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On This Day In Music... April 21, 2016: The Purple Reign Comes to an End, Prince Dies

The star's sudden death sent shockwaves around the world.

Source: WAAA/ZDS/WENN/Newscom/The Mega Agency

Prince died due to an accidental overdose at his home in Minneapolis.

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The news of Prince's passing on April 21, 2016 sent shockwaves around the world.

On April 15, while flying from Atlanta to Minneapolis during the US leg of his stripped-back Piano & A Microphone Tour, he became unresponsive, and his private jet made an emergency landing at Quad Cities International Airport in Moline, Illinois, where he was hospitalized and received naloxone. He left the next morning against medical advice and returned to Chanhassenn, Minnesota where he showed up a Record Store Day event and on April 19, attended a gig by jazz singer Lizz Wright.

A scheduled visit by a specialist to see Prince at his Paisley Park residence and studio about his medication for pain management was not meant to be. On the morning of April 21, he was found unresponsive in an elevator. Paramedics performed CPR but concluded he had been dead for hours. His death was attributed to an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Prince was 57.

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Source: Public Domain

Prince in 1980 around the time of his third studio album 'Dirty Mind.'

Born and brought up in a musical family in Minneapolis, Minnesota and named after his father's stage name, Prince (who was not fond of the moniker and went by the nickname Skipper), was shuttled between his parents' homes after they divorced when he was ten.

A chance discovery of archival news footage in 2022 offered a rare glimpse of the young star from that period: When a teacher's strike got underway in March of that year, the production manager of CBS affiliate WCCO in Minneapolis, looking at archival footage of a similar event in 1970, found 11-year-old Prince Rogers Nelson offering his opinion on the matter.

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Source: © WCCO - CBS Minnesota/YouTube

Gifted musically and trained in classical ballet, his talents would emerge quickly through 94 East, a band formed in 1975 and funded by Pepe Willie, the husband of Prince's cousin Shauntel. It wasn't long before Prince was making demos, playing all the instruments, producing prodigious amounts of material until he was finally signed to a contract by Warner Bros. at the age of 19.

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Source: ℗ © Prince Rogers Nelson/Prince/YouTube

Prince- Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad (American Bandstand, 1979)

His first three albums For You (1978), Prince (1979) and the sexually explicit Dirty Mind (1980) were all just a taster for what was to come. Controversy followed – literally – in 1981 when he opened up three shows for the Rolling Stones and was pelted by rubbish at their gig in Los Angeles. But by October 1982, Prince released the double album 1999, with the title cut, "Little Red Corvette" and "Delirious" taking over the airwaves and fledgling music video channel MTV by storm.

By this point Prince's band, the Revolution, was starting to take prominence both on video and onstage. While rumor has it that Prince had nearly demanded a movie deal pre-stardom, no one could have foreseen that he, the Revolution and the film industry were about to be turned upside down with his next project.

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Source: Mike Maloney/Mirrorpix/Newscom/The Mega Agency

Prince's 'Purple Rain' era made him a genuine superstar.

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The loosely autobiographical Purple Rain (1984) launched Prince into that rarified air of musician, actor and cultural phenomenon. The package was massively personal, yet mysterious. The soundtrack, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, propelled hits like "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy" to No. 1 spots on Billboard's Hot 100, with the title track hitting No. 2 and the album spending 24 consecutive weeks at the top of the charts.

Source: ℗ © Prince Rodgers Nelson/Prince and the Revolution/YouTube

Prince - Purple Rain - Live At American Music Awards 1985 (HQ)

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The next several years were a whirlwind for the artist: Andy Warhol immortalized him in a painting, Tipper Gore's Parent Music Resource Center singled him out for censorship, and the further endeavors like Around The World in a Day (1985) collided with outside projects, like writing "Manic Monday" for the Bangles. His next film Under The Cherry Moon (1986) had film critics labeling the movie a disastrous flop, even though the soundtrack/album Parade yielded a No. 1 hit with "Kiss."

Prince stayed busy following that disappointment, simultaneously disbanding the Revolution, working on three music projects at once and struggling to maintain a cordial relationship with Warner Bros., and eventually he released what many consider to be his finest work, the double LP Sign o' the Times (1987).


The back half of the 1980s was a period of furious activity for Prince.

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He continued at a furious pace: composing the soundtrack to the 1989 film Batman, writing and starring in 1990's Graffiti Bridge and earning a No. 1 hit without even trying when a young Irish singer named Sinead O'Connor took his "Nothing Compares 2 U" and made it her signature song.

His battles with Warner Bros. continued to be an ongoing source of friction, and in a 1993 act of rebellion, he formally adopted the "Love Symbol" as his stage name. The following year, he released albums in quick succession to rid himself of the Warner Bros. contract and took to scrawling the word "slave" on his face during televised performances.

By 1996, he had freed himself from those contractual obligations and released the 36-song, 3CD Emancipation and his first to feature covers from other artists. He signed with Arista Records in 1999 and Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic was dropped in November 1999.

Source: ℗ © Prince Rogers Nelson/Prince/YouTube

Prince - Nothing Compares 2 U (Live At Paisley Park, 1999)

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He reverted back to Prince in 2000 (while keeping the symbol, mainly as a design element and guitar model) and in the following years, continued to have critical and commercial success: Musicology (2004), an awe-inspiring guitar solo for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, and a stunning 12-minute halftime performance at the 2007 Super Bowl.

From 2007 onward, he continued to perform non-stop, playing live and releasing new material. His Hit n Run Phase Two, released in December 2015 on streaming platform Tidal, was the last album released during his lifetime. In February 2016, he began his Piano & A Microphone Tour in Melbourne, Australia playing to smaller venues there and in New Zealand, all to critical acclaim. Performances in Oakland, Torontp and Atlanta drew similarly rapturous raves, with no one imagining that they would be among his last.

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Source: MEGA

Makeshift Prince memorial at First Avenue in Minneapolis.


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