Purple reigns….and purple rains.
The royal color painted a swath across the nation and in England with good and bad news that at age 90 in England, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning British monarch and here Prince Rogers Nelson passed away at age 57.
It rained in Minneapolis on April 21 when Nelson AKA Prince, a native son died there.
The ironic weather phenom coincided with the tragic passing of a legend who grew up in that city, never left and in his lifetime infused the economy there and forced the whole world to tune into the Minneapolis sound.
To residents of that city, Prince was king.
Throughout the music industry, entertainment world and most of the United States, Prince was best known for his musicianship and for embracing the color purple.
He chose the one from a rainbow as the one he and most royals identify.
Prince wore the color with style and fashion and in his first starring movie role — “Purple Rain” colored the big screen riding on a purple motorcycle and during promotional concerts strummed on a purple guitar while wearing a purple velvet outfit.
That was four decades ago.
Since making his debut in 1978 at age 17, Prince has remained relevant to music lovers and was in the middle of a tour when he died at age 57.
Sold-out in all venues, he was not touring as a vintage artist, Prince managed to command large audiences through the decades.
He was not billed to reprise nostalgic music he was actually on the road performing current recordings.
Prince recorded 39 studio albums, played 27 instruments and his sudden death shocked the universe.
How he died is still a mystery, but how he lived is being interpreted and reinterpreted by media pundits — many of whom may not have seen the likes of such a transformative genius.
Rev. Alfred Sharpton said on MSNBC’s day-long tribute that Prince was a Civil Rights advocate. A very private individual, Sharpton said Prince opened his checkbook to help the family of Trayvon Martin after the teenager was gunned in Florida.
Sharpton said he did not want the news to go public and did not even want the teenager’s mother to know that he had given to the cause.
He also donated millions to the Uptown Dance Factory and helped needy individuals throughout the nation.
That he actively campaigned with the Black Lives Matter movement, performed a concert in Baltimore to bring attention to the police killing of Freddy Gray, shared a treasured friendship with actor / human rights activist Harry Belafonte, helped to fund Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” movie when richer, more prominent Black stars refused and advocated for gender equality long before many politicians claimed their concern are just a fraction of the storied life of a musical visionary generations revered as Prince.
From the early years of his career Prince fronted women in his band, hired and popularized female musicians and singers such as drummer Sheila E, Sheena Easton, Wendy and Lisa, Vanity, Appolonia, Chaka Khan and trumpeted the cause for female empowerment.
With that he developed his own brand.
He was liberated, known for wearing lace, curls, eye-liner, high-heeled boots, leg warmers, permed hair, huge Afro-styled hairdo, the most fashionable outfits, at 5 feet 2 inches he proved to be a giant in destructing prejudices against gender definitions. Some critics even described him to be androgynous.
However, with so many beautiful women often declaring love of his companionship, the questionable terminology quickly vanished.
Of the many beauties Prince was reportedly romantically connected Carmen Electra, Appolonia, Sheila Escovedo are just a few. He was married twice to Mayte Garcia and Manuela Testolini.
Of his passing Garcia, his first bride who he married in 1996, wrote on Instagram: “This man was my everything, we had a family. I am beyond deeply saddened and devastated … I loved him then, I love him now, and will love him eternally … He’s with our son now.
Prince and Garcia had a son who died a week after birth in 1996 of a rare genetic disorder. The couple divorced in 2000.
Prince’s second wife, Manuela Testolini, issued a statement saying she was “heartbroken beyond words.”
“Prince and I had a magical journey together,” Testolini wrote, “and I loved him immensely. The world knew him as a musical genius — I knew him as a husband, friend and fierce philanthropist. Philanthropy brought us together and it was Prince who encouraged me to start my own charity over 10 years ago.”
Testolini, who heads a foundation called “In a Perfect World,” wrote that she had just reached out to Prince a few days earlier to let him know she was building a school in his honor.
“My heart aches that the school will now be built in his memory,” she wrote in the statement. “His passing leaves me with such a devastating feeling of pain and loss. The love we shared, the music he made and our life together is forever engraved in my heart.”
Prince and Testolini were married from 2001 to 2006.
He was an avowed hard worker and perfectionist.
Prince was an original.
He performed pop, rock, jazz, opera, rhythm and blues and it was never an experiment he knew and completely understood the cadence and intricacies of every genre.
He not only wrote and sung on each and every recording but played all the instruments and in concerts danced as if he was an acrobat.
When Warner Brothers Records – the label he was signed – attempted to collect more profits than he thought they deserved for promoting his product, he defied the label.
Despite a long-practiced policy of short-changing artist’s earnings the label lost in its bid to continue business as usual with Prince. He used their outlet to shame them voicing the exploitation he accused them of making artists beholding to long contractual agreements.
During that period he painted the word “slave” on his face and boldly exposed the unfairness that now has all but crippled most of the companies that flourished prior to Prince’s protest. He refused to use his name and asked that he be identified as the Artist Formerly Known As Prince.
Michael Jackson also defied SONY Music and was able to recoup ownership of his music
Prince led a charge to introduce new music through his own Paisley Park channels and was first to capitalize on the worldwide web to market his work.
His musical legacy is unparalleled.
Always at the pinnacle of excellence, he never forgot the Black press.
This insider was privileged to see Prince perform at numerous venues among them: at The Ritz, Radio City Music Hall, The Bottom Line, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles and at Black Radio Exclusive (BRE) convention in California, at a Miami nightclub, in Paris, and through them all left feeling as if he delivered the ultimate experience each and every time.
Prince commanded the stage.
He challenged his audience to stare without blinking. Anyone who ever saw any of his electric performances must know that every appearance was an event, something special and significant of a riff, a move or a treat he probably would not repeat. And when he inveigled audiences to light up arenas, wave in sync to the tune of “Purple Rain” – the whole world followed and has since adopted the practice to hail excellence.
A statement from President Barack Obama, the most powerful and influential man in the world reflected these sentiments —
“Today, the world 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.
“A strong spirit transcends rules,” Prince once said — and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his band, and all who loved him.
The day Prince died, NASA posted a graphic photo of a Purple Nubulla on the Twitter website.
The marquees at the Apollo Theater and the Hard Rock Café spotlighted the tragic news. New Yorker Magazine disclosed a purple cover dotted by rain-drops to be next week’s feature. Director Spike Lee hosted an all-night party-tribute at his 40 Acres & A Mule location in Brooklyn. Drummer Questlove dedicated an all-night soiree to the trailblazer at the Brooklyn Bowl night club; TV variety show Saturday Night Live pre-empted regular scheduled programming to feature a marathon showcase of all his appearances on the popular weekend show, from Times Square to Port Authority, purple provided the backdrop for quotes and homage to the entertainer.
AMC movie theatres re-screened “Purple Rain” the film to massive audiences.
April 25, WBLS-FM hosted a concert at the plaza at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office where live coverage of Michael Jackson’s funeral was broadcasted to huge audiences.
Prince’s passing resonates with the same shocking disbelief as the June 25, 2009 news of the king of pop, at age 50.
Meanwhile, what seems like a never-ending party outside the Apollo Theater continues since news of Prince’s death on April 21.
Throughout all the revelry, radio station playlists repeatedly herald his music programming hits such as “When Doves Cry,” “1999,” “Diamonds & Pearls,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Sign Of The Times,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Take Me With You,” “Kiss,” “Controversy,”“I Would Die For You,” and a myriad of selections from the vast collection that will add to the treasure trove collectors already are hoarding.
More than anyplace else, in Minneapolis, the City Hall tower lit in the color purple Prince fashioned. They also blazed the music of their King outside the First Avenue nightclub he popularized in the movie “Purple Rain” and in front of his Paisley Park studio and home thousands danced in celebration of his life.
Purple balloons, purple flowers, “Purple Rain” …prevailed.
Catch You On The Inside!