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Fans around the world mark death of Prince

Plus: new Bell Museum breaks ground in St. Paul; study finds higher rates of tooth decay in low-income schools; much of former Macy’s site to be parking; and more.

Fans laying flowers and memorials outside First Avenue on Thursday afternoon.
REUTERS/Craig Lassig

As you might imagine, and is befitting his standing, there’s a lot of commentary on the death and career of Prince. Jon Pareles of the New York Times says, “Prince was a man bursting with music — a wildly prolific songwriter, a virtuoso on guitars, keyboards and drums and a master architect of funk, rock, R&B and pop, even as his music defied genres. In a career that lasted from the late 1970s until his solo ‘Piano & a Microphone’ tour this year, he was acclaimed as a sex symbol, a musical prodigy and an artist who shaped his career his way, often battling with accepted music-business practices.”

Also in the Times, Ben Sisario writes, “ … within the music business, Prince — who died on Thursday at 57 — was also a trailblazing and sometimes controversial champion for his rights as an artist. In the 1990s he was in open conflict with the music industry, protesting the major-label system by writing the word ‘slave’ on his cheek and changing his name to an unpronounceable glyph. Later, as the music world moved online, Prince made sometimes mystifying pronouncements about the Internet, and policed his music rights so carefully that most of his songs were unavailable not only on jukebox streaming services like Spotify but also on Pandora and YouTube. His moves were sometimes mocked as mere eccentricity. But he is now seen as an early advocate of the kind of experimentation and artistic control that has become an essential tool of the most forward-thinking pop stars.”

Joe Caramanica joins his Times colleagues, assessing Prince’s most important albums he says, “Prince released music steadily from 1978 on, making for one of the most daring, radical and inventive catalogs in all of pop. Here are five of his finest albums, released at turning-point moments in his career, that show the artist, who was found dead, at 57, on Thursday, in his fullness: a cunning vocalist, a fiery musician, and a peerless songwriter and producer. … ‘Musicology’ (2004) Late-career Prince could be a hodgepodge — after he split with his record label Warner Bros. in the mid-1990s, he pinballed among styles, releasing music at an idiosyncratic clip. ‘Musicology,’ an album that is jubilant and grounded in Prince’s golden-era sonics, marked his return to the major label system, and also to controlled form.”

In the Los Angeles Times, Lorraine Ali remembers, “We were in an empty arena in Reno, NV where he was rehearsing for his upcoming ‘Musicology’ tour. I was ushered backstage into a room lit by candles, then seated next to the 5’2” artist who was wearing flouncy poet sleeves, a velvet (of course) waistcoat and platform shoes. Prince rarely gave interviews, and ours was on the condition that I didn’t use a tape recorder. So I scribbled furiously on a notepad as he spoke and avoided all eye contact with me for the first 15 minutes of our hour-long meeting. When I asked him why he didn’t want to be recorded, he looked almost embarrassed to answer: ‘I don’t like the sound of my own voice,’ he said. Prince was human after all. This was the kind of admission you’d expect from a nervous teenager, not someone who’d sold millions of albums and was accustomed to performing to as many people as he wanted on any given night. But then Prince was always surprising us. As we sat in the empty arena after the interview and watched his band rehearse, he leaned over and whispered, ‘I’ll give you 20 bucks if you yell ‘Freebird.’ C’mon,” he said with a nudge ‘25 if you shout ‘Skynyrd, dude!’  But this weekend, if there’s any justice, Prince will be the name shouted across the fields at Coachella, no matter who’s performing.

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USA Today published the transcript of the call.

Unidentified Male: Yea, we have um, yea, we have um, so, yea, um, the person is dead here.

Dispatcher: OK, get me the address please.

UM: OK, OK, I’m working on it.

D: Concentrate on that.

UM: And the people are just distraught.

D: I understand they are distraught, but —

UM: I’m working on it, I’m working on it.

D: OK, do we know how the person died?

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UM: I don’t know, I don’t know.

D: OK.

UM: Um, so we’re, we’re in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and we are at the home of Prince.

D: You’re in Minneapolis?

UM: Yea, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

D: You’re sure you are in Minneapolis?

UM: That’s correct.

WGN in Chicago says, “Cities across America are mourning the loss of Hall of Fame recording artist Prince, who died Thursday at the age of 57.” It’s a photo collage. The buildings in Chicago in purple, San Francisco City Hall, a bridge in Pittsburgh. Even Niagara Falls … inadvertently.

The Washington Post team of Elahe Izadi, Peter Holley, J. Freedom du Lac, Lindsey Bever and Sarah Larimer says, “By mid-afternoon, well over 100 fans and neighbors were milling around on a small grassy hill in front of Paisley Park, where the sun broke through after a morning of rain showers. Some attached flowers and purple balloons to a metal fence surrounding the compound. Others stared at the large white building in disbelief. It was a peaceful and somber scene that many described as surreal. ‘It’s like with anyone you love. I think I thought I had more time,’ said Griffin Woodworth, 43, of Richfield, Minn., who drove to Paisley Park after hearing the news this morning. Choked by tears, he spoke of the many happy memories he’d had seeing Prince perform inside the compound’s walls, including the time a shower of plastic glitter fell from the ceiling. Two years later, he was still finding glitter in his car. ‘It’s nice to be together with people here, but it’s never going to be the same,’ he said. ‘I wish I was standing in line, like always.’”

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For Wired, Brian Raftery says, “The most enthralling — and often most frustrating — aspect of being a fan of Prince was this: No matter what, you were never going to figure him out. You’d never be able to fully decode all of his intricate, ornate, mischievous lyrics. You’d never quite understand the reasoning for some of his sideways-twisting business and personal-life decisions. You’d barely even be able to keep up with his musical output, a gargantuan-sized, decades-spanning collection of music that ranged from popping synth-funk numbers to scorching guitar anthems to delicate, lights-dimming R&B ballads (and those are just the songs we heard; who knows how many hours of unheard material still sit in his infamous Paisley Park vaults).”

For the Seattle Times, David Schmader says, “Earlier this year, humanity got a bracing lesson in the unifying power of music when David Bowie died and deep, personal outpourings of love came from all sides. An even greater outpouring will meet the passing of Prince, the singular American musician … . He titled his 1978 debut “For You,” following it with a series of albums that saw him blend disparate cultures (black and white, R&B and rock, queer and Christian) en route to that rarest peak — a one-of-a-kind musical genius who also becomes a pop superstar. It happened with the Beatles and Bob Dylan, it happened with Prince, and it’s the best the pop world can offer: fearless innovators with enough people-pleasing instincts that their inventions hit the world like destiny. For Prince, the whole pop-genius endeavor was fueled by a hubris that remains awe-inspiring. What made this black, polymorphously perverse, diminutive gender-bender, who defied all efforts at easy categorization, believe he could become America’s (and the world’s) musical heartthrob? His astounding musical talent, for one. (Prince routinely wrote, arranged, performed and produced every note of music on an album by himself.)”

At Rolling Stone, Kory Grow writes, “Prince rarely conducted in-depth interviews, especially in recent years, and kept his personal life private. Nevertheless, he was linked romantically to several women in his lifetime, including Kim Basinger, Madonna, Sheila E., Carmen Electra, Susanna Hoffs and several others. He was engaged to Susannah Melvoin, frontwoman for the Family and the twin sister of Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin, in 1985. But he did not marry until 1996, when he wed dancer Mayte Garcia. They had a son, Boy Gregory, that year but he died a week after his birth due to Pfeiffer syndrome. They divorced in 1999. He married another woman, Manuela Testolini, in 2001 and became a Jehovah’s Witness that year. His second marriage ended in 2006. Earlier this year, he announced that he had begun work on his memoirs. ‘We’re starting right at the beginning from my first memory, and hopefully we can move all the way to the Super Bowl,’ he told a crowd at a private concert in New York City last month. ‘We just started, we’re going as quick as we can, working tirelessly.’ The book was tentatively titled The Beautiful Ones.

Also, Rob Sheffield in Rolling Stone says, “Prince was the artist in the Eighties who kept everybody guessing year to year what he’d try next, scrapping the formula he ruled the radio with last year to try something different, dropping a new art-damaged (yet chart-topping) manifesto each summer the way the Beatles and Bowie and Dylan used to do. He was one of the world’s biggest stars, yet he operated with the weirdness of a small-time cult artist. At a time when pop was cowed by the past, Prince was the guy who refused to concede a thing to nostalgia, determined to go up against all the giants of pop/rock/R&B history and top them all, doing the twist a little bit harder than they did in ’66, a little bit faster than they did in ’67, to shut up everybody who wanted to surrender to the past. He went up against the whole pop tradition and showed it no mercy, but showed it how to grind.”


The New Music Express has its collection as well, including President Obama. “In a statement posted on Facebook, Obama said that ‘Today, the world lost a creative icon.’ He continued: ‘Michelle and I join millions of fans from around the world in mourning the sudden death of Prince. 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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his band, and all who loved him.”

In other news, the Strib’s Mary Abbe reports on the groundbreaking of the new Bell Musuem: “After more than 75 years at the heart of the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus, the Bell Museum of Natural History is moving on. It will officially break ground Friday for a new $79.2 million complex near the State Fairgrounds that will be a northern gateway to the U’s St. Paul campus. Renamed the Bell Museum + Planetarium, the new facility will have a 120-seat domed planetarium/theater, expanded galleries, interactive exhibitions, traditional dioramas and up-to-the-minute technology.”

MPR reports on a study looking at the prevalence of tooth decay among kids in lower-income schools: “Third-graders in Minnesota schools serving mostly lower-income families were three times more likely to have untreated tooth decay compared to kids from higher-income schools, state health officials said Thursday. Nearly 30 percent of third-graders at low-income schools were found with untreated tooth decay. The rate was only about 9 percent at schools serving mostly higher-income families.”

In the PiPress, Sarah Horner offers another story on the former Macy’s site: “After more than two years of anticipation and attempts at deal-making with various developers, the home of the last major retailer in downtown St. Paul is poised to become a whole lot of parking. Because of a number of challenges associated with the former Macy’s site, the St. Paul Port Authority hasn’t been able to sell the urban square footage as an ideal spot for apartments or even high-end office space.”