Even if rock-star deaths seem weirdly commonplace in 2016 and he felt ill on a plane from reported flu symptoms last Friday, the news that Prince collapsed at his estate outside Minneapolis and died today seems inconceivable. He was only 57 years old and looked ever-youthful in the orbit of his enigmatic, creative aura.
Sure, Prince’s studio output in recent years never matched the consistency and genius of his ’80s work, centered by his breakthrough Purple Rain. But the man who crossed James Brown and Jimi Hendrix to forge his own idiosyncratic Minneapolis soul/funk/rock groove and become a symbol for a generation remained a uniquely gifted live performer.
He rekindled his legend with a magical 2007 Super Bowl halftime show whipped by monsoon-like conditions (“Can you make it rain harder?” Prince supposedly said), following a 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction performance where Prince stole the show from Tom Petty and company with his stinging guitar flights.
Yet Prince focused on piano for his last performances, both on a sporadic tour and in a surprise cameo last Saturday at his Paisley Park home studios, coming out to play “Chopsticks” at a sparsely attended night billed as a dance party. He reportedly addressed his health by saying “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.”
Alas, Prince’s time on Earth is sadly over. I saw him perform a handful of times over the years, (above) from his 1988 Lovesexy Tour at the Worcester Centrum to funk throwdowns in clubs like Metro/Citi (now House of Blues) and the Roxy (now Royale). Yet Prince also hit the stage in fine form the last time I caught him in late 2013 at Mohegan Sun. Here’s a link to my review. It’s only April, and this sign o’ the times grows more painful.