Music icon Prince dead at 57
(CNN)Prince, who defined the sound of the ’80s with songs such as “Kiss” and “Purple Rain” and defied the music industry in a fight for creative freedom, died Thursday.
The 57-year-old singer was found unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota, Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson said.
Paramedics tried to perform CPR but were unable to revive him, the sheriff said. He was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m., less than 30 minutes after sheriff’s deputies responded to a medical call at the scene.
Authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding his death, Olson said. An autopsy is scheduled to take place Friday.
Prince’s publicist confirmed his death but didn’t provide details about the possible cause or who was with the musician.
“It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson, has died at his Paisley Park residence this morning,” publicist Yvette Noel-Schure said.
A man called 911 at 9:43 a.m. from Prince’s estate, first reporting an unconscious person and then reporting a death, according to a transcript of the call released by authorities.
“The person is dead here. … And the people are just distraught,” the man said as he struggled to find an address to give the dispatcher.
The person who died, deputies soon discovered, was Prince. Authorities haven’t identified who made the call to 911 or details about the circumstances surrounding the call.
Fans flock to Paisley Park
Word of Prince’s death sparked a massive outpouring of grief on social media, outside his famed studios and even from the White House.
Fans rushed to record stores to pick up albums and other Prince memorabilia. Some said the icon’s death “is what it sounds like when doves cry,” a reference to his monster hit from 1984.
“As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader and an electrifying performer,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement. ” ‘A strong spirit transcends rules,’ Prince once said — and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative.”
Kaleena Zanders cried in the car as she drove to Amoeba Music in Los Angeles on Thursday. She spent $173 on Prince-related items at the store, including a vinyl edition of Prince’s iconic album “Purple Rain.”
“Prince means the future, because he’s changed music, everyone in music, he’s influenced every person,” she said, “and I believe that he represents our future, and it kind of died with him in a way.”
Fans camped out by Paisley Park, the artist’s home and recording studio, leaving bouquets of flowers and signs at a makeshift memorial.
They also flocked to First Avenue, the downtown Minneapolis dance club that became a landmark after Prince used it in the movie “Purple Rain,” CNN affiliate WCCO reported. Mourners left flowers, cards and candles on the sidewalk outside, and snapped photos of the wall where Prince’s name is painted inside a large star. Many lined up for an all-night dance party in Prince’s honor.
Asher Wade, 27, spent the day listening to Prince music with friends and came to First Avenue with a purple teardrop painted on his face.
“I grew up listening to his music,” he said. “My parents loved him. I grew to love him. … (it’s) heartbreaking.”
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Just this month, Prince made news, but it wasn’t for his music. Hours before he was set to go onstage, the singer postponed two shows he’d been scheduled to perform at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
“The entertainer is battling the flu,” the Fox said in a statement that day.
A week later, he took the stage in Atlanta to perform two concerts with 80-minute sets, unusually short for him. The stage was engulfed in lavender smoke. It was just Prince at his piano. He played his classic songs but kept the mood light and fun — at one point showing off his skills with a version of the Peanuts theme song.
That concert, a week ago, earned rave reviews. Prince himself seemed to feel the power of his performance, posting afterward on social media, “I am transformed.”
But as he headed back home to Minnesota, Prince made an unexpected stop.
The singer’s plane made an emergency landing Friday and he reportedly was rushed to a hospital in Moline, Illinois.
Afterward, his publicist said, “He is fine and at home.”
On Saturday, he appeared before a small gathering of fans at a Paisley Park dance party, proudly showing them a new purple Yamaha piano and a guitar that was made for him in Europe. The appearance, Minneapolis Star Tribune music critic Jon Bream wrote the next day, seemed aimed at proving he was alive and well.
“He never intended to perform on Saturday. There was no microphone stand next to his piano,” Bream wrote. “He just wanted to demonstrate that reports of his dire health were greatly exaggerated.”
The music critic noted that Prince showed off his new guitar, but didn’t perform with it.
“I have to leave it in the case, or I’ll be tempted to play it,” Prince told the crowd, according to Bream. “I can’t play the guitar at all these days, so I can keep my mind on this (the solo piano) and get better.”
‘He was more connected to us’
During that appearance, Prince made a passing reference to the emergency landing his plane had made in Illinois, according to fans.
“He basically said, when you hear news, give it a few days before you waste any prayers,” DJ Michael Holz told WCCO.
Mike Rendahl, who was also at Paisley Park Saturday, said he was devastated by the news of the singer’s death.
“He was more connected to us Saturday night than I had ever seen,” he told WCCO.
Reflections like that about Prince performing are no surprise, Michaela Angela Davis told CNN.
The writer and cultural critic, who was once Prince’s stylist, said he played as brilliantly for 75 people as he did for 75,000.
“He was playing for the music. He was the music,” she said. “He literally told me that he thought in music. …. Sometimes, you could be at lunch with him, and he would get up and leave, because there was a melody so urgent, a music so real, that he would just go to the studio and put it down.”
Fame reached fever pitch
Prince’s sound was as unique and transfixing as he was. He created what became known as the Minneapolis sound, which was a funky blend of pop, synth and new wave.
Controversy followed the singer and that, in part, made his fans adore him more.
The singer’s fame never waned through the decades, but he was considered synonymous with the 1980s. His fame reached a fever pitch with the 1984 film “Purple Rain,” about an aspiring musician, his troubled home life and a budding romance.
He was a prolific musician. Between 1985 and 1992, he released eight albums, one per year, including the soundtrack for Tim Burton’s “Batman.” He starred in two more movies during that era: “Under the Cherry Moon” and “Graffiti Bridge.” He also put out a concert film. “Sign ‘o’ the Times” hit theaters in 1987.
He infamously changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in the 1990s during a dispute with his record label, Warner Bros. He started to become known then as the “Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”
In 2000, when the singer’s publishing contract with the company expired, he reclaimed the name Prince.
Prince won seven Grammy Awards and earned 30 nominations. Five of his singles topped the charts and 14 other songs hit the Top 10. He won an Oscar for best original song score for “Purple Rain.”
The singer’s predilection for lavishly kinky story-songs earned him the nickname “His Royal Badness.” He was also known as the “Purple One” because of his colorful fashions.
Speaking with Larry King on CNN almost two decades ago, Prince said he knew what was always important to him.
“I kind of did what I wanted to do. I wanted my music, even now, to speak loudest for me.”