WASHINGTON – Minnesota's congressional delegation is making a bipartisan attempt to posthumously give a Congressional Gold Medal to pop music legend Prince.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar unveiled their legislation Monday trying to award the superstar Minnesotan with the rare and distinguished honor.
"He was a musical genius," said Klobuchar, a Democrat. "But he was also a genius about protecting his own creative work, and that's something that's worth discussing forever."
Every Republican and Democratic member of Minnesota's congressional delegation has signed on in support of the measure, according to a release from Klobuchar's and Omar's offices. If it gains enough support, the medal for Prince would be "in recognition of his achievements and contributions to the culture of the United States," according to the legislation.
"Prince is a Minnesota icon," Omar, a Democrat, said in a statement. "I remember when I first came to America being captivated by Prince's music and impact on the culture. He showed that it was okay to be a short, Black kid from Minneapolis and still change the world. He not only changed the arc of music history; he put Minneapolis on the map. Places like First Avenue, Uptown are landmarks because of Prince."
Major figures who have been awarded the medal include civil rights activist Rosa Parks, baseball great Jackie Robinson and former Vice President and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey, according to the Congressional Research Service. Other recipients include actor John Wayne, musician Frank Sinatra and Peanuts comic strip creator Charles M. Schulz, a Twin Cities native.
Klobuchar said that Prince "so transcended state borders as well as national borders actually, and we haven't had that many musicians of color honored in the past."
Prince died in 2016 at the age of 57 from an accidental fentanyl overdose at his Chanhassen home and music studio, Paisley Park. Prince Rogers Nelson grew up in Minneapolis and focused on the city during his musical career, pioneering what's known as the Minneapolis Sound, which mixed elements of new wave, rock, pop and funk.
His landmark albums included "1999," "Purple Rain" and "Sign O' the Times." He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, unleashing a memorable guitar solo during a performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" in tribute to George Harrison.
The gold medal legislation highlights Prince's achievements and also says that "widely regarded as one of the greatest musicians of his generation, Prince's innovative music incorporated elements of rock, R&B, funk, hip-hop, new wave, synth-pop, and jazz."
A verified Twitter account associated with Prince tweeted Monday that "the Prince Estate is encouraging all of Prince's American fans (and fams) to contact their local representatives and senators and encourage them to support this monumental commendation of Prince's talent, cultural impact, and historical legacy."
While Prince was beloved across the nation, his deep ties to Minnesota made his passing difficult for the state, and for the city of Minneapolis where he was born. First Avenue, the legendary nightclub Prince made famous in the 1980s, displays a gold star on the building with Prince's name.
The gold medal legislation details those ties, pointing to the fact that as "a lifelong Minnesota resident, Prince was a participant in, and supporter of, the local Minneapolis arts community, memorialized in songs like 'Uptown.' "
Gold medal efforts face a hurdle in the House and Senate to be co-sponsored by two-thirds of lawmakers for an award to come to pass, according to Klobuchar's release.
The gold medal push from Minnesota's congressional delegation does represent a moment of bipartisan unity between the state's Republican and Democratic members.
"People love Prince," Klobuchar said.
Hunter Woodall • 612-673-4559