People from every walk of life, race and gender were shocked the morning of April 21 when news hit the airwaves that the Grammy award-winning pop icon, Prince, best known for epic songs such as “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry” and “Little Red Corvette,” had been found dead in the elevator at his beloved Paisley Park estate at the age of 57. Two weeks leading up to his untimely and unexpected demise, I had been reporting that the Purple Wonder, the name I always used, had canceled two concerts in Atlanta because of the flu. In fact, the Sunday before his demise, after receiving an email that his private jet had to make an emergency landing in Illinois on returning to his beloved home in Chanhassen, Minn., because of his not feeling well, I tweeted, “Pray for our pop icon Prince. He is not well.”
Although sources tell me that Prince might have been suffering from heart problems as well as complications from a rumored hip replacement, Fox 411 reports that authorities investigating the sudden death of the pop star are focusing on the role that painkillers might have played in his leaving us so prematurely.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that painkillers might have played a role in his mysterious last days. According to reports, Prince was last seen April 20, when a staff member dropped him off at his Paisley Park residence around 8 p.m. After a small dance party, his final words to fans were, “Wait a few days before you waste your prayers on me.”
However, the medical examiner said there was no sign that his death was a suicide. His remains were cremated and family and friends of the entertainer, who including his mentor Larry Graham, who introduced him to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as Prince’s former girlfriend and long-time collaborator Sheila E., attended a memorial service at Paisley Park in his honor on April 23.
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Sheila E., who once told me that Prince “was the sexiest man that she had ever met,” said in an interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” “It was very somber. What was challenging yesterday was listening to his music at a very low, soft volume and the room very low in lights and everyone just taking a moment, just sitting there, kind of going, ‘Wow!’”
Prince’s family is reportedly preparing a musical tribute to the late musician, where fans will be able to pay their respects.
“I’m supposed to be the one musical director to put his tribute together with all of the original people and we hope that happens,” said Sheila E.
Although born and raised in Minnesota, Prince’s philanthropic roots ran deep in Harlem and New York City. At a tribute to him at the National Action Network on April 23, the Rev. Al Sharpton told a story to the congregation of how Prince called him after the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin. He told Sharpton that he was sending him several hundred thousand dollars to give to Martin’s family. This donation would be his way of helping them. He also donated large sums of money to the Harlem Children’s Zone and to the Uptown Dance Academy. The music icon also believed in hiring African-Americans to make sure that the Black press was always involved in his ventures and concerts.
Mental health advocate/publicist Terrie Williams told Vibe magazine exclusively that she first met Prince through the legendary late jazz genius Miles Davis at a nightclub in Los Angeles in the late 1980s. Williams was reunited with Prince decades later, when he retained her Terrie Williams Agency to get urban press for Prince’s Welcome To America tour, which was at Madison Square Garden and in New Jersey.
Williams told Vibe, “He was a real thoughtful conversationalist and we talked with one of my colleagues from the agency and the guy who retained us from Live Nation, and he just talked for like two or three hours, discussing everything from children, his religion, his philanthropic work and his dedication to his work. I was pleasantly surprised that he was so genuine, down-to-earth and accommodating to everybody he worked with, and wanted to make sure that you were comfortable.”
I was also the recipient of Prince’s dedication to involving reporters of color in his world. If I said something on the radio that he didn’t like, he would call me himself, and he did the same thing when he had information that he wanted me to disseminate. When I traveled to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl in 1992, Prince called me and said, “This is your first trip to Minneapolis. I will have a car pick you up and bring you to Paisley Park.”
I spent the entire day there, and members of the New Power Generation escorted my friend Renell Perry and me around the entire place. We had a lovely lunch, and that night, I went to Prince’s club, Glam Slam, where I got a chance to hit the dance floor with him. Over the years, I also went to Glam Slam in Miami and Los Angeles before the clubs were closed.
Aside from teaching himself to play 20 instruments, Prince was an avid basketball player, bowler and roller skater. My friend LaToya Jackson went roller skating with him many times over the years. He once told her, “I have all of your albums and pictures and want you to be my girlfriend.”
Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, says the music icon had no will and filed paperwork on April 26 to become his estate executor, the Associated Press reports.
Nelson, Prince’s only surviving full sibling, filed a petition for formal appointment of special administrator at a Carver County probate court in Minneapolis.
Sleep well, our sweet Prince.