Los Angeles, United States | AFP |
Pop icon Prince, whose pioneering brand of danceable funk made him one of the most influential figures in music, died Thursday at his compound in Minnesota. He was 57.
The announcement came just a week after the enigmatic Grammy and Oscar winner — acclaimed for his guitar skills and soaring falsetto — was taken to hospital with a bad bout of influenza, which he made light of after the scare.
News of his death prompted a flood of tributes from the worlds of entertainment and politics, from Barack Obama to Mick Jagger, as well as ordinary fans — and even a tweet from NASA of a purple nebula, in Prince’s signature color.
“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,” said his spokeswoman, Yvette Noel-Schure, without elaborating.
The Carver County sheriff’s office in Minnesota said in a statement deputies responding to an emergency call had found an “unresponsive” Prince in an elevator.
Attempts to resuscitate him failed and he was pronounced dead at 10:07 am (1507 GMT), it said, adding that an investigation had been launched.
Prince became an international sensation in the 1980s, when he popularized the Minneapolis sound of danceable funk, incorporating rock elements. His 1984 album “Purple Rain” is often described as one of the greatest of all time.
US President Barack Obama, who seldom comments on celebrity matters, lamented the loss of a “creative icon.”
“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent,” Obama said in a statement.
“Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer.”
The artist — whose huge catalogue of hits includes “1999,” “Cream” and “Kiss” — lived on the outskirts of Minneapolis, where he was known for throwing parties and preserving his back recording in vaults at his Paisley Park studio.
He changed his name in the 1990s to an unpronounceable “love symbol” and wrote “slave” on his cheek to protest contractual conditions by his label Warner.
He was recently prolific in his output, releasing albums through streaming site Tidal, and had taken to scheduling shows at the last minute to avoid scalpers.
– ‘Uniquely gifted’ -“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin led an outpouring of tributes from the entertainment industry, describing Prince as “an original and a one of a kind” and insisting his music would live on.
“He changed the world!! A true visionary. What a loss. I’m devastated,” Madonna wrote on Instagram, where she posted a picture of herself with the Purple One.
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger tweeted that Prince’s “talent was limitless,” describing him as “one of the most unique and talented artists of the last 30 years.”
Samuel L. Jackson was among dozens of Hollywood stars who took to social media within an hour of the news breaking, describing feeling “crushed” by Prince’s death.
Actress Whoopi Goldberg and TV scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson both observed that Prince’s death “is what it sounds like When Doves Cry,” referring to the lead single from Purple Rain.
Public Enemy frontman Chuck D lamented that it was like “the Earth is missing a note” while Lenny Kravitz thanked his “musical brother” who had shown him “the possibilities within myself.”
Final dance party
Named after his jazz pianist and songwriter father’s stage name Prince Rogers, the pop icon was born in Minneapolis, although his family had its roots in Louisiana.
The famously private musician has revealed in rare interviews that he suffered from epilepsy as a child but told his mother, jazz singer Mattie Della, that he had been cured by divine intervention.
“My mother told me one day I walked in to her and said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to be sick anymore,’ and she said ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘Because an angel told me so.'” he told PBS in 2009.
“Now, I don’t remember saying it, that’s just what she told me.”
Among his many achievements, one of the most frequently cited was a spellbinding guitar solo during a cover of Beatles classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at his induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
He was in the middle of a pared-back “Piano and a Microphone” tour when he began experiencing health problems, cancelling a show in Atlanta due to flu.
He eventually played a rescheduled show but his private plane made an emergency landing early Friday last week in Illinois as he was returning from Georgia.
The musician invited fans via Twitter to a “dance party” at Paisley Park on Saturday for a token $10 each in a bid to prove his health problems were behind him, Minnesota’s Star Tribune newspaper reported.
He played “Chopsticks” on a purple Yamaha piano and a brief instrumental passage, the paper said.
“Wait a few days before you waste any prayers,” he reportedly told the roughly 200 in attendance.