Prince, a celebrated musical prodigy who famously wrote, arranged, produced and played almost all of his hit records, died mysteriously last Thursday, Okechukwu Uwaezuoke writes with agency reports
First came the bombshell. They had found Prince’s body in a lift at his Paisley Park recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota on Thursday morning. For several weeks, the celebrated musician Prince – full names Prince Rogers Nelson – had reportedly been battling a “bad bout of flu”. This was enough to keep him away from the glare of publicity.
He had indeed done the expected: visited a local hospital. Three hours later, he walked out of the hospital, which must have thought it was safe to let him go. He was spotted the following night at a dance party close to his home. He did not perform for the audience, but was quoted to have told them: “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.”
So Prince is dead! Really, could it be said that his death came without warning? At least, a week before, there were concerns about the musician’s health. This was when his jet made an emergency landing in Illinois on the way back to Minnesota from a concert in Atlanta, early one Friday morning.
With the news of his death confirmed as “devastatingly true” by the entertainment website TMZ, the social media buzzed and mourned. Already for tweets from devastated fans poured in via the hash tags – #PrinceRIP, #PrinceGoneTooSoon, #musiclivesforever and #TheColorPurple. The outpouring of tributes was not disappointing. US President Barack Obama said of the departed musician in a statement: “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.”
Yet, even the general knowledge that Prince had a bout of flu did not clear up the fog of mystery surrounding his death. This, the Carver County Sheriff’s Office assured in a statement it was trying to do when it said it was probing the circumstances.
TMZ reported that Prince was given a ‘save shot’ typically administered to counter the effects of an opiate. He was also said to have been treated for overdose of Percocet days before his death. Percocet is a painkiller which contains a combination of Cetaminoplan and Oxyclode, an opioid. It is highlgly addictive. Prince was rumoured to be taking the painkillers to kill pain arising from a corrective surgery to his hips in 2010.
Although, the Coroner has completed initial examination and released the corpse of the singer to his family, an official cause of death may take weeks to release, according to officials
A quick flashback. Back in the late 1980s, Prince’s “Purple Rain” musical video became a virtual anthem of one of Nigeria’s state-owned television stations. Remarkably, this was happening when Michael Jackson’s hit songs ruled the airwaves.
In some very informed quarters, Prince was either rated as Michael Jackson’s greatest rival, his equal or in the opinion of a tiny but influential minority, a few rungs higher than Michael on the artistic ladder.
Well, Prince was a creative songwriter, who was known to have penned chart-busters for other musicians. And of these happens to be Sinead O’Connor famous hit “Nothing Compares 2 U”. Though “Purple Rain” launched him into prominence, it was an LP featuring multiple hits (including “When Doves Cry”) that earned him his first brace at the Grammy’s.
Indeed, Prince became one of the bestselling artists of all time after he sold over 100 million records worldwide. Besides the Grammy Awards (of which he won seven), he had also won a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award. Hence his induction in 2004 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 did not come as a surprise. He also made it into the Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and was ranked at number 27 on this list.
The man who was widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound was in addition a record producer and an actor. That perhaps explained his showy stage presence, which put him in the class of the late King of Pop Michael Jackson. Then, there was his kind of music, which embraces a myriad of styles that include funk, rock, R&B, soul, psychedelic and pop.
Born on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to a jazz singer Mattie Della (Shaw) and a pianist and songwriter John Lewis Nelson, both African-Americans, Prince was known to have started playing the piano at the tender age of seven and later at 14, played guitar and drums without ever receiving lessons for any of them.
Prince got his name from his father, whose stage name was Prince Rogers while he performed with a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio. The elder Prince was quoted in a 1991 interview to have said, “I named my son Prince because I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do”. Yet, Prince as a child bore the nickname Skipper.
The little Skipper, who in his own words was “born epileptic” had frequent seizures during his childhood years. “My mother told me one day I walked in to her and said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to be sick anymore,’ and she said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘Because an angel told me so’,” he had disclosed in an interview.
Fast-forward to the future. The boy who penned his first song at seven was recording songs with his cousin’s band 94 East. At 19, he tried his hands at recording several demo tapes, which all turned out unsuccessful. He would later release his debut album For You in 1978, with the help of his manager manager Owen Husney.
The following year, his album Prince went platinum riding on the success of his singles “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” Having tasted success, he became unstoppable with his three consecutive albums Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981) and 1999 (1982). This was when what would become his trademark sexual lyrics and his incorporation of elements of funk, dance, and rock music became noticeable.
He released his wave-making Purple Rain in 1984, the year he began referring his backup band as The Revolution. This would serve as the soundtrack of his debut film with the same name. The Revolution would disband after the release of his subsequent albums Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986). That explains why Prince had released his double album Sign o’ the Times (1987) as a solo artist.
He would soon form another band he called The New Power Generation in 1991 and changed his stage name two years later to an unpronounceable symbol , also known as the “Love Symbol”. This instead earned him the moniker, “the artist formerly known as Prince” . As though in a feverish frenzy, he released five records between 1994 and 1996. This was apparently to free himself from his contractual obligations with Warner Bros.
He would later begin referring himself once again as “Prince” and released 15 albums after that. HITnRUN Phase Two was his final album, which was first exclusively released on the Tidal streaming service on December 11, 2015.
The news of his death on April 21, at his Paisley Park recording studio and home sent shockwaves into the music world. Virtually everyone was mourning the man, who bent all the rules shattering the barriers between gender, race and sexuality. Among the mourners were Madonna, who once dated Prince (albeit briefly), guitarist Nile Rogers, Justin Timberlake, Boy George, guitarist Slash, Wyclef Jean , Mick Jagger and Aretha Franklin.