Perhaps even more unsettling than the shocking news of his untimely death were the mysterious revelations that quickly followed.
Prince was found alone last Thursday morning, dead for hours, slumped to the floor at the bottom of an elevator in his lavish 65,000 square foot Paisley Park studio complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis. The $10 million edifice features two recording studios, a soundstage with rehearsal room, private offices, an underground parking garage, an outdoor basketball court and a solid steel basement bank vault containing hundreds upon hundreds of hours of unreleased master recordings - potentially worth as much as the current value of his estate, already estimated at more than three hundred million dollars.
Prince Rogers Nelson left this all behind at the age of 57, unmarried and childless, his immediate living relatives being one sister and seven half-siblings. His father, John Lewis Nelson, died in 2001 and his mother, Mattie Della Shaw, passed in 2002.
Was it inadvertently death by faith?
Although there is ample testimony from multiple sources that, unlike rock star peers, Prince assiduously avoided drugs and alcohol throughout his entire professional life, recent times may have seen him resort to powerful narcotic relief from chronic hip pain following decades of highly energized concert performances.
Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, he became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2003 and was consequently reluctant to undergo a strongly recommended double hip replacement due to that sect’s proscription against blood transfusions.
Although a full autopsy has been conducted, it may be weeks before a final cause of death is officially pronounced. Convincing evidence has been released, however, suggesting that Prince apparently suffered an overdose of the prescription drug Percocet a week before he died while flying back to Minnesota following what turned out to be a final performance in Atlanta.
Percocet is a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. It features a high risk of addiction and dependence.
All of that sadly stated, Prince stands alone and unchallenged as the ultimate musical performer of his generation. Borrowing a phrase from the No. 1 global hit he wrote for Sinead O’ Connor in 1990 - nothing compares. Or even comes close.
I was running top-rated radio stations in the Midwest when Tipper Gore, wife of then Senator and future Vice President Al Gore, joined a handful of woeful, woebegone Washington hand ringers without much else to do and formed “The Parents Music Resource Center” in 1984. This was in reaction to having heard “Darling Nikki” by Prince from his enormously successful film, “Purple Rain.” Tipper identified Prince as being “a public menace.” Inspired by such lunacy, I authorized every cut from the soundtrack for airplay on our facilities, believing then, as I do now, that “Rock & Roll” is ultimately an attitude - rock music being an important, but not exclusive form of expression.
It’s also no surprise learning more about Prince’s deeply held spiritual beliefs, a serious commitment to eternal, transcendental values readily evident in any fair, unprejudiced review of his music through the years.
And I agree with the late Kurt Vonnegut that all music is sacred. Vonnegut wrote, “Music is, to me, proof of the existence of God. It is so extraordinarily full of magic, and in tough times of my life I can listen to music and it makes such a difference.”
Here in Oakhurst, we’re in for a rare treat this Saturday night at 7 p.m. when the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra appears at Sierra Vista Church as part of an historic five county orchestral tour in celebration of the 100thAnniversary of the National Park Service.
Les Marsden, Founder and Conductor of the Orchestra, promises that his commemorative musical work, “Our Nation’s Nature” is “a cycle of four distinct, unique, large-scale symphonic poems united by shared thematic materials composed accessibly in my personal style with respect, awe and love for our great outdoors.”
The public is most cordially invited to attend this extraordinary performance and early arrival is surely suggested. Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $6 for students, with discounted pricing for members of the Mariposa County Arts Council.
“Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down?
Oh, no. Let’s go!”
Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy!” (1984)