When Prince passed away six years ago, on April 21, 2016, monuments lit up in purple around the world, dance parties broke out in his honor and flowers and signs filled the fence around Chanhassen’s Paisley Park.
Today the remembrances continue, and his influence is still felt.
Eden Prairie’s connections to Prince include the inspiration for his movie “Graffiti Bridge,” a bridge that was torn down in 1991, as well as one of his first recording studios, according to the Eden Prairie Historical Society.
Basic tracking for songs like “America” and “Paisley Park” took place at this Flying Cloud Drive warehouse, according to princevault.com, and it was initially considered as a location for Paisley Park.
But Prince came to be more closely connected to Chanhassen when construction was completed at his recording studio, production complex and creative sanctuary on Audubon Road in 1987.
Former Chanhassen Mayor Denny Laufenburger said that as the mayor when Prince died, he came to know fans (or as Prince often called them, “fams”) around the world, and he continues to cherish those friendships.
“He was full of grace,” Laufenburger said of Prince, “and so incredibly talented,” and he still inspires people to honor him and remember all that he did. These people are passionate about Prince, and that passion is also demonstrated in their desire to stay connected, he said. “I never met Prince, but Prince’s life … opened the door to relationships for thousands and thousands of people around the world.”
Laufenburger said that this year fans are also remembering Dan Lacey, who died on Feb. 7. Lacey was well-known for painting outside Paisley Park and working to maintain memorials at the Riley Creek tunnel.
DJ Michael Holtz of Chaska, who played at some of Prince’s late-night dance parties, said that he planned to help Laufenburger provide music for his free Walk the Purple Path event at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 23, at Lake Ann Park in Chanhassen.
“Prince still affects my life after his passing,” Holtz said. It inspires him to “treat people with kindness no matter how divided or different we are in our current state. We also need to take care of one another because there is always someone that is less fortunate than you.”
Inspiring young people
“Prince’s influence is indelible,” said Heidi Vader of the Purple Playground, an educational organization she founded after Prince’s death. “His music motivates and entertains me — his melodies and lyrics are forever embedded in my brain. He introduced such positive, creative people into my life, and with them, I created the nonprofit group Purple Playground. We celebrate his legacy and teach teens at Academy of Prince to find their inner muse to collaborate and create original songs inspired by him. They learn to be fearless and unabashedly open, to encourage and listen to their peers. They find a safe place to be themselves.”
Vader said that Purple Playground is planning several events in June, including the Purple Playground Gangster Glam Prince Birthday Skate Party from 4-6 p.m. June 5 at Skateville in Burnsville; and the fifth annual Academy of Prince for teens from June 13-17, and June 20-24 at Urban Ventures and High School for Recording Arts. For more information, visit purpleplayground.org.
“Time does not heal. It still feels as raw and gut-wrenchingly painful as the day he left us on April 21, 2016,” said Matthew Jeffery of London, who saw Prince perform live several times, including at Paisley Park.
“Prince was more than the soundtrack to many of our lives. He leaves us a record collection of so many varied tracks that could ease despair and sadness … and inspire delirious happiness. Prince gave his all and we are only now learning how much he did for charities and those in need,” Jeffery said. “Prince was an inspiration. Work hard. Be the best you can be. And you will achieve your dreams in life. No one worked harder and longer hours than he to perfect his craft behind the doors of Paisley Park.”
Jeffery said Prince shared “real music by real musicians.”
“Every gig he played was unique,” he said, “a setlist formed based on his mood of the moment. Which artists today would play a blistering guitar solo, then walk to the piano and play a hauntingly delicate but beautiful ballad, then play a drum solo whose ferocity could bring the roof down, then grab a bass and get down and dirty with funk that would possess your feet and compel you to dance? Not only would he do a three-hour concert, he would rush to a small nightclub and jam to the early hours. Who does that today?”
Prince leaves a legacy of music, and Jeffery said that he is hoping to see the release of much more of the music that Prince left behind.
Jeffery said the last time he saw Prince was at Paisley Park in January 2016 for Prince’s Piano & a Microphone tour. He describes it as “two back-to-back piano gigs that were some of the finest performances of his career. Emotions swinging from tearful reflection to utter, sheer joy. On the final night, he played DJ for the crowd. Playing choice cuts and singing along.”
Prince’s legacy of music continues at Paisley Park, said Managing Director Mitch Maguire, “Though Prince’s loss came entirely too soon, we were lucky to have had him for as long as we did. His influence on popular culture and his contribution to the world of music will be celebrated for generations to come.
“And that’s exactly how we honor Prince’s legacy now at Paisley Park, by celebrating a life well-lived,” Maguire said. “It’s humbling to see how Prince’s influence continues to inspire people today, and it’s a joy to share that experience with them. Whether it’s a museum tour, a concert or a recording session, Prince’s creative spirit is still very much alive and well at Paisley Park.”
This year, events in honor of Prince at Paisley included a sold-out concert featuring Liv Warfield on April 21. Celebration returns from June 2-5, with the 2022 celebration kicking off June 2 with the dedication of a new Prince mural on Ramp A in Minneapolis.
The Current has compiled more events in honor of the anniversary of Prince’s passing. Events are also planned to coincide with Prince’s birthday, June 7.
Karla Wennerstrom is a copy editor and part-time tour guide at Paisley Park. She is a former editor of the Eden Prairie News.
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