Pop music superstar Prince dies at 57

(Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
(Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Pop superstar Prince, who was widely acclaimed as one of the most inventive musicians of his era, was found dead at his home on Thursday in suburban Minneapolis, his publicist said.

“It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson has died,” said publicist Anna Meacham.

The announcement came just a week after the Grammy and Oscar winner was taken to hospital with a bad bout of influenza, although he made light of his health problems after the scare.

Prince was found unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park Studios compound, which included his home, in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, according to the Carver County Sheriff’s Office.

In a transcript of a 911 call made from the complex and released by the sheriff’s office, an unidentified male initially reported that someone was dead at the home, later identifying that victim as Prince.

The sheriff’s office said it was investigating the circumstances surrounding his death. The local medical examiner’s office said an autopsy had been scheduled for Friday.

Born on June 7, 1958, Prince was a flamboyant performer who stood at just 5 feet 2 inches and seemed to summon compelling sounds at will. From playing guitar in an expert and dazzling style that recalled Jimi Hendrix to turning out album after album of stunningly original material, Prince never failed to impress.

Prince became an international sensation in the 1980s, when he popularised the Minneapolis sound of danceable funk, incorporating rock elements. His 1984 album “Purple Rain”, which has been described as one of the greatest of all time, sold 13 million copies and topped the album charts for almost six months, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He won seven Grammys and an Academy Award in 1985 for best original score for the film “Purple Rain”.

© Prince receives the Oscar for best original musical score for “Purple Rain” in Hollywood on March 25, 1985. (Harms/AFP)

Among his other notable album releases were his 1978 debut “For You”, “1999”, “Sign O’ the Times” and “The Black Album”.

The ever prolific Prince was also the mastermind behind some of the successes of other artists of his era, writing Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Manic Monday” by The Bangles as well as co-writing Madonna’s “Love Song”.

Battling the industry

Prince was fiercely protective of his creative and personal independence, famously battling his record company over control of his material and even his own name.

Hemmed in by a Warner Bros recording contract, in 1993 he decided to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol.

© The symbol that Prince briefly used when he was ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

“Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote,” Prince said in a press release at the time. “The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince … The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was [a] symbol with no pronunciation that is a representation of me and what my music is about.”

Journalists began referring to him in news articles as “the artist formerly known as Prince”. He went back to using the name when his Warner contract expired in 2000.

Prince once wrote “Slave” on his face at a public appearance to protest against not owning his work.

But Prince later appeared to make peace with the music business.

“What’s happening now is the position that I’ve always wanted to be in,” Prince told The Associated Press in 2014. “I was just trying to get here.”

‘Sly, sexy and provocative’

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,” read the Hall of Fame 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.”

His most recent album, “HITnRUN: Phase Two” was released in December 2015 and the artist had been on tour in the United States as recently as last week.

The music world reacts

The music and entertainment industry was quick to react to the news of his untimely death, with the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Neil Portnow, calling him “one of the most uniquely gifted artists of all time”.

“Never one to conform, he redefined and forever changed our musical landscape. Prince was an original who influenced so many, and his legacy will live on forever,” Portnow said in a statement.

Many of Prince’s fellow musicians took to social media to express their shock.

“He changed the world!! A true visionary. What a loss. I”m devastated,” Madonna wrote on her Instagram account.

Prince “showed me the possibilities within myself”, Lenny Kravitz wrote on Twitter.

“Devastated to hear the news about Prince. An enormous talent that we were all big fans of,” pop group Duran Duran posted on their official account.

Tito Jackson, brother of pop icon Michael, tweeted: “RIP to one the greatest to ever hit the stage #Prince. We are all going to cry purple tears today.”

Pop diva Katy Perry wrote: “And just like that … the world lost a lot of magic.”

Even US President Barack Obama took to Twitter to praise Prince’s genius. “A strong spirit transcends rules,” Prince once said – and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative,” Obama wrote.

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