Remembering Prince: complex, giving and spectacularly talented

Prince at Coachella. (By penner/CC BY-SA 3.0)
Prince at Coachella in 2008. (Photo by penner/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Complex. Shy. But he “was the greatest thing this state produced,” noted Robyne Robinson on Prince.

“It is mind blowing.  I am taken aback by the whole thing,” said an emotional Robyne Robinson in a brief MSR phone interview just a few hours after the news broke that the iconic singer was pronounced dead at his home Thursday. He was 57.

A screencap of a teaser of Robyne Robinson's interview with Prince
A screen-cap of a Youtube teaser of Robyne Robinson’s interview with Prince

Robinson, the longest running Black female news anchor in the Twin Cities, got a chance to do an hour long interview with Prince in the 1990s. Some have called her interview one of his best since he didn’t do many one-on-one sit down interviews.

Prince Rogers Nelson was a self-taught all-around musician, well-versed on piano, guitar, bass and drums. He emerged on the music scene in the late 1970s with his first album, in which he sang and wrote all the songs and played all the instruments. His musical style was hard to categorize — he could do R&B or funk, psychedelic rock, gospel, pop, classical, jazz, you name it.

“He was greater than Jaco Pastorius.  He was bigger than Hendrix.  He was the child of James Brown and Jackie Wilson,” declared Robinson, comparing Prince to Pastorius, the legendary jazz musician, composer and big band leader, and the late great guitarist Hendrix. And he easily followed in the footsteps of soul legends Brown and Wilson.

His pompadour and mannerisms were often parodied — comedian Dave Chappelle did a hilarious send up of Prince on his show years ago. But Prince, nonetheless, forced the music business and pop world to accept him on his own terms.

There was no musical genre he was not involved in throughout his legendary career. He was described as “a musical and social trailblazer” when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

Cheryl Duncan, a East Coast publicist who worked with Prince on his “Welcome 2 America tour,” had this to say about his passing: “One of the world’s greatest musical artists of any era has departed us. He embraced and shared his uniqueness with us and we are all richer for it. His musical legacy is all that can console us now.”

Prince may be best known for the 1984 movie Purple Rain, in which he starred in and won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score. The movie and music still stands the test of time for his innovativeness and musical soundtrack, including the classic title track.

Although he was world-renowned, Prince never forgot his Minneapolis roots, continued Robinson. “He was a complex, shy, thoughtful man who was down for his people [and] cared about his community that he was raised [in],” she pointed out. “He gave to Harvest Prep and KMOJ, and numerous people.”

By Micahmedia at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13466179
(Photo by Micahmedia/CC BY-SA 3.0)

His reclusiveness often seemed Howard Hughes-like, but Prince could be impulsive as well, such as when he invited the Minnesota Lynx to his Paisley Park studios for a celebration concert immediately after they won the 2015 WNBA championship last fall. It was also reported that he visited local record store Electric Fetus on Saturday in support of Record Store Day.

“There are very few people in this world that witnessed and touched greatness,” Robinson reflected. “I feel that everybody who lives in the Twin Cities has had an opportunity to share a story, a connection to this man.”

Prince’s complex personality can’t be understated, reiterated Robinson. “He would make people mad.  He could really rile you up on something you said or did. But, nonetheless, he was a human being that was the greatest thing this state produced.

“I feel that we [were] so blessed to have the opportunity to witness this man’s greatness in our lifetime,” says Robinson.  “I really feel there never will be another Prince.”

Earlier this year, one of Prince’s many protégés, Denise Matthews, otherwise known as Vanity, passed away on February 16 to kidney failure and abdominal disease.  He discovered her and put her in the all-girl group Vanity 6 and produced their music, most notably the hit “Nasty Girl.” “They are together,” said Robinson, on the two now passed-away singers.

Finally, Robinson’s parting tribute to the man who the world known as Prince: “The zenith of his star is exploding right now. We are so lucky to have been a part of that.  All I can say is thank you for sharing that with us,” she concluded.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this article. Please use the comment section to share with us your favorite Prince moments, songs, concert and memories.

Related: 

Minneapolis-born music legend Prince dies at age 57

PHOTOS | Mpls mourns and celebrates Prince’s legacy

Honoring Prince: Tribute events in the Twin Cities (and beyond)

Prince, the Minneapolis Sound and me


See the Storify below to see how fans, entertainers, political figures and more honored Prince across the nation.  (If the Storify doesn’t appear below, refresh your browser) .

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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