The singer refuses to comment on rumors about his newborn son

Prince Rogers Nelson has always made a game out of his penchant for privacy. But the mystery surrounding the singer took on tragic overtones last week when it became apparent — despite dogged efforts to conceal the fact — that Prince’s newborn son had died shortly after birth.

In late November, his record company reluctantly acknowledged the birth of a son to Prince, 38, and his wife, Mayte Garcia, 23, but refused to divulge specifics. But for weeks prior to the announcement, London tabs had been reporting that according to unnamed sources, the baby suffered from birth defects. These stories were quickly followed by speculation on the Internet and a Dec. 3 story in the National Enquirer that said the baby had died. But Prince, who was promoting his new album, Emancipation, didn’t disclose the baby’s condition to anyone, including Oprah Winfrey. On a Nov. 21 show, when she asked him, he replied: ”It’s all good. Never mind what you hear.”

Independent attempts to verify the child’s birth and death proved difficult. A birth certificate wasn’t filed with state authorities until Dec. 6. But while Garcia was listed as the mother, ”Father’s name” read, ”Mother refused information.”

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star Tribune tracked down what it believes to be the baby’s death certificate, filed Nov. 4. It states that a ”Boy Gregory,” born Oct. 16, died Oct. 23 of the extremely rare Pfeiffer syndrome type 2 — a condition in which the skull’s bones fuse together, causing pressure on the brain.According to the certificate, the death occurred at Children’s Health Care Minneapolis, which is affiliated with the hospital where the child was born, and was followed by cremation. The mother’s name is listed as ”Mia Gregory,” the same initials as Mayte Garcia.

At press time, local officials were investigating whether the death certificate was filed under a false name — a misdemeanor in Minnesota. A source at EMI, Prince’s new label, says execs have urged the singer to make a statement, but nothing has materialized.

While Prince’s lawyer, Londell McMillan, maintains that the artist ”expects extraordinary privacy,” one unguarded moment can be found on Emancipation. On the song ”Sex in the Summer” (originally titled ”Conception”), Prince included a recording of his then-unborn child’s heartbeat.