Prince may be gone, but his ghosts remain in Minneapolis.
Prince’s purple gaze looks down over several locations throughout the twin cities,
Prince Rogers Nelson was born on June 7th, 1958. Both of his parents were struggling musicians. His mother Mattie was a jazz singer, and his father was a pianist who often performed together. The name Prince came from his father, John Nelson who used Prince Nelson as a stage name. In interviews, his father stated that by giving his son the stage name it was signifying his hope his son would become a more successful performer than he had become. Initially, Prince didn’t take to his name and preferred to be called “Skipper” a moniker that close friends and family members called him most of his life.
Prince was raised a Seventh-Day Adventist, and while he would drift from the teachings as an adult, he did maintain a strong sense of spirituality and said in interviews he was a firm believer in God. In 1960 a sister Tyka was born. Both Prince and his sister displayed strong musical inclinations at an early age, At age 7 Prince had already written his first song and was considered a musical prodigy by his music teachers. Music was an immense solace for Prince who had suffered from childhood epilepsy and was mocked by other children. At age 10 the Nelson family had split up and spent time at both his parent’s homes.
Prince attended Bryant Junior High And Central High School in Minneapolis. Prince played football, basketball, and track. Basketball was a lifelong love, and he would often play recreationally with his friends and bandmates. It was in Junior High that he met a man named James Harris who would later change his name to “Jimmy Jam.” Teaming with a friend named Terry Lewis the two would later craft the “Minneapolis Sound” that was prevalent in the 1980’s and would write and/or produce over 40 Top 10 hits in the US for many artists most notably Janet Jackson. Jimmy Jam was also crucial in helping establish Prince, especially in his earliest days.
Prince recorded his first demo in the Sound 80 studio. It remained a favorite his throughout his career and was also a favorite for another Minnesotan Bob Dylan. After the success of “Purple Rain,” the studio became a favorite of many musicians who often would fly into Minneapolis just to record there.
While Prince had been steadily building popularity with his “Controversy” and “1999” albums, it was the soundtrack to the movie “Purple Rain” that really turned him into a superstar. The movie was almost entirely shot in the Twin Cities area. The concert footage was recorded at the First Avenue Club in downtown Minneapolis. This club had been the venue that had given Prince his start, and now he was repaying the favor.
The club is one of the premier small concert venues in Minneapolis.
This is the Schmidt Music Mural in Downtown Minneapolis. Prince spent a lot of time when he was in town at local music stores and record shops. The music is from a piano concerto by Ravel called “Gaspard de la Nuit” and is considered one of the hardest pieces for a pianist to play.
Prince spent the last years of his life living at the Paisley Park complex in the southern Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, Minnesota. Driving up to the building it looks more like an office park than a residence. Prince recorded here as well as living and entertaining guests. In 2016, he was found dead of an accidental overdose in Paisley Park. The Opioid Crisis knows no economic barriers, and sadly he was just one of the 42,000 people who died in that year from prescribed painkillers.
Later in 2016, Paisley Park opened for tourists. I personally didn’t go. This wasn’t due to the $38.00 admission for a standard tour. (VIP tours go for several hundred dollars) The reason I declined was that of a very strictly enforced no photograph policy. No photos mean a photoless blog entry.
I realize that the complex was more than just a home, it was also a working recording studio, but the building seemed a bit sterile and lacked the warmth of a house at least on the exterior. Perhaps if I had gone inside.
Prince married and divorced twice and had one child, a son, who died shortly after he was born. He sold over 100 million records worldwide. He will be remembered for his outstanding talent as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter.
2 Replies to “Purple Reign”
I loved Prince when I was a kid. I was just thinking about him yesterday and feeling sad that he’s gone. Thanks for writing this. I learned a lot about him.
Thank you. If you ever get chance to come to Minneapolis, You should definitely go. He’s beloved in his hometown and his memory is everywhere