A birthday gift

For his 16th birthday in 1999, Brendan Kenealy went to a Lenny Kravitz concert at Target Center:


Right before the lights came up, Lenny ripped into “Fly Away.” And right beside him, unannounced, Prince stepped into the spotlight with his iconic, gleaming-white guitar and soloed for 10 minutes. I waited. And I watched. And I listened.

Suddenly, it was past midnight and I had blown my curfew. When I got home, my mom was standing in the kitchen. Before she could say anything, I told her, “Mom! Prince showed up! It was amazing!” She just smiled, said, “Cool! Happy birthday.” And went to bed. Prince totally got me off the hook.


A gracious host

Monty Lysne, of Stillwater, on going to Paisley Park in the mid-1990s:


In the days before Twitter, we’d find out about a semi-secret show in Chanhassen. You felt like you had a magical ticket that only a select few had access to.

We’d show up around midnight, with about a hundred people, and stand in line in the hope of being let in — and in the hope that Prince would show up and perform. At least three times when I was there, he did just that.

Only in Minnesota would a world-famous rock star open up his home so informally to play for a bunch of strangers. On one visit, someone actually set out Tupperware bowls full of snacks around the room.

Only in Minnesota.


At a loss for words

Tami Bliss, now of Austin, Texas, saw Prince in St. Paul on his 2004 Musicology tour:


I had the opportunity to go on stage with him and dance. He came up to me and held the mic to my mouth. I was literally speechless. I suddenly forgot all the words. He winked and smiled and moved on. My heart was pounding.

I remember my mom saying that she cried so hard when she learned that Elvis had died. I remember thinking, “How can you be so sad over someone you didn’t know?” Today, I understand.


A two-wheeling musician

Peter Black of Minneapolis on a secret show at Paisley Park in September:


Prince ran on stage and shredded a solo during one of the band’s sets. When we were leaving, around 3:30 a.m., my friends and I were walking to the car and a figure emerged riding a bike toward us. We realized it was Prince. He stops and says, “Where ya’ll going? The party’s just getting started.” He then laughed, rode in circles, and then rode back into the building. It was the most perfect, surreal experience.


Mom’s night out

Monica Wiant, of Chanhassen, on getting a sitter and going to see Prince play at a late show:


I’m a suburban mom with two kids and a corporate job. I had no business going out to Paisley Park at 11 p.m. on a weeknight, but I have never been so glad to have made an irresponsible decision. There was something beautifully pure about the music, as if he was playing the very heart of each song.


Hitting the high notes

John Albrecht, a “St. Paul kid” now living in Atlanta, on Prince’s final concert last week.


It was elegant, funky, hard and sweet. His voice was as I remembered it from the “Purple Rain” tour way back when at the old Civic Center. Despite his flu battles, he hit every note and had that power we’ve all come to know in his voice. What else from Prince?


Movie star smile

Jason McCarty, of Blaine, on the filming of “Under the Cherry Moon”:


We watched Prince going up and down Washington on his purple Harley. They kept shooting the same scene over and over. Prince was never annoyed. Instead, he was smiling for the fans in between shots.


An ‘anonymous’ evening

Tara Murphy, of Minneapolis, on the time Prince attended MNfashion’s The Shows in 2013:


Prince came early and stayed to the end. When I was told he wanted to speak with me, I was nervous, elated and nauseous. I went upstairs to meet him in a room that overlooked the runway. He saw my cellphone, smiled sweetly and asked if I could please put it away. “I’m kind of allergic,” he said.

When I sat down across from him, he took off his sunglasses so he could look me in the eye when we spoke. He thanked me for providing him with an anonymous evening. Then, he added, “I think we’ve been found out.” He gestured to the runway and there stood my husband holding a cellphone up and trying to take pictures of us. I pretended I didn’t know who he was.


A dream interview

Journalist C.J. Sinner on a 2013 interview with Prince in Denver:


Three years ago, I was working at the Pioneer Press when my editor asked if I wanted to go to Denver to meet Prince. I thought she was joking. An hour later, we were at the airport.

After the show, we headed to an empty club basement with his entourage and band members, waiting, hoping for an appearance, maybe an interview, if we were lucky.

At about 4 a.m., Prince sauntered in with a bedazzled scepter and clothed in a turquoise jumpsuit. He was immaculate. And about my height! He was a beautiful, tiny man.

For the next 45 minutes, I sat there in awe as I asked that gracious person questions.

Sometimes I forget this even happened because it was so surreal. It was a dream. And I feel lucky.


Goodbye to a longtime friend

Walter “Q Bear” Banks Jr., a host at KMOJ, on growing up with Prince:


Lots of the kids were loud and crazy, but Prince was different. He was one of those who would stand still with his hands in his pockets, observing everything and absorbing everything. He’s just that quiet individual that has respect for people’s space and time.

I saw Prince a few weeks ago at Paisley Park. You would never know anything was wrong.


Andy Mannix, Jessie Van Berkel and Zoe Peterson contributed to this story.