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During painful time, newly released music brings joy to Prince's family

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The album features the work of Prince's late father, John L. Nelson.
The album features the work of Prince's late father, jazz musician John L. Nelson. John Nelson's daughter Sharon Nelson called it a "dream come true" to hear her father's music. John Nelson's handwriting and music sheets are the background on the poster.
Nina Moini | MPR News

It's been a difficult few days for the family of the late music icon Prince, as authorities released investigative files from his 2016 fatal opioid overdose and said there would be no criminal charges in connection with his death.

But Sunday was a day of gratitude and song for his half-sister Sharon Nelson.

The 77-year-old, who lives part-time in Woodbury, greeted a line of fans inside iconic Minneapolis record store Electric Fetus on Sunday afternoon.

She wore big, dark sunglasses inside, but her bright smile and calm demeanor felt familiar to the fans eagerly awaiting a signed copy of a new album. The album isn't of Prince's music, though — it was released earlier this year and features the work of Prince and Sharon Nelson's late father, jazz musician John L. Nelson.

"Don't Play With Love — The John L. Nelson Project" is a recording of his compositions.

The album features jazz musician Louis Hayes, John Nelson's nephew, and was produced by Sharon Nelson at Paisley Park.

Sharon Nelson (left) meets with a fan at the Electric Fetus.
Sharon Nelson (left) meets with a fan at the Electric Fetus record store in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Nina Moini | MPR News

She calls it a "dream come true" to hear her father's music inside of a record store after all these years.

"Every single night at 7:30, Dad would put us to bed and he would start practicing downstairs and so we went to sleep with the sounds of Duke Ellington and all the greats," Sharon Nelson said. "We didn't know secretly he was writing his own music."

Nelson says she found several crates of his sheet music behind the furnace in her father's home back in the 1970s.

John Nelson died in 2001 at the age of 85, but had always dreamed of releasing his music, according to Sharon Nelson. 

"He is not here with us today but I did promise him his music and I did that," she said.

Prince and his father collaborated on hits such as "Scandalous" and "Purple Rain".

Sharon Nelson says she was going to call Prince just a few days before his death in April 2016 to ask him if she could record the album at his Paisley Park studios. She ultimately recorded the album there without her little brother there in person.

Nelson said Sunday that she didn't want to discuss the investigation into her brother's death. Prince died from an opioid overdose inside his Paisley Park residence in 2016. Last week, after a two-year-long investigation, the Carver County Attorney's Office announced there would be no criminal charges filed against anyone in relation to Prince's death. Investigators could not determine where pills containing the powerful opioid fentanyl that killed Prince came from.

Sharon Nelson did post on Twitter last week expressing her concerns with the investigation's evidence-gathering process. One tweet read, "There is so much about Prince's death and this investigation that troubles me and millions of Prince fans around the world."

While painful memories and questions linger, Nelson said Sunday that her late brother would have enjoyed the day celebrating their father's music — so that's what she decided she would do.

"He grew up on jazz just like me," Sharon Nelson said. "He would have loved this."