More Culture:

April 22, 2016

Local musicians and artists share Prince memories

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...

Music Prince
Prince Chris O'Meara/AP

In this Feb. 4, 2007, file photo, Prince performs during the Super Bowl XLI halftime show at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.

After we heard the shocking news that Prince had died, we started reaching out to local musicians, comedians and artists to share their favorite Prince memories.

When The Dead Milkmen Opened for Prince

Yes, the Milkmen once "met" Prince. This would've been in 1985. We were playing the 7th Street Entry (the smaller venue adjacent to the First Avenue) [in Minneapolis] and Prince and Sheila E. turned up during our set. Back then, I would often roam through the crowd, while we were playing, swiping people's beers. I didn't recognize Prince — who would've expected him to be there? — so, yes, I drank his beer. He was a good sport about it.

After the next band's set, Prince and Sheila E. came onstage and did a few songs (Prince played bass). This meant that about 100 people got a free Prince show.

— Rodney Anonymous, musician, The Dead Milkmen

Prince the Afrofuturist

When I first saw Prince on TV, it gave me so much power seeing an artist not really being masculine or feminine. Prince was just a badass, redefining rock and soul music. I remember when Prince changed to “the artist formerly known as” and had slave written on face — a powerful act of protest and an action that the music world is still trying to understand. What really inspires me about Prince is how tradition and history were so important; you can find gospel blues and the history of our people through sound. A true Afrofuturist, Prince incorporated the past and future into the music. And knew the energy of the music would survive forever.

— Camae Defstar, artist/musician, Moor Mother Goddess

Prince plays a surprise show

One of the highlights of our relationship is the night my wife and I were at Tattooed Mom and someone said he heard there was going to be a "secret" Prince show at midnight at the Electric Factory [in 2006]. A random guy’s rumor was confirmation enough for us. We cabbed it over and learned it was true — Prince was there. It was actually a show to promote Prince’s new protégé [R&B singer Tamar]; Prince was only backing her with guitar and vocals. We paid $100 a ticket, and cab fare, just to watch Prince play guitar for and occasionally sing with a woman I haven’t seen or heard from since. And it was worth every f------ penny. He was such a great performer and guitarist. I’ll love him forever.

— Jim Grammond, comedian/writer

Smashing boundaries

Prince smashed and blurred boundaries — sexual, lyrical, entrepreneurial, societal. He supported and uplifted women, including women who made music. He was an incisive, inspiring artist who united people and opened up space for us to dream and imagine. He lifted my spirit, many, many times — most recently when I watched footage of the concert he put on for Freddie Gray in Baltimore. His name was not a mistake. The man was regal beyond anything this world can understand. I am grieving him. Rest in power.

— Katy Otto, musician, Trophy Wife

Watching "Purple Rain" as a kid

I saw "Purple Rain" in the theater when I was a little kid and it was an absolutely transcendent experience. I bought the album and wore it out. I knew I could never be nearly as funky or talented as someone like Prince, but his music has continually inspired me over the years to do better. The song "Call My Name" is one of countless that just brings me to tears every time I hear it.

— Cliff Hillis, singer-songwriter

A longtime relationship

We are shocked and saddened to hear of the death of our dear friend Prince, whom we had the privilege of working with for more than 20 years. Just two months ago, Prince was at the height of his creative genius at his first arena show for "Piano and a Microphone" at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, where he played for more than three hours. An extraordinary artist, innovator, performer and icon, Prince’s singular musical gifts will live on.

— Live Nation, concert promoters

Prince from a distance

I guess where I find comfort about the passing of an icon like Prince, as sad as it is, is that we get to remember that what they made and how they made us feel has no end. The person of Prince is a bit of an abstract concept, really. I'm sure most of us lived lives where Prince the person was not playing much of a direct role.

We weren't seeing him around town or hanging out with him at parties. I don't know what he was like as a person and I'm sure most of us don't. We were spending time with his art, and that art will never leave us. In some ways, I guess that in dying, we get to remember that Prince, despite all of the celebrity pomp and circumstance, was a human person, and that we, as human people, all have the ability, somewhere inside us, to tap into ourselves like he did.

One of the main lessons I think Prince taught us was to believe in ourselves. He certainly believed in himself and showed us what was possible when we can do that. He was fearless. He took all of the identities that society imposed on him and turned them on their head — it's like he somehow became all identities — he created this persona where so many different kinds of people could look at him and see themselves. That is extremely rare and powerful, but it was possible because Prince believed completely in Prince. I think his legacy has inspired more people to believe in themselves, and I only hope, in his death, we are reminded of that.

Also, if nothing else, his music was f------ fun and I can't begin to think about how to thank someone for bringing me so many hours of joy — dancing and being happy to be alive. Thanks for reminding us how important it is to create joy and fun in the world. Sometimes I think we can spend so much time fighting for the world that we want that we don't stop and think what we want that world to look like. Prince was an artist who gave us a glimpse of having that world now.

— Ted Passon, filmmaker

Lastly, let's relive the good times with this amazing story from Questlove, who has a few fascinating Prince stories.