Prince, pop superstar and music icon, dies at 57

Prince, who broke through in the late 1970s, seemed to summon the most original and compelling sounds at will and was fiercely protective of his independence


A file photo of Prince at a performance in 2008. Photo: AP
A file photo of Prince at a performance in 2008. Photo: AP

Pop superstar Prince, widely acclaimed as one of the most inventive 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. He was 57.

His publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, told The Associated Press that the music icon died at his home in Chanhassen. No details were immediately released.

The Minneapolis native broke through in the late 1970s with the hits Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? and I 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.”

The man born Prince Rogers Nelson stood just 5ft 2in 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 Associated Press in 2014. “I was just trying to get here.”

In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll 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,” 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.”

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 about 20 miles south-west 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.