April 21, 2016, will be remembered as the day the world lost one of its greatest musicians. On that day, Prince Rogers Nelson, known to his legions of fans worldwide simply as Prince, was found dead in his home in Minneapolis. He was 57.
Prince's musical ingenuity, creativity and passion touched countless hearts and influenced scores of musicians, including Sinead O'Connor, Cyndi Lauper, Sheilah E. and many others. His songs "Purple Rain," "When Doves Cry," "Party Like It's 1999" and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" surpass pop music hits and are unmistakable, treasured pieces of American pop culture.
Richmonders may recall Prince's visit to now-shuttered dance club Cafine's in the fall of 2000. For many, the vision of the slim, elegant singer dancing the night away in the River City is an unforgettable one.
Among his many accomplishments, Prince earned seven Grammys, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. He sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time.
Prince was never shy to speak his mind. In 1993, he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, after disputes with his record company at the time, Warner Bros, and appeared with the word "slave" on his face in protest of not owning the rights to his music.
His personal style was often described as androgynous, blurring the line between traditional male and female dress with heels and makeup, to the delight of his fans around the globe. Most recently, he embarked on an international tour, "Piano and a Microphone," and he had recorded four albums in the last 18 months. He also announced at a New York concert that he was writing his memoir, "The Beautiful Ones." His music famously roved from pop to funk to R&B to rock to jazz and beyond, losing none of its impact or soul in the process.
Here, we gather reflections on his musical legacy and memories of his performances from Richmond writers, musicians, artists and music lovers.
Don Harrison, Richmond magazine contributor:
"I remember spending the Summer of 1987 listening to his 'Sign O' The Times' LP — easily one of the best albums of the 1980s. I played a lot of basketball that summer at Henrico High School, fell in with a diverse group of guys — young, old, black, white — who would meet there. I would usually bring a boom box along and the only tape that we could all agree on — literally — was 'Sign O' The Times.' Very few artists these days have that ability to draw everyone in — we have become so diffuse in our tastes that people like Prince, an artist that we can all agree on, are becoming fewer and farther between. He was the last of the undeniables."
Kate Andrews, WRIR DJ:
"I saw him when he was The Artist in 1998 in Washington, D.C. He'd sworn off the name Prince because of his record label dispute. I remember that he didn't sing the dirty lyrics from 'Darling Nikki' (which is most of them), probably because of his Christian beliefs, but he'd start the lines and let the rest of us sing the song. He was sitting at the piano, pointing the mic at the audience. I was in the 10th row or so. It was the most fun I've ever had at a concert, and I still remember it vividly nearly 20 years later. ... I did a Cause & Effect show on Prince in 2011 for WRIR. It's here. Don't let your 5-year-old hear it! When I saw him in 1998, it changed my life. Top 5 concert! ."
Robey Martin, Richmond magazine contributor:
"Do you remember the fudge shop at Sixth Street Marketplace? My parents would take us to Disney on Ice and then there afterward. They sang Prince songs whilst making fudge. It was my first introduction to him — their versions of “When Fudge Cries” and 'Fudge Rain.' "
Kimberly Fox Knight, performer, Foxhouse LLC:
"I've been a fan of Prince [ever] since I can remember. From 'Diamonds and Pearls' to 'Musicology,' his influence ... has helped me study who I am as an artist. His ability to think outside the box is what motivated me to incorporate all genres of music in my work. I'm truly heartbroken over his passing, but I will never forget his legacy.”
Bird Cox, Richmond magazine contributing editor:
"At camp in the summer of 1992, Dave — one of my camp counselors — showed us a picture of his house, which featured a huge wooden sign engraved in Latin. It read, "If you didn't come to party, don't bother knocking on my door." Both Prince and Dave were immediately etched into my mind as the most brilliant people in history, and an obsession with Prince's music was born, down to the feverish hunting of B-sides and mandatory viewings of 'Purple Rain' for everyone I loved. RIP. 'Together we'll love through all space and time, so don't cry.' "
Marty Key of Steady Sounds:
"In the fourth grade we had a 'dress up as your favorite musician' day and I chose Prince. 'Little Red Corvette' was all over MTV at the time and I was really obsessed with it. My mom let me borrow one of her white blouses, I teased my hair and wore sunglasses all day."
Lance Cooper, music journalist:
"First time seeing Prince was at The Forum. He played every instrument on stage, hit every note with insane energy, and threw up fiery guitar solos. We lost a true legend."
Spencer Turner, educator/artist/activist:
"Growing up in the MTV generation, I think I learned more about sexuality and the power, poetry and transformative beauty it signified from watching Prince do his thing than any sex-ed class from school or any poem by a French symbolist. I don't think my parents even knew how much important transgressive messaging was happening in those songs we listened to in the car on the way to church. ... I think if we look closely at the legacy of Prince — who helped launch and support a whole generation of powerhouse musical acts and essentially created a genre — we can see how selfless he was, how deep his messages have gone in terms of legitimizing sexual diversity, spirituality and cultivating compassion in a crass consumer culture that leans towards the grossly superficial. At least that's what he means to me. He lived beautifully and courageously on the outside of his skin and brought us to his paradise for as long as we needed it. What more could a human being do?"
Bobby Egger of Vinyl Conflict:
"Six years ago, I drove across country with my best friend Alex moving him from the East Coast out to L.A. We took a break half way in Austin, Texas, where we met up with his new roommate, who was also moving out to L.A. (they were both going to Cal-Arts). He invited us to go to one of their friends’ birthday party, where we would do bowling and karaoke. I invited OUR friend Victoria, who they didn't know at all, and when it was time to do karaoke we hogged the mic and didn’t let anyone else have a turn, I sang all Motorhead songs and she sang all Prince songs, and we pissed everyone off and we got yelled at for ruining the party."
Jerel Crockett, musician/lead vocalist, fusion jazz band Doors Wide Open:
"Prince's music was the soundtrack of my childhood, and anyone who had the pleasure of hearing it. Prince was the true definition of artistic freedom and individuality. He was truly one of a kind."
Nicole Lang, filmmaker and gal Friday:
"I don't recall when I got the 'Purple Rain' cassette, but in 1984 I was 9, so it had to be a bit later, maybe when I was 11/12. Anyway on the first side, the last track was called 'Darling Nikki' and I, being called Nikki at the time by my family, was so excited to hear it. I could not wait to listen to it and request it at Skatetown USA! Well, as you may remember, that song is quite explicit and was one of the tracks I think that led to Tipper Gore's Parental Advisory sticker, so there was no requesting it at Skatetown! But I listened to it in my room over and over again and knew this was something special and taboo. It was an awakening, just electrifying. It was like, 'This is rock and roll music' — not like the Beatles (whom my Mom loved) or even the Stones — it was 'this is freedom, this is wildness.' All of his music was like that. If it was not for Prince, I don't think I ever would have gotten into punk or a lot of other stuff, he opened the door to a new world for me."
Tracy Wilson of Positive No:
"Truly heartbroken today. It feels like the creative arts world is mid-apocalypse right now and it depresses me deeply. (She invited us to quote from a piece she wrote on Prince in 2013. The following is an excerpt:) I developed a taste for alternative music as I moved into my middle school years however I held onto one mainstream musical obsession up until the ninth grade. In 1984, I was 12/13 and in that awkward place between child and teen. Prince was the first pop star who introduced me to sex appeal, even if I had no real idea what sex was no less sex appeal. Whatever it was, I wanted to explore it." (Read Wilson's full piece here.)
Robin Farmer, freelance writer:
At least I had the pleasure of reviewing his Richmond concert!
Melissa Chase, 103.7 Play:
"I would have to say the part about him that amazes me the most is how he was such an incredible performer that he was often overlooked as one of the best guitarists in music history. It seemed like 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions when he played "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and Jeff Lynne was the first time his talent was really noticed by the public. Which just goes to show how amazing he was at being a performer, that his actual technical musical ability on the guitar was outshined."
Genevelyn Steele, Richmond magazine contributing editor:
"My mother took me to Lakeside Amusement Park in Salem to see him when I very young. He wasn't famous yet; the band he fronted for was called Champagne. In truth, we didn't actually go to see Prince, but stumbled upon him wailing on a guitar in a flashy velvet jacket embroidered with rhinestones. His hot jacket on the summer warm day caught our eyes as much as his vocals captured our ears."
Enjoli Moon, Afrikana Independent Film Festival:
"As someone born in 1979, it's fair to say that Prince has been a part of my entire life. My parents loved his music growing up and played it often in my home. I have memories dating back to when I was 5 and 6 years of old dressing up and performing Prince songs in the living room. 'Kiss,' 'Doves Cry,' 'Diamonds & Pearls' and SO many more are permanent parts of my memory, and witnessing his artistry and bravery have definitely influenced who I am. I'm thankful to have been able to experience his gift and I send him love and light as he transitions to the next realm. His contribution will forever remain." (She closes with this quote:) "Dearly Beloved, we are all gathered here today to celebrate this thing called life." — Prince
Jason Tesauro, writer, The Modern Gentleman:
"One of my greatest life memories involves Prince. You may not know this, but I love football. Like follow-it-in-the-offseason, won-my-fantasy-league kinda love. In 2007, I boondoggled my way into Super XLI (how, is another story). February was especially cold that year, but South Beach was reliably hot.
But that wasn’t even the best part of the day. The best part was the 80-degree sun-shower that turned into twilight and then a brilliant downpour during the halftime show. In an age of lip-synched bullshit, The Artist plugged in and shredded his axe through Purple Rain while 74,512 people sang along in a riot of soaking wet joy. This wasn’t football interrupted by a concert. This was a Prince show … and the first half of Super Bowl XLI was his opening act.
Prince be with you. (And also with you.)"
Jenna Be of funk rock band Downbeat Switch:
"I always tell people I was "born in the year of the purple rain" because it makes me feel like I'm part some elite club of awesome-breeding. I grew up listening to him constantly, and remember just being mesmerized by his performances and his song-writing. I would sneak and listen to the 1999 album at my grandmothers house; it felt so taboo listening to songs like "Delirious" and "D.M.S.R" and "Let's Pretend We're Married", because I was young. But I couldn't stop listening because he had such a fearless, matter-of-fact quality of creative freedom and an "I-don't-give-damn-if-it-feels-right-do-it" attitude; it inspired me so much in my music and in my life in general to always try to err on the side of that mentality in everything I do. And let's be honest, he put on the best halftime show anyone has ever seen, and probably anyone will ever see....and I'll argue you on that. All hail the Prince."
Cora Harvey Armstrong, internationally renowned gospel artist:
"He was my idol!!! He taught himself how to do it...he had so much power even though he was so young in his start. He was not fearful of change. He was a great example of a real genius."
What are your favorite memories of Prince? How did he influence you? Share them below in the comments section.