CHANHASSEN, MINN.— Pop superstar Prince, widely acclaimed as one of the most inventive and influential musicians of his era with hits including “Little Red Corvette,” ”Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry,” was found dead at his home on Thursday in suburban Minneapolis, according to his publicist. He was 57.
His publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, told The Associated Press that the music icon died at his home in Chanhassen. No details were immediately released.
The singer, songwriter, arranger and instrumentalist broke through in the late 1970s with the hits “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” and soared over the following decade with such albums as “1999” and “Purple Rain.” The title song from “1999” includes one of the most widely quoted refrains of popular culture: “Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999.”
The Minneapolis native, born Prince Rogers Nelson, stood just 5 feet, 2 inches tall, and seemed to summon the most original and compelling sounds at will, whether playing guitar in a flamboyant style that openly drew upon Jimi Hendrix, switching his vocals from a nasally scream to an erotic falsetto or turning out album after album of stunningly original material. Among his other notable releases: “Sign O’ the Times,” “Graffiti Bridge” and “The Black Album.”
He was also fiercely protective of his independence, battling his record company over control of his material and even his name. Prince once wrote “slave” on his face in protest of not owning his work and famously battled and then departed his label, Warner Bros., before returning a few years ago.
“What’s happening now is the position that I’ve always wanted to be in,” Prince told the AP in 2014. “I was just trying to get here.”
In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which hailed him as a musical and social trailblazer.
“He rewrote the rulebook, forging a synthesis of black funk and white rock that served as a blueprint for cutting-edge music in the Eighties,” reads the Hall’s dedication. “Prince made dance music that rocked and rock music that had a bristling, funky backbone. From the beginning, Prince and his music were androgynous, sly, sexy and provocative.”
The Carver County’s Sheriff’s Office said the musician was “found dead at Paisley Park Studios.”
Sheriff’s officials said deputies found music superstar Prince unresponsive in an elevator.
Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson says first responders tried CPR but couldn’t revive the musician. Prince was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m. Thursday, about half an hour after deputies arrived.
Olson says the death is under investigation.
Prince was hospitalized last week. His private plane reportedly made an emergency landing in Illinois following concerts in Georgia.
Regarding his health scare, the Star Tribune reported, Prince said: “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.”
Rarely lacking in confidence, Prince effortlessly absorbed the music of others and made it sound like Prince, whether the James Brown guitar riff on “Kiss” or the Beatle-esque, psychedelic pop of “Raspberry Beret.”
He also proved a source of hits for others, from Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” to Cyndi Lauper’s “When You Were Mine.” He also wrote “Manic Monday” for the Bangles.
U.S. President Barack Obama lamented the loss of a “creative icon” with the death of the superstar.
In a statement, the president called Prince “one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time.”
Obama also said “nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder or more creative” than Prince’s.
Prince had been touring and recording right up until his death, releasing four albums in the last 18 months, including two on the Tidal streaming service last year. He performed in Atlanta last week as part of his “Piano and a Microphone” tour, a stripped down show that has featured a mix of his hits like “Purple Rain” or “Little Red Corvette” and some B-sides from his extensive library.
Prince debuted the intimate format at his Paisley Park studios in January, treating fans to a performance that was personal and was both playful and emotional at times.
The musician had seemed to be shedding his reclusive reputation. He hosted several late-night jam sessions where he serenaded Madonna, celebrated the Minnesota Lynx’s WNBA championship and showcased his latest protege, singer Judith Hill.
Ever surprising, he announced on stage in New York City last month that he was writing his memoir. “The Beautiful Ones” was expected to be released in the fall of 2017 by publishing house Spiegel & Grau. The publishing house has not yet commented on status of book, but a press release about the memoir says: “Prince will take readers on an unconventional and poetic journey through his life and creative work.” It says the book will include stories about Prince’s music and “the family that shaped him and the people, places, and ideas that fired his creative imagination.”
A small group of fans quickly gathered in the rain Thursday outside his music studio, Paisley Park, where Prince’s gold records are on the walls and the purple motorcycle he rode in his 1984 breakout movie, “Purple Rain,” is on display. The white building surrounded by a fence is in Chanhassen, about 20 miles southwest of Minneapolis.
The music legend held a party at Paisley Park on Saturday. He posted a photo early Sunday morning showing a scene from the compound in Chanhassen, southwest of Minneapolis.
Steven Scott, 32, of Eden Prairie, said he was at Prince’s dance party. He called Prince “a beautiful person” whose message was that people should love one another.
“He brought people together for the right reasons,” Scott said.
Appearing for less than five minutes at that party, Prince played “Chopsticks” on a purple Yamaha piano and showed off a new purple guitar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
“I have to leave it in the case or I’ll be tempted to play it,” Prince said of the guitar. “I can’t play the guitar at all these days, so I can keep my mind on this (piano) and get better.”
Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman — former members of Prince’s band, the Revolution – said in a statement that they were “completely shocked and devestated (sic) by the sudden loss of our brother, artist and friend, Prince. . . . We offer our love, support, and condolences to our extended family, friends and all fans of our sweet Prince.”
Recording Academy President Neil Portnow referred to Prince — a seven-time Grammy winner — as “one of the most uniquely gifted artists of all time.”
“Never one to conform, he redefined and forever changed our musical landscape,” Portnow said in a statement. “Prince was an original who influenced so many, and his legacy will live on forever.”
Prince had a special relationship with Toronto, the city where he once lived. Just last month, he performed two concerts at the Sony Centre that had been announced only two days earlier.
In his review of one of those shows, critic Nick Krewen wrote, “It probably comes as little surprise that Prince, the legendary singer and songwriter who is as prolific as he is enigmatic, is as big a monster on piano, technically speaking, as he is on guitar.
“For close to 90 minutes during the 7 p.m. show at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts — his second two-show appearance at the venue within 10 months, announced only 48 hours earlier — the Minneapolis native revealed his prowess on the ivories as he performed a variety of hits, covers and yet-to-be-released material on a purple electric grand.
“It’s not that anyone doubted the multiple-Grammy-Award-winner’s ability to dominate another instrument as well as the 57-year-old wields a guitar; it’s just that most haven’t had a chance to see him work it proper, since the axe is usually his contraption of choice. And when he has turned to keyboard performance in recent years, it’s usually to embark on a medley of some of the abundant hits he’s harvested over a 38-year career that’s been spread over the pop, rock and R&B genres.
And concluded: “there’s little argument that Prince is King.”
The notoriously private rock icon married Toronto native Manuela Testolini in the early-to-mid 2000s, settling in the tony Bridle Path neighbourhood.
The pair divorced in July 2006, but the “Purple Rain” singer apparently never lost his affection for the city.
During the time he resided in Toronto, Prince was occasionally spotted at local clubs and a Toronto Raptors game.
One of his guitarists also hailed from the city — Donna Grantis of 3rdEyeGirl, who also played with New Power Generation.
“I love Toronto,” he told The Canadian Press a decade ago.
Praising the city as “cosmopolitan,” he spoke about the city’s diversity as well as its eclectic food and arts scene.
“It’s a real melting pot in every sense of the word.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES:Prince Q&A with the Star’s Ben Rayner
With files from Star staff, The Canadian Press and Washington Post