WASHINGTON — This is what it sounds like when doves cry.
The artist affectionately known as Prince is dead. He was 57.
His publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, told The Associated Press that the superstar “died at his home this morning at Paisley Park.” The local sheriff said deputies found Prince unresponsive in an elevator late Thursday morning after being summoned to his home, but that first-responders couldn’t revive him.
No details about his cause of death have been released. Prince postponed a concert in Atlanta on April 7 with reported flu-like symptoms and apologized to fans during a makeup concert last week.
Prince Rogers Nelson went by various stage names over his career, including The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, branded with a visual symbol, due to a licensing dispute with Warner Bros.
After four albums — “For You” (1978), “Prince” (1979), “Dirty Mind” (1980) and “Controversy” (1981) — Prince became a global superstar with the album “1999” (1982), which featured the apocalyptic title track (“Two-thousand-zero-zero, party over, oops, out of time”) and the radio smash “Little Red Corvette” (“Baby you’re much too fast”).
His next album was even bigger — in fact, one of the biggest of all time — rivaling Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (1982) as seminal albums of the decade. “Purple Rain” (1984) went 13 times platinum and spent 24 weeks at No. 1. The album accompanied a film of the same name, starring Prince as a tormented young musician, and its title track won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
In addition, “Purple Rain” also spawned two No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, the existential “Let’s Go Crazy” (“Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down? Oh no, let’s go!”) and the heartbreaking “When Doves Cry” (“Maybe I’m just like my father: too bold, maybe you’re just like my mother, she’s never satisfied, why do we scream at each other, this is what it sounds like when doves cry”).
In 1984, Chaka Khan found a smash hit with “I Feel For You,” which Prince originally wrote for his 1979 album. The cover earned a Grammy for Best R&B Song, one of many hits Prince wrote for other artists, including “Manic Monday” for The Bangles, “Jungle Love” for The Time and “Nothing Compares to U” for Sinead O’Connor. Khan told WTOP about her initial meeting with Prince, who called her on the phone and pretended to be Sly Stone:
After “Around the World in a Day” (1985) and “Romance 1600” (1985), his eighth studio album “Parade” (1986) delivered the smash hit “Kiss” (“You don’t have to be rich to be my girl, you don’t have to be cool to rule my world, ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with, I just want your extra time and your…kiss.”) The music for “Kiss” has been sampled repeatedly in hip-hop ever since.
WTOP’s Marcus Moore hit the local TV airwaves Friday morning to discuss Prince’s music legacy.
While music fans jammed out to more delicious albums like “Sign ‘O The Times” (1987) and “Lovesexy” (1988), movie fans got another brush with Prince when he delivered the soundtrack for Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1989), starring Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton. The soundtrack spawned the No. 1 hit “Batdance,” but who also can forget Nicholson’s Joker spraying graffiti to “Partyman” or throwing out free money on a parade route to Prince’s upbeat “Trust?”
By the 1990s, Prince was still a hitmaker, delivering the sexually-explicit No. 1 hit “Cream” (1991), the No. 3 hit “Diamonds and Pearls” and the No. 3 hit “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.”
By the turn of the millennium, Prince’s “1999” made an obvious comeback in re-release ahead of Y2K, while the early 2000s saw him lay out a sort of music blueprint in “Musicology” (2004).
By the end of his career, Prince had sold more than 100 million records, while racking up seven Grammys and the aforementioned Oscar for “Purple Rain.”
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As a performer, he was an enigmatic, gender-bending singing presence with falsettos and edgy costumes. He could also shred guitar with the best of them, often compared to Jimi Hendrix, a claim he rejected, saying his style was more like Carlos Santana. In fact, he played nearly every instrument on every album, blending an array of musical genres from pop to rock to funk to disco to psychedelic.
“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. 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,” read the dedication at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame upon his induction in 2004.
During the Rock Hall induction ceremony, Prince performed a memorable guitar rendition of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on stage with Tom Petty and other music legends.
“There are many kings. King Henry VIII. King Solomon. King Tut. King Kong. But there is only one Prince,” Alicia Keys said during Prince’s Rock Hall induction.
Three years after his Rock Hall induction, Prince performed a memorable half-time set at the Super Bowl in 2007, actually singing “Purple Rain” in a downpour of rain in a transcendent moment.
Just last year, Prince held a “Rally 4 Peace” concert in Baltimore on May 10 following the death of Freddie Gray. Soon after, on June 15, he performed at Warner Theatre in D.C., where fans placed flowers and other mementos at his sidewalk star along the theatre’s downtown “Walk of Fame.”
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.
Ever surprising, he 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.”
An entire new generation grew to love Prince through comedian Dave Chappelle, who delivered a hilarious impersonation on Comedy Central’s “Chappelle’s Show.” The sketch saw Prince and The Revolution challenge Charlie Murphy (Eddie’s brother) to a game of pick-up basketball.
His personal life remained shrouded in mystery. He was married twice, first to backup dancer Mayte Garcia before the couple parted in 2000, then to Manuela Testolini before the couple split in 2006.
Still, fans felt a personal connection to his music. Upon hearing of his death, 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 his purple motorcycle from “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.
Various tributes unfolded across the country. Filmmaker Spike Lee hosted an impromptu Prince dance party outside his home in Brooklyn. Meanwhile on Broadway, the cast of “Hamilton” sang “Let’s Go Crazy,” while Jennifer Hudson led the cast of “The Color Purple” to sing “Purple Rain.”
Even the President of the United States offered his condolences.
“Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer,” President Barack Obama said.
Now that the sky is all purple, with purple rain falling, the party’s over, oops, out of time. Grieving music fans must think this is what it sounds like when doves cry. But let’s instead find comfort remembering Prince’s own prescient lyrics, foreshadowing an elevator trip to the afterlife:
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. … It means forever and that’s a mighty long time. But I’m here to tell you there’s something else: the after world. A world of never ending happiness. You can always see the sun. … Instead of asking him how much of your time is left, ask him how much of your mind, baby. ‘Cause in this life, things are much harder than in the after world. In this life, you’re on your own. And if the elevator tries to bring you down, go crazy, punch a higher floor.”