Musical genius Prince died April 21 at the age of 57. Subscribe now for an inside look into his private life and shocking death, only in PEOPLE.
The cause of the star’s death on April 21 at age 57 has yet to be revealed. Despite his longtime lawyer L. Londell McMillan’s insistence that the singer was “not on any drugs that would be cause for concern,” sources confirm to PEOPLE in this week’s cover story that Prince once had a history of using the prescription painkiller Percocet.
Though he seemed to be clean-living and eschewed recreational drugs, he may have used the powerful opiates to treat ongoing pain from his years of onstage performances – almost always in heels – which had begun to take a toll on his body, sources say.
“His hip bothered him from jumping off risers for 20 years,” musician and ex-girlfriend Sheila E. tells PEOPLE.
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Surgery may not have been an easy answer for the pain. Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness. The faith prohibits its followers from accepting blood transfusions, making some routine medical procedures dangerous and complicated.
Still, rumors of prescription drug abuse surprise many who knew him – especially because Jehovah’s Witnesses also abstain from drugs and limit alcohol use.
Prince would “drink a little red wine – no beers,” says James Lundstrom, a convergent at the St. Louis Park Kingdom Hall congregation, where the singer belonged.
An autopsy of Prince’s body was conducted just one day after he was found unresponsive in an elevator at his famed Paisley Park estate outside Minneapolis. While the medical examiner found “no obvious signs of trauma,” toxicology reports may take weeks to complete.
Other sources tell PEOPLE that the “Raspberry Beret” singer had also been struggling with an “ongoing illness” at the time of his shocking death – just under one week after his private plane made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois so that he could be rushed – unresponsive – to the hospital to receive what several reports called a “save shot.”
“The people close to him were very concerned for his health and indicated he’d been undergoing treatments which made his immune system weak,” a source says.
Learn Fascinating Behind-the-Scenes Stories About Prince’s Most Iconic Performances
Prince left Moline just three hours later on April 15, with his rep telling PEOPLE at the time that he was simply fighting a prolonged battle with the flu.
Regardless of his health, Prince remained resilient until the end, telling fans at a boisterous Paisley Park party on April 16, “wait a few days before you waste any prayers.”
• Reporting by JEFF NELSON