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 Yvette Noel-Schure. He was 57.
Sheriff’s officials in Minnesota say deputies found the music superstar Prince unresponsive in an elevator after they were summoned to his suburban Minneapolis compound. Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson says first responders tried CPR but couldn’t revive the musician. Olson says Prince was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m. Thursday, about half an hour after deputies arrived.
The singer, songwriter, arranger and instrumentalist was widely acclaimed as one of the most inventive musicians of his era, drawing upon influences ranging from James Brown to the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix. His hits included “Little Red Corvette,” ”Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry.” He broke through in the late 1970s with the hits “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.”
“Michelle and I join millions of fans from around the world in mourning the sudden death of Prince,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. 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.”.
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.”
The same year, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame, which hailed him as a musical and social trailblazer. He won an Academy Award in 1985 for the song “Purple Rain,” from the critically acclaimed film of the same name. Rolling Stone named him one of the Top 100 Artists of all time.
“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.”
Rarely lacking in confidence, Price 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.
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, Prince 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.
Steven Scott, 32, of Eden Prairie, said he was at Paisley Park last Saturday for 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.
Sales of Prince’s music have soared since news broke of the pop star’s death. Three of his songs — “Purple Rain,” ”Little Red Corvette,” and “When Doves Cry,” — surged to 7th, 9th and 10th on iTunes’ Top Songs chart. Four of his albums — “The Very Best of Prince,” ”Purple Rain,” ”The Hits / The B-Sides,” and “1999” — jumped to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 8th on iTunes’ Top Albums chart by Thursday afternoon.
The singer’s music catalog, including last year’s “HITNRUN Phase One & Two,” was streaming on Tidal, another high-profile exclusive for the Jay Z-backed service. Other streaming services like Spotify and Rhapsody did not offer Prince’s songs.
A Warner Music spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest state of his contract with the record label.