Reaction to news of Prince’s death came quickly Thursday, with local officials, fans and people connected to the music scene noting that Minnesota had lost an icon.
People began gathering at First Avenue, leaving flowers beneath his star on the wall outside.
“What better place to come than First Avenue?” said Ryan Wandersee, 31, adding that it’s “kind of hard to smile” right now.
People in the music industry with local connections shared their memories and condolences.
“I am in utter shock,” said Chan Poling, a founder of the Suburbs. “He was a true original and a great inspiration. Prince will definitely go down in history as one of pop’s major Icons.”
Chris Osgood was set to rehearse with his old band, the Suicide Commandos, in advance of a show with Bob Mould on Saturday at First Avenue.
“I can’t imagine we’re going to get much rehearsal in today,” Osgood said. “Of course we’re going to dedicate our set to him. He rocked the world. It’s such a loss.”
Julian White, a DJ known professionally as Brother Jules, started working with Prince in 1991, but his family’s connection with the artist goes back far earlier. His mother babysat Prince. She called him a handful, White said, and would dread the call from Prince’s mother asking her to babysit him.
“He’s a musical genius. I appreciate and respect everything that he’s taught me and that he showed me in life. He showed me how to be a better person and his legacy will always be in my heart,” White said, adding that he started crying when he heard of the artist’s death, and “I don’t think I will stop crying for a while.”
One of Minneapolis’s biggest music stars of the moment, singer/rapper Lizzo — who sang backup on a recent Prince track and performed at Paisley Park last year — said via Twitter, “God bless us. We are truly lucky and fortunate to have lived while He did.”
Another well-known local musician and Prince fan, Sean “Har Mar Superstar” Tillmann, tweeted, “Excuse me while I cry for the rest of my life. You’re the reason I make music. I’ll love your music and sense of humor 4ever. #RestInPrince”
Slug of the prominent Minneapolis hip-hop group Atmosphere sent this via Twitter, “if you live in the twin cities & you make any sort of art, make some today/tonight. there’s gonna be some deep energy in the air. catch some.”
By Thursday afternoon, Minneapolis music store Electric Fetus, which Prince had visited on Saturday for Record Store Day, had sold out of everything related to Prince.
“A lot of Prince sales, a lot of sadness, a lot of stories being shared, a lot of disbelief,” said Bob Fuchs, store manager. “It’s pretty surreal right now. Most people are incredulous they just can’t believe this has happened.”
Robyne Robinson, a former KMSP Ch. 9 news anchor, interviewed Prince several times and maintained a personal relationship. She was working with University of Minnesota to give Prince an honorary music degree this summer, and she said he had tentatively agreed.
“He was a genius. He was an amazingly generous man to this community and to his people,” Robinson said, crying. “There’s no one that will match his brilliance. His generosity was really endless. He took me with him when he got an Essence Award. I remember the time he invited me to watch a ‘Midnight Special’ video with him, sitting on his living room floor, let me share the mike with him and Gwen Stefani at Paisley Park. I’ll be a fan until the day I die.”
First Avenue posted a tribute on Facebook: “Our hearts are broken. Prince was the Patron Saint of First Avenue. He grew up on this stage, and then commanded it, and he united our city. It is difficult to put into words the impact his death will have on the entire music community, and the world. As the tragic news sinks in, our thoughts are with Prince’s family, friends, and fans. We deeply mourn the loss of our friend, a true star.
“Rest in peace and power Prince.”
Officials with the city of Minneapolis posted condolences and memories as well.
In a blog post, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said the loss of Prince is felt even more deeply in the city in which he was raised.
“Prince was a child of our city and his love of his hometown permeated many of his songs,” she wrote. “Our pride in his accomplishments permeates our love of Minneapolis.”
Hodges noted Prince’s lasting impact on people who grew up with his music, including herself.
“Prince was unapologetically different and he made it okay for his fans to be different and to celebrate their individuality,” she wrote. “His social conscience challenged us to look deeper than the skin color of our neighbors. ‘Baltimore’ challenges us as much today as ‘Sign o’ the Times’ did in 1987. His voice was vital and will be missed.”
In a post on Facebook, Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey suggested naming downtown commons park Prince Park or Purple Rain Park. “Tough to lose a Minneapolis legend,” he said.
City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said, “Speechless. This man foundational to my music upbringing, my memories of junior high, high school, and beyond. Not just a “pop star” or “rock star,” a truly amazing musician and composer and mentor to so many other talented musicians. #Prince #RIP”
Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement saying, “Prince, and his music, defined an era. His tremendous talent was matched only by his generosity and commitment to improving his community. Minnesotans and our nation mourn the loss of a great artist today; one who has left an unforgettable mark on music history, and whose contributions to the betterment of our state will be remembered for years to come.”
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, whose district includes Paisley Park, tweeted, “Prince was the first concert I ever went to. As talented as they come and a Minnesota treasure. He’ll be missed …”
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar issued a statement: “Like all Minnesotans I am shocked and saddened today. I grew up with Prince’s music. He was a superstar composer, an amazing performer and a music innovator with a fierce belief in the independence of his art. He made ‘Purple Rain’ a household name, First Avenue a landmark, and brought international fame to Minnesota’s music scene. I was always so proud to say ‘Prince, he is from Minnesota.’ We grieve his loss today.”
Congressman Keith Ellison said, “My heart is heavy with the news of Prince’s passing. To the people of Minnesota, Prince was a cultural ambassador. He inspired countless others around the world with his music and theatrics. Prince showed us it was okay to be different. He showed us that the best way to be cool was to be yourself. Prince wasn’t merely a pop star — to many of us, he was much, much more.
“But the world will be a little less bright without Prince in it.”
U.S. Sen. Al Franken said: “Prince got his start in a Minneapolis jazz band and went on to share his talent throughout Minnesota and the entire world,” Sen. Franken said. “His artistry, innovation, and unparalleled presence inspired — and will continue to inspire — millions of people. To say he’ll be missed is an understatement. My thoughts are with his loved ones.”
In a post on Facebook, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said, “My brother bought me my first Prince album for my birthday in ‘78. I didn’t know what to make of it, but I immediately fell in love with his music. Over the years, I got a chance to see him several times, including at First Ave. But my favorite memory is listening to Controversy over and over again, while driving the stretch of Highway 2 between East and West Glacier when I worked out there in ‘82.”
Tributes to Prince came from across the community, theater to sports.
The Guthrie Theater colored its famous “G” logo purple on Facebook, and quoted the preamble to “Let’s Go Crazy”: “Dearly beloved, We are gathered here today, To get through this thing called life.” Glen Taylor, owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx, issued a statement noting that Prince was a supportive of the teams.
“Today we lost a local icon, legend and musical innovator. Prince represented Minnesota with grace, passion and a hunger for helping others,” the statement said. “Over the years be became a huge Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx fan, attending numerous games and even treating our Lynx players and staff with a private concert at Paisley Park after winning the WNBA Championship this past fall. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy, especially the Prince family.”
Minneapolis-based Target also issued a statement: “The Target team was deeply saddened to hear the news of Prince’s death. He was one of the best-selling artists of his time and a legendary Minnesotan. The lights atop our Minneapolis headquarters will be lit in purple starting at 8 pm tonight, April 21, as a tribute to Prince’s talent and the positive impact he made on our shared hometown of Minneapolis.”
Local radio stations the Current and KMOJ “The People’s Station” played a succession of Prince’s songs Thursday afternoon.
DJs reflected on Prince’s local and international impact. Callers shared stories about the artist.
One man who called into KMOJ said he attended Prince’s show in Atlanta last week and the artist seemed to be in good health.
“He left everything on the stage that night,” the caller said. “It was like I was a kid again, listening to Prince when I wasn’t supposed to be … When he started singing I started screaming like a little girl.”
Staff writers Neal Justin, Chris Riemenschneider, Zoë Peterson, Jessie Van Berkel, Erin Golden and Kavita Kumar contributed to this story.
Katie Humphrey • 612-673-4758