The past few days I have been witness to something almost ethereal. If I hadn’t lived many of the moments myself, I would have thought the atmosphere that has taken residence in Minnesota since the morning of April 21 was a purple tinted fever dream. Only in wake of losing Minnesota’s Prince could music unite people in this powerful of a way.
Many musicians dream of striking it big in order to flee their hometowns, but Prince couldn’t think of much else worse. His roots were deeply planted. Prince loved Minnesota and Minnesota fiercely loved him back. The man became synonymous with our state, he became our pulse and heartbeat. There aren’t many musicians in the industry, maybe a handful at most, that remained so steadfastly true to their hometowns until the very end. We’ve had our fair share of famous and legendary musicians hail from Minnesota, but Prince was different. He never left. The higher fame he achieved, the more in love with Minnesota he fell and in return the more protective Minnesotans rallied around him.
Throughout his thirty year plus career he transformed into something more than a mythical legend, he turned into family for many of Minnesota’s residents. He put his heart and soul back into the community, wanting to continually better the place he loved so dearly – often with his good deeds quietly going unnoticed. Prince opened his home to us so we could witness intimate musical performances and to celebrate life by throwing impromptu dance parties. You can’t forget the many times attendees to his gatherings would wind up eating pancakes in the morning at Paisley Park. Yes, Prince often fed his all-night guests pancakes. It wasn’t strange to hear those stories. Just like it wasn’t strange to realize the person browsing records next to you or silently appreciating upcoming talents at the local venues was this enigma of man. Everybody seemed to have a Prince story.
When the news broke about Prince’s death early Thursday morning, the world’s heart broke – but Minnesota’s completely shattered. He was ours. The rest of the world population may never understand the true magnitude of our loss. We came together in this sorrowing moment to mourn and to celebrate the man who made our hearts and lives so colorful in a way we knew he’d approve of.
I like to think we did Prince proud. I can say that I am lucky to have been a participant. These are the stories I know one day I will pass on. How a man named Prince changed music and Minnesota. A man who was an innovator that never seemed quite real and who created works of art that perfectly showcased the astonishing power music can hold.
Writing down all that happened doesn’t do the experience justice. The words don’t seem adequate to the magic that was vibrant in the air all weekend.
It seemed fitting as word spread of the devastating news, Minnesota experienced a spring storm. It was like the state was crying along with all of us. But yet, almost as a reminder that Prince would rather have us celebrate than be sad – Mother Nature presented a beautiful rainbow above Paisley Park. It was just the beginning to what added up to an otherwordly weekend.
— Star Tribune A&E (@entertain_mn) April 22, 2016
The celebrations started Thursday evening when over 10,000+ people poured into the streets of downtown Minneapolis on short notice, effectively shutting down blocks for miles around First Avenue, the music venue Prince made iconic in his film Purple Rain. Local musicians gathered to lead the massive crowd in renditions of the artist’s most famous music. If there’s one thing I know, hearing that many grieving people sing “Purple Rain” is chill worthy.
— Aaron Lavinsky (@ADLavinsky) April 22, 2016
What a weekend Minneapolis. Great shot of all the 💜 from our roof. pic.twitter.com/CgPWnpessx
— Target Center (@TargetCenterMN) April 24, 2016
The block party led into three days of all night dance parties First Avenue was throwing. From 1am to 7am, the crowds were flowing in and out of Prince’s favorite venue to get funky to his tunes. Lines spanned at least five blocks in two different directions each night. On Saturday when I was able to try my luck, we stood in line for almost 4.5 hours before making it into First Avenue a bit before 5am. A wait like that would normally be irritating but the line was such a jovial happy atmosphere. Everyone danced in the streets, laughing and sharing their favorite Prince stories.
As we danced our life away as Saturday evening turned into Sunday morning, the sun began to rise and the dance parties were coming to a close. One last time they played “Purple Rain” and no words will ever do this moment justice. Everybody stopped and gathered together, realizing the weekend of Prince was coming to an end. We joined arm in arm and held each other while we swayed slowly and sang loudly to his most legendary song. People were crying, lighters were nostalgically back out in full force and it seemed as the moment transcended time. It was truly magical. I’m not a spiritual person in the least, but it felt spiritual. As we walked outdoors, the rain began to come down in heavy drops for the first time since immediately following his death. I remember making the remark to my friends that it was purifying – it certainly felt that way. Of course, no Prince tribute dance party would be complete without pancakes and a toast to the man of the hour.
— Jake Rudh (@JakeRudh) April 22, 2016
— Jay Gabler (@JayGabler) April 22, 2016
Memorials popped up at First Avenue and Paisley Park that continuously kept growing. Soon both grounds were overflowing with purple flowers, purple balloons, handwritten signs to Prince, and knick-knacks of all varieties. I decided my journey to Paisley Park would be alone and in the early hours of Saturday morning. It allowed me to truly take it all in a more quiet moment to try and attempt to make sense of it all. By 8am Saturday morning, less than 48 hours after Prince’s death the memorials spanned blocks. A week later and people are still coming nonstop in the thousands to pay their respects.
It wasn’t just Prince’s music that we celebrated. Yet another crowd of thousands showed up to watch Purple Rain outdoors on a giant screen. Every single type of person imaginable turned out. From families with young children to older adults who had followed Prince throughout all the steps of his career. During the film there’s a moment when The Kid is told his music doesn’t make sense to anyone and a guy in the crowd loudly proclaimed “IT MAKES SENSE TO US!” and you can bet that comment got a standing ovation.
Every single thing that could be lit up purple in the cities, was. Every. Single. Thing. Bridges, buildings, bars, apartments – you name it and it was purple. The entire state from corner to corner was bathed in Prince’s favorite color for a weekend. We mourned and celebrated amongst the purple shadows and it was magical. But that wasn’t enough purple for us. I’ve never seen so many people scouring for every purple piece of clothing they owned. Nope, we didn’t stop there. Our artists took to the streets and etched Prince permanently into our buildings with purple murals and purple pop up art installations ranging from string art to knit raindrops.
— Twin Cities Live (@twincities_live) April 22, 2016
— Peace, Love, & Ren (@minnecentric) April 22, 2016
“This is my present to Minneapolis.”
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) April 23, 2016
Even our sports teams held various tributes to Prince, but the Twins did it best. On top of their screens and lights all being purple for the weekend, each member of the team picked a different Prince song to be their lead in music coming up to bat for an evening. At the first game following the weekend’s festivities the team released doves. A major sports team released a pack of doves to honor a music legend. That right there is pretty incredible. Prince’s spirit will live on at Minnesota Twins games as the club officially announced the new 7th Inning Stretch song would be “Little Red Corvette.”
— Dan Edwards (@ImDanEdwards) April 26, 2016
I like to think Prince was looking at Minnesota overflowing with his signature shade of purple in every direction and giving his knowing smirk of approval.
It wasn’t just purple everywhere that you saw, but Prince radiated from every speaker around town. Within minutes of the news all major music stations (including country and Top 40) began playing Prince music nonstop. The Current even hosted a marathon listening session of Prince’s music A-Z. That’s over 26 hours. Plenty of people still weren’t getting enough of the man to listen to. Every single record store in town was completely sold out of anything Prince related within hours. Knowing the demand, Electric Fetus, Prince’s own favorite record store requested and was granted ALL extra stock of Prince vinyl/cds/memorabilia available currently in the United States to be shipped to their location – but even that didn’t last long and was quickly depleted again.
The weekend wrapped up by having Minneapolis’ City Hall playing a handful of his songs on the building’s bells. Even the Capitol session shut down for a rendition of “Purple Rain” and incorporating Prince’s musical history into their day’s speeches.
— TheCurrent (@TheCurrent) April 25, 2016
On Thursday night, Mumford and Sons had the heavy task of having a scheduled concert in Prince’s home state the evening of his passing. While people were having a good time, it was obvious their hearts were heavy. In the short amount of time from when the news broke to when they came on stage, Mumford and Sons learned “Nothing Compares 2 U” and sang a tribute to Prince bathed in purple lights. (They also had nothing but Prince songs playing over the speakers during intermission.) See my full HD video of the cover below.
Petitions quickly popped up and gained speed to have a large gold or purple star take up major space on the wall of First Avenue bigger than others and be dedicated to Prince. Another plea asks lawmakers to rename the light rails that runs from First Avenue to Chanhassen near Paisley Park the Purple Line. There’s even a growing following to rename the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport terminal after Prince. At least one of these petitions, if not multiple, are expected to become reality.
It doesn’t stop there. A large public memorial that would center on his celebrating his music is being planned for this summer that would include many of his former bandmates and collaborators. The hopes are to have the memorial be the inaugural event for the new US Bank Stadium, home of the Vikings. Everything in the stadium is purple – so it would be more than fitting.
There’s block parties and more movie nights and the list of how Minnesotans are paying their respects are never ending it seems. A singular man brought thousands of people together over their love of him, his art, and the music he gifted us all – that’s a pretty spectacular feat when you think about it. The sheer volume of how many different ways Minnesota found and is finding to honor their Prince is staggering. It was clear how much respect and love his home had for him.
When I’m trying to put into words all that happened, on one hand it seems overwhelming, but on the other hand it doesn’t quite encompass the outpouring of love Minnesota was witness to. The mourning of Prince’s life was magical, it was bold, and it was something that we won’t ever quite be privy to again. Prince was otherworldly in life, so it is no surprise that his death seemed to follow suit. It has been a whirlwind of celebration, but the music and stories live on.
Sometimes I wish life was never ending, and all good things they say, never last.
Until next time,