I very much doubt if Prince, who died Thursday at 57, actually knew the full extent of the love and admiration he commanded among his fans while alive. Not since the death of Michael Jackson almost seven years ago has the entertainment world been thrown into such a deep, almost inconsolable mourning.
Outside his Paisley Park, Minneapolis home, thousands and thousands of mourners gathered to lay down wreaths in his honor. Radio stations in Minneapolis ran marathons of his music. Across America, from Minneapolis to New Orleans to Los Angeles to New York to San Francisco to Chicago, adoring fans held street parties and danced in tears all night celebrating his absolutely fantastic musical career.
From around the world, ordinary admirers and celebrities alike unveiled their hearts and poured out rousing tributes — all running out of superlatives to describe his extraordinary life and prodigious accomplishments. Genius. Legend. Icon. Virtuoso performer. Perfectionist. Megastar. True original. Numero uno. Philanthropist. Activist. Energetic. Fearless. Gentlemanly. Visionary, name it.
A shapeshifter, Prince experimented and conquered nearly all genres of music. President Barack Obama described him 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.”
Prince’s career spanned 35 years during which he released almost 40 albums, including Purple Rain for which he is most remembered and celebrated today. For that album released in 1984, the color purple became his signature color. Prince was a fashion god, forever delighting in the often stylishly garish outfits for which most rock stars are famous. If few singers could make the guitar talk, Prince was surely one of them.
Prince and Jackson, both very private and shy and reserved but spectacular and brazen performers on stage, had a rivalry over who was the boss. The journalist Toure, a close friend and biographer of Prince, told Salon magazine: “It was a real rivalry. I know from people who were friends with Prince that he cared very deeply about the competition with Michael Jackson, the rivalry with Michael Jackson.”
Some 23 years before his death, the legendary James Brown invited Prince and Jackson to his concert and gave a shout out to each of the men to come on stage for a cameo display of talent. The two megastars, as you will discover in this video, pulled off bravura performances. You decide for yourself who carried the day.
A human dynamo alive despite his diminutive stature, larger than life even in death, Prince’s sudden death, like those of Brown and Jackson before him, reminds us all of our own mortality and the transiency — after all — of all that has a beginning.
Prince was found dead on the elevator of his home. The result of an autopsy which was carried out the following day is still being awaited. May God rest his soul.