One of the most brilliant lights in popular music history has gone out. On a rainy Thursday morning in Minnesota, one of the state's and nation's most talented and treasured artists, Prince, was found dead at his Paisley Park complex in Chanhassen.
Rightly described as a musical genius, Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, grew up in Minneapolis and went to Central High School. He developed his musical skills while playing several instruments as a boy and was already writing music and playing in local groups as a teenager. He went on to write and record chart-topping songs in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, including 19 top 10 pop singles. He won numerous Grammys and an Oscar for a song from the popular rock movie "Purple Rain,'' which was filmed in the Twin Cities.
His combination of rock, pop, R&B and blues became the foundation of what was known nationally and internationally as the "Minneapolis Sound.'' He was the rare combination of gifted singer, songwriter, arranger and producer of music in a variety of styles — as well as being a showman on stage. And throughout his 40-year career, he kept innovating and creating, while always encouraging up-and-coming artists along the way.
An infamous break with Warner Bros. Records demonstrated his fierce independence and need to control his own music. When the record label wouldn't give him autonomy and claimed that it owned his name, for several years he became the "artist formerly known as Prince,'' printed "slave'' on his face and used his guitar-shaped symbol/logo as his name. Eventually, he and the record company resolved their differences and he returned to the label.
Unlike other native stars who have made it big, the sometimes-reclusive Prince maintained his connection to his home state. He built his home and Paisley Park recording compound in Chanhassen, drawing artists from around the world to the Midwest to record, collaborate, make movies or just to learn from the master.
Prince will be missed by fans worldwide, but for his home state the loss is more personal. He was a Minnesota original, and those in mourning can take some comfort in knowing he leaves behind a musical legacy that will stand the test of time.