By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY and HILLEL ITALIE and JEFF BAENEN
CHANHASSEN, Minn. (AP) — Pop superstar Prince, widely acclaimed as one of the most inventive and influential 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 singer, songwriter, arranger and instrumentalist 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 Minneapolis native, born Prince Rogers Nelson, stood just 5 feet, 2 inches tall, 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 AP in 2014. “I was just trying to get here.”
In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall 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.”
Rarely lacking in confidence, Price effortlessly absorbed the music of others and made it sound like Prince, whether the James Brown guitar riff on “Kiss” or the Beatle-esque, psychedelic pop of “Raspberry Beret.”
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
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.
Prince debuted the intimate format at his Paisley Park studios in January, treating fans to a performance that was personal and was both playful and emotional at times.
The musician had seemed to be shedding his reclusive reputation. He hosted several late-night jam sessions where he serenaded Madonna, celebrated the Minnesota Lynx’s WNBA championship and showcased his latest protege, singer Judith Hill.
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.”
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 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.
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