Tributes pour in for Prince

A new Prince mural in Uptown near 26th & Hennepin. Photo by Sarah McKenzie

The city has turned purple in honor of pop icon Prince, 57, whose sudden death Thursday has generated an outpouring of grief and headlines around the world.

City Council members read an honorary resolution for Prince on Friday — a tribute printed in purple ink. An excerpt noted: “Prince lived with an intellect and a savoir-faire, and no one in the universe will compare.”

Honorary Resolution for Prince Rogers Nelson

City Hall’s bells rang out in Prince tunes Sunday afternoon for 30 minutes. People stood in the rain and sat in their cars to listen to the bells play the songs, “Kiss,” “1999,” “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “When You Were Mine.”

On Monday, state Rep. Peggy Flanagan, a DFLer from St. Louis Park, sang “Purple Rain” on the House floor after legislators honored Prince with an honorary resolution and a moment of silence.

Sabathani Community Center — formerly Bryant Junior High School, which Prince attended — will be showing “Purple Rain” Monday through Friday night at 6 p.m. in the auditorium. The center, 310 E. 38th St., will also be hosting a Prince block party on Saturday, 1–6 p.m.

Meet Minneapolis has also put together a Prince’s Minneapolis map of his favorite hangouts, childhood home and other places that helped shape his life, including Cedar Lake where he had the famous “Purple Rain” scene with Apolonia where he told her she had to “purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka” and then said “that ain’t Lake Minnetonka” after she jumped into the cold water.

Thousands turned out for a Prince Memorial Street Party Thursday night hosted by the Current outside First Avenue — a venue he put on the map with his 1984 film, “Purple Rain.” Several Twin Cities musicians performed. Rapper Lizzo also flew into the city to be part of the concert and delivered an electrifying  cover of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones.

“I love you so much, Prince,” she said before her song. “Thank you so much for what you did for all of us.”

Singer Chastity Brown also enchanted the crowd with a cover of “Purple Rain.”

First Avenue held all-night dance parties to pay tribute to the music legend and Minneapolis native Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Target Field Station showed “Purple Rain” on its jumbo screen Saturday night.

Thousands filled the streets next to First Avenue on Thursday night to celebrate the life of Prince. Photo by Sarah McKenzie
Thousands filled the streets next to First Avenue on Thursday night to celebrate the life of Prince. Photo by Sarah McKenzie

Target Field posted a photo of Prince on scoreboards with the words: “Good night sweet Prince” and lit up the ballpark in shades of purple. The I-35W and Lowry Avenue bridges’ LED lights also turned purple, as did the lights ringing the top of the IDS and landmarks around the world.

Once news of Prince’s death at Paisley Park in Chanhassen was reported midday, fans started flocking to the night club to pay their respects, placing flowers, purple balloons, candles and other tributes by his star.

Lauren Melzer lives downtown and works in the music industry. She walked down to First Avenue donning her “Minnesota Nice” Prince shirt and purple headphones.

“I was walking in the skyway and dancing in my head a little bit because his music is so good, but it’s a really sad day. I can’t believe how young he [was],” she said. “He’s iconic of Minnesota music. It’s such a big impact.”

Mourners outside of First Avenue. Photo by Eric Best

Shenandoah Bauer joined the crowd outside the venue to pay her respects to Prince, whom she saw at Paisley Park.

“I listened to him when I was in grade school, high school,” she said. “I feel so lucky to have seen him them.”

Her favorite will always be “Purple Rain.”

“I love all of his work, but that’s classic Prince,” she said. “Prince changed my life. He did.”

Prince fan Lauren Melzer. Photo by Eric Best

In a post on its Facebook page, First Avenue wrote: “Our hearts are broken. Prince was the Patron Saint of First Avenue. He grew up on this stage, and then commanded it, and he united our city. It is difficult to put into words the impact his death will have on the entire music community, and the world. As the tragic news sinks in, our thoughts are with Prince’s family, friends, and fans. We deeply mourn the loss of our friend, a true star. Rest in peace and power Prince.”


“It’s still extremely numbing. I can’t believe that he’s gone,” said Fulton resident Jake Rudh.

The day Prince died, Rudh was scheduled to host his show Transmission on 89.3 The Current. He rededicated his show to Prince, featuring “Pop Life” and “Controversy” as well as songs Prince wrote for other artists, including “Manic Monday” by The Bangles.

After the radio show, he headed straight to First Avenue to DJ the all-night dance party, where a police escort helped him navigate the crowds.

“It looked like New Year’s Eve in New York City,” he said.

Rudh said it was an amazing feeling to play the video of “Purple Rain” in the same room where Prince performed the song.

“I was providing a soundtrack for people to just feel,” Rudh said. “It was an extremely emotionally-draining event, and one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Rudh will return to First Avenue to DJ a Prince tribute and dance party on Saturday, June 4.

The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul has the star’s famous “Purple Rain” suit on display and has created a memory wall for people to leave notes about Prince.

President Barack Obama said the world has lost a “creative icon.”

“Michelle and I join millions of fans from around the world in mourning the sudden death of Prince. Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. 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,” the president said in a statement.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Prince “defined an era.”

“His tremendous talent was matched only by his generosity and commitment to improving his community. Minnesotans and our nation mourn the loss of a great artist today; one who has left an unforgettable mark on music history, and whose contributions to the betterment of our state will be remembered for years to come,” he said.
Congressman Keith Ellison also offered his condolences.

“My heart is heavy with the news of Prince’s passing. To the people of Minnesota, Prince was a cultural ambassador. He inspired countless others around the world with his music and theatrics. Prince showed us it was OK to be different. He showed us that the best way to be cool was to be yourself. Prince wasn’t merely a pop star – to many of us, he was much, much more,” Ellison said. “But the world will be a little less bright without Prince in it.”

In a lengthy blog post, Mayor Betsy Hodges wrote: “For the residents of Minneapolis, the loss of Prince is too large to describe. His music brought untold joy to people all over the world. But in Minneapolis, it is different. It is harder here. Prince was a child of our city and his love of his hometown permeated many of his songs. Our pride in his accomplishments permeates our love of Minneapolis.”

One of the many tributes for Prince at First Avenue. Photo by Sarah McKenzie
One of the many tributes for Prince at First Avenue. Photo by Sarah McKenzie

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis posted: “Today we mourn with the world the loss of one of our most beloved hometown heroes. He pushed us all to be our whole selves. Rest In Peace and Power Prince. It’s hard to put into words what Prince means to us. We love you. We will never be the same without you.”

Glen Taylor, owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, lamented the star’s loss, noting Prince was a devoted fan of the basketball teams.

“Today we lost a local icon, legend and musical innovator. Prince represented Minnesota with grace, passion and a hunger for helping others. Over the years be became a huge Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx fan, attending numerous games and even treating our Lynx players and staff with a private concert at Paisley Park after winning the WNBA Championship this past fall,” he said. “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy, especially the Prince family.”

Journal columnist Jim Walsh reflected on Prince’s impressive basketball skills while in junior high in Minneapolis in a March 2015 column. The photo below featuring Prince with his teammates went viral.

Prince poses for a photo with his junior high basketball team.
Prince poses for a photo with his junior high basketball team.

Jenise Doty, who went to school with Prince, shared memories on South High School’s website.

“As a kid, Prince was short, shy and not remarkable looking. He wasn’t as popular a basketball player as his half brother,” she wrote. “But he loved music, and he pursued it relentlessly (sometimes skipping class to do it).”

She said the star’s passing should encourage people to take time to reflect on the people in their lives.

“Today is a perfect opportunity for us and our students to take another look at that person at school that we have been underestimating,” Doty wrote. “Look left, look right and look within and ask ourselves; how awesome would it be if this person found something they really loved to do, worked at it, and shared it with others? You don’t have to be world famous to have impact. Love, work, share and be proud of who you are and where you are from: these are Prince’s legacies. Oh, and the music …”

The passing of Prince got Randy Korn thinking about the history of the Kingfield neighborhood building where he and the employees of House Lift, his home remodeling business, show up for work every day. Through much of the 1980s and ’90s, 4330 Nicollet Ave. S. was owned by Flyte Tyme Productions, the music production company of Prince associates “Jimmy Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis.

“Whether Prince recorded here I can’t verify, but I know a lot of the projects he was involved with did,” Korn said. “It’s not a stretch to think that.”

Korn recently offered a tour of the building, which retains many of the features of a recording studio. For acoustical reasons, none of the walls meet at right angles, and the nearly foot-thick walls block out any sound from the busy avenue out front or the jet flight path overhead. Many of the interior doors have special sound-dampening rubber seals.

Before they became Grammy-winning producers of Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan and many others, Harris (a Washburn High School graduate) and Lewis were members of The Time with Morris Day, a group that toured with Prince in the early ’80s. As a story recounted in a number of places online goes, the pair were fired — either by Day or Prince — from an early ’80s tour after their flight was grounded by a blizzard and they missed a performance.

Back in the ’80s, a television crew from the Minneapolis PBS affiliate toured the Flyte Tyme Productions studios on Nicollet. Led by the gregarious Harris, the walk-through of the building appears in the KTCA-produced 1988 documentary, “The Minneapolis Sound,” which has been preserved on YouTube.

Jenell Johnson had brushes with Prince while working at the Uptown/Lagoon theaters.

“Every once in awhile, Prince would rent out an entire theater and he and his entourage would sneak in the back to watch a movie,” Johnson wrote on Facebook. “We had a special salt shaker with Prince’s symbol on it just for these occasions—the lucky manager on duty got to deliver popcorn and the special salt shaker to Prince and his crew. Every time I ate popcorn on break, I would use Prince’s salt and feel like I was *this* close to greatness.”

Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin went to high school with the star. “Went to Mpls Central with Prince. Nice, quiet kid who turned into a legend. Always in the music room, creating,” he tweeted.

Prince was found unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park shortly before 10 a.m. Paramedics tried to administer CPR but were not able to revive him. He was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m., according to the Carver County Sheriff’s Office. Autopsy results are expected in coming weeks.

— Dylan Thomas contributed to this report 

A memorial for Prince at Paisley Park. Photo by Michelle Bruch
A memorial for Prince at Paisley Park. Photo by Michelle Bruch