Spike Lee's new movie BlacKkKlansman, out on Aug. 10, tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, a Black detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs during the late 1970s. Lee makes sure that the movie connects to current events by ending the film with footage of the white supremacy riots in Charlottesville in August 2017, but with the movie ending on such a somber note, Lee naturally wanted a fitting song to play during the credits. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker set the tone with a Prince song in the BlacKkKlansman end credits, and it's a track that the "Purple Rain" singer had never released himself, called "Mary Don't You Weep."
Lee and Prince had had a close professional relationship before the latter passed away in April 2016, with the two collaborating on several projects. Lee directed a promo video for Prince's song “Money Don’t Matter 2Night,” and Prince wrote the entire soundtrack for Lee's movie Girl 6 in 1996. The men were so close that Prince even gifted Lee with one of his guitars, and so it's no surprise that Lee felt that the song that Prince recorded on cassette in the mid-'80s was perfect for BlacKkKlansman.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lee said, "I’ve become very close with Troy Carter, one of the executives at Spotify [and a Prince estate advisor]. So I invited Troy to a private screening. And after, he said, 'Spike, I got the song.' And that was 'Mary Don’t You Weep,'" Lee told Rolling Stone. "Prince wanted me to have that song, I don’t care what nobody says. My brother Prince wanted me to have that song. For this film. There’s no other explanation to me. This cassette is in the back of the vaults. In Paisley Park. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it’s discovered? Nah-ah. That ain’t an accident."
The song was released by Warner Bros., and it features Prince singing the song that Lee called a "Negro spiritual" when speaking to Rolling Stone. As cool as it is might be to discover a previously unreleased Prince song, it's not all that surprising since the artist reportedly recorded close to 1,000 unreleased songs, per Complex. In June, Prince's estate advisor, Troy Carter (whom Lee referenced to Rolling Stone), announced that Warner Bros. will release an album called Piano & A Microphone 1983 on Sept. 21, and "Mary Don't You Weep" is the first song from that album to get released. Then, in 2019, Prince's estate will release another album of previously unheard songs, as Rolling Stone reports.
If "Mary Don't You Weep" is any indication of the other songs on Piano & A Microphone 1983 — all recorded in Prince's home studio — it sounds like the record will make everyone incredibly emotional. And knowing Lee's and Prince's personal connection makes the BlacKkKlansman credits song even more meaningful than it would be on its own. Variety reports that after Prince passed away, Lee held an impromptu block party in Brooklyn, and in the past few years, the filmmaker has thrown a "Prince’s Born Day Purple People Party" to honor Prince's birthday in June.
"We were just cool," Lee told Variety, before explaining that the two artists generally spent time together at work due to their conflicting schedules. "[Prince would] show up at the club at four in the morning. I couldn’t hang. I gotta go to bed!" Lee said.
When Variety asked Lee if he has a Prince biopic in the works, Lee didn't exactly shut down the possibility. "I’d love to, but it’s not for me to say... I can’t just say 'I’m doing it,'" Lee said.