Music legend Prince sadly passed away yesterday. At the time of this writing an autopsy has been performed but a cause of death has not been made public, all we know for sure is he was found unresponsive in an elevator and couldn’t be resuscitated. Around the world landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building, as well as many peoples’ social media profiles, are being redressed in Prince’s signature color: PURPLE. Ryu Maru is temporarily going purple as well.
Ryu Maru is headquartered in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota. Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) was from Minnesota, and though such a huge star who literally could’ve lived and worked anywhere, he chose to live here and he chose to build his studio here. This is where he helped create the “Minneapolis Sound” in the 1980’s and solidified Minnesota’s place on the musical map. He then spent the decades after not only on his own art but nurturing other artists, writing songs for them, producing them, and giving many of them exposure at parties he’d occasionally hold at his studio estate named “Paisley Park.”
Unless you were living under a rock in the 1980s you likely remember when his landmark “Purple Rain” hit, but it’s all too easy to forget just how HUGE a hit it was. At one point he had the top album, top single, and top movie in America all at the same time! He was the first artist to ever achieve such success. “First Avenue,” the club in Minneapolis, is in many ways a historic venue because of Prince, having gained world-wide notoriety in the film “Purple Rain,” but it wasn’t just a movie shooting location – Prince actually performed there many, many times (however, despite popular misconceptions, he didn’t actually own the place).
Comic book fans will remember his amazing soundtrack to Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” film, fittingly titled simply “Batman.” The scene with Jack Nicholson as “The Joker” defacing famous artworks wouldn’t be the same without Prince’s music blasting from the very 80’s “boom box” of a henchman character, incidentally, named “Prince.”
However, Prince’s music video for the song “Partyman,” in which he appears as “The Joker” himself, in many ways outdoes Nicholson’s performance in the movie. (You may want to enjoy that video above before it gets pulled, Prince was notoriously protective of his work online and there’s no reason to believe his Estate will be any less so after his death).
He later performed what many consider one of the best Super Bowl half-time shows ever, in the middle of a Miami downpour. Where other artists may have cancelled the show or waited for the rain to stop, Prince reportedly said “can you make it rain harder?” When he performed he was always “all in” and many music fans agree he was arguably the best live musician of their lifetime.
He never forgot his roots, never thought he was so important he had to travel everywhere with security or an entourage (in fact the day before his death he was seen by himself riding his bike near his home on a trip to the drug store), and he never acted like he was too big to encourage the talent of others.
But Prince WAS a “big deal” to many people, especially here in Minnesota – not just because he was a rockstar, but because he was one of us, he chose to remain one of us. You couldn’t grow up here or live here without knowing who Prince was, or without hearing at least some of his music. When the Minnesota Twins baseball team’s new stadium opened they played Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” after every home run. It’s a tradition for veteran players on the team to make sure rookies know all the lyrics to “Little Red Corvette.” In 2010 the Minnesota Vikings football team streamed “Purple and Gold” on their website, it was a “fight-song” Prince wrote to support his local team in the NFL playoffs. That same year he let 89.3 “The Current” premiere his new single “Cause and Effect” as a gesture of support for independent radio, as the station is part of Minnesota Public Radio. According to disc jockey Mary Lucia the station would occasionally get calls from Prince asking what artists he should try to book for his next Paisley Park party? Prince performed multiple times at the radio station’s annual “Birthday Party” held, of course, at First Avenue. But Prince was also enigmatic, somewhat reclusive, very private, and had this “magical” air about him, possibly best summed up when he dubbed himself “The Purple Yoda” in the lyrics to “Laydown.”
It’s fitting that his actual given name was “Prince” because he was regarded as “Rock Royalty” in Minnesota, and obviously not just in his home state – as the tributes to him from around the globe attest. He will be missed, though perhaps nowhere more deeply than here in the place he called “home.”