Prince, the singularly flamboyant and prolific songwriter and performer whose decades of music transcended and remade genres such as funk, rock and R&B, died Thursday at his Paisley Park studio and estate in Minnesota, according to a statement from his publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure. He was 57.
Across a career of more than 35 years, Prince released 39 albums and won seven Grammy Awards while being lauded not only for his songs, but their visual presentation both onstage and on camera. His 1984 film “Purple Rain” is widely considered one of the best and most influential music films, while its accompanying soundtrack won an Oscar and spawned the No. 1 hits “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry.” He came to Tacoma in 1985 touring behnd the “Purple Rain” album. He last performed in Tacoma in 2011.
Other indelible Prince singles included “Little Red Corvette,” “Kiss,” “Raspberry Beret” and “Sign ‘O’ the Times.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Shock over the news was widespread.
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President Barack Obama released a statement Thursday saying he and the first lady “joined millions of fans from around the world” in mourning Prince’s sudden death.
“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent,” said Obama, for whom Prince was a White House guest last year. “ ‘A strong spirit transcends rules,’ Prince once said — and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative.”
Local musician, record label owner and radio show host Raymond Hayden, 49, first heard Prince’s music when he was in high school.
While still in school, Hayden went to see a Prince concert in Portland.
“I remember leaving and going, ‘What just happened?’ It was one of the most amazing, entertaining shows I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen thousands of concerts. The energy, the music, what they wore. That guy didn’t miss a beat,” Hayden said.
As Prince’s career advanced, he showed Hayden and other musicians that fan bases could be built across genres, Hayden said.
“He connected with everybody,” Hayden said. “Prince was truly music royalty.”
Julian Stefoni has been performing a Prince tribute show, “Erotic City,” since the early 1990s. Prince was aware of Stefoni and had him join the headliner once onstage.
Portland-based Stefoni last performed in Tacoma at Jazzbones in February for a sold-out show and will return in June.
Stefoni was distraught at the news Thursday morning of Prince’s death.
“He’s left an incredible mark on this planet,” Stefoni said.
Stefoni performs between 200 and 250 shows per year as Prince. His fan base continues to grow.
“It’s the energy. You got that punk, rock, rhythm and blues, pop. We plays these songs and I’m looking at the audience. It’s incredible how this music gets these people. They make those songs a part of their lives.”
Stefoni is not yet sure what form his next show, on April 29 in Portland, will take.
“It will be heartfelt,” Stefoni said. “People will want to sing these songs and just gather. There will be a lot of tears when we sing ‘Purple Rain.’ ”
Area radio tributes started taking shape Thursday afternoon, with Prince music in heavy rotation on stations such as Seattle’s KEXP-FM.
An all-Prince format went into effect at 11 a.m. Thursday on Seattle-based KHTP-FM, which bills itself as “100 percent throwbacks.” Afternoon DJ Tanch started downloading additional Prince songs as soon as the news was confirmed.
“He was a musical genius and he was selfless,” Tanch said. The radio station is part of the Entercom company which includes rock formatted KISW and alternative station KNDD.
“They shared the same emotions,” Tanch said of the other DJs. “Even if he doesn’t live on your station you have a huge amount of respect for him.”
EMP Museum at the Seattle Center will show two screenings of “Purple Rain” in the museum’s Sky Church on Friday (April 22). In the semiautobiographical film Prince takes the role of “The Kid,” a young musician rising to the pinnacle of stardom.
On Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue, where most of the city’s record stores are congregated, owners were pulling together their collections.
Drastic Plastic owner Charles Rice had about 30 records and a few movies and posters on hand. He had already sold four Prince records by noon.
“He’s flying out the door like Michael Jackson did,” Rice said. “And higher ticket items — $100 a piece.”
Some of Rice’s stock includes albums with the plastic still on and posters inside. Some were rare 12-inch singles. One, of “Purple Rain,” was pressed on purple vinyl.
Steve Gaydich, the owner of Rocket Records, was searching through his stacks but hadn’t found much. He would have to purchase more from wholesalers.
“All the prices will get jacked up now,” he lamented.
Prince broke through in the late 1970s with the hits “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and soared over the following decade with such albums as “1999” and “Purple Rain.”
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.
He had been touring and recording right up until his death, releasing four albums in the past 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 was reported to have been hospitalized in Illinois on Friday on his way back from a concert in Atlanta. He subsequently appeared at a dance party at Paisley Park.
The News Tribune’s Craig Sailor, The New York Times, The Associated Press and staff archives contributed to this report.