to share my gratitude with those I love to never waste another minute.”
Reconciling with his daughter reminded David that family is what’s really important in life. “I love that I’ve had an amazing life that has touched millions of people all over the world,” he said, shortly before his death. “I’m flattered. The world needs more kindness.”