Prince dead at 57

Prince was a prodigiously gifted multi instrumental musician, performer and songwriter of omnivorous musical tastes. He took it all in, from Little Richard and James Brown and Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone to Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Santana and Fleetwood Mac. He was without any doubt a one of a kind genius. Today he died way before his time at the age of 57.

Prince was a hometown hero to pop music fans in Minnesota. He filmed much of Purple Rain at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Having grown up here, he set up shop back home after he became a star with a mansion and recording studios in the Minneapolis suburb Chanhassen. He was known to announce live performances on the premises at a moment’s notice. He made his presence felt.

Jon Bream covered Prince over the course of his career. Today Jon joined with Chris Riemenschneider to write a remembrance with a local angle. The Star Tribune has reposted its 2004 oral history today here.

Then Minneapolis ad man Owen Husney happened on to Prince as a teenager. He took him in, became his first business manager and secured his first recording contract. NPR tracked Owen down today for an interview that is posted here. The Pioneer Press has posted the 1977 article by Bob Protzman announcing Prince’s first record deal here.

We saw Prince perform live at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis when he rented the restaurant for three nights in January 2013 to rev up for a tour. We attended the second night’s early show and sat in the first row up against the stage directly across from Prince, who was wearing shades behind his electric piano. He played a funk heavy set that was a total delight. He looked about half his age and sounded great. I was struck most forcibly by the joyousness of the playing and the palpable excitement felt by the audience, my wife and me included.

He wrote “Manic Monday” for Apollonia 6 in 1984 but held on to it until he gave it away to the Bangles in 1986. Writing the song, Prince projected himself into the mind of a young lady working for a living from 9:00 to 5:00. He seems to have made the imaginative leap with great dexterity. In the video below, the girls give it an acoustic twist. I love this song.

Prince was a virtuoso on the electric guitar. In the live performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, he made something of a statement (video below).

Did I mention that Prince was a riveting live performer? The video posted here tells the story of his live 2007 Super Bowl halftime performance — “Purple Rain” in a downpour.

My friend Brian Sullivan writes: “My take is that he was quintessentially American. An independent spirit who defied the music establishment and carved his own path. I think his Super Bowl show – the most American of events – was one of the iconic moments in Super Bowl history.” RIP.


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