Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) The Current now has a new 24-hour stream dedicated to Prince’s rich musical legacy.
The new stream, Purple Current, launched at 12:01 am on Friday, April 6 and joins Local Current (all-Minnesota music), Radio Heartland (acoustic, American and roots music) and Rock the Cradle (music for kids) — all four streams are available at www.TheCurrent.org, as well as both the MPR and The Current apps. The Current can be heard on 89.3 FM (Twin Cities), 88.7 (Rochester) and 90.9 (Duluth).
During the April 6 launch party at Capri Theatre in North Minneapolis, Program Director Jim McGuinn said that the idea for the Purple Current came shortly after Prince’s death on April 21, 2016.
“There was no event that touched our lives [more] than the passing of Prince,” he recalled. Subsequently, for several days after Prince’s death, The Current became “a de facto vigil for Prince fans everywhere,” wrote The Daily Beast.
“This is something we thought about a while ago,” confirmed McGuinn. “Can we create an experience…to honor that musical legacy looking forward and backward?”
Is the stream, in essence, a new radio station? “I don’t know the exact answer,” McGuinn told the MSR. “We referred to it as an audio stream because right now it is not available on the FM transmitter. But if people love it, who knows…maybe we can get it on the FM dial somewhere” or an HD sub-channel, he surmised.
“I’m excited to listen to it,” said Michelle Mercado of Minneapolis at the Capri gathering as the Purple Current played in the background. “I want to hear more of it,” added Channie Wilson, also of Minneapolis. “We’re excited to hear more.”
The Current Production Manager Derrick Stevens is among several people who worked on the project; he’s done voiceovers and on-air announcing. “Once they decided to do it, they brought me in,” said Stevens.
“It’s not all Prince all the time,” he stressed. “You might hear anything from Little Richard to Sly and The Family Stone to Janelle Monae to the Roots. All of the music has some type of connection to Prince over the years.
“When people hear Purple Current, we want people to think Prince because you are going to hear at least two Prince songs per hour,” Stevens continued. “Then you’re going to hear artists that have been influenced by Prince [such as] The Time, Sheila E. and those artists Prince got influence from.”
McGuinn added, “Prince’s musical universe [included] blues music from the ’40s, to R&B records from the ’50s, to soul music from the ’60s, and funk from the ’70s, and his peers from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s… You start to see this incredibly rich tapestry of American music.”
“Prince obviously is the big headline, but there’s so much great Minnesota music that The Current can’t do a thorough job covering,” Purple Current Project Manager Sean McPherson said. “This gives us an opportunity to shine a spotlight…on a lot of [local deserving] artists.”
Because The Current is mainly known as a rock music station, Stevens said that the Purple Current could help lure new listeners to the station as well as attract longtime Prince fans, and possibly create new fans of his music. “We feel by incorporating some of the R&B/soul/hip hop on the stream, we’ll hope that people living within the Twin Cities…maybe they will turn to the Purple Current and stick with [The Current].”
“People all over the world are going to be touched by this, and little ole me from St. Paul has something to do with it,” Sammi Brown of St. Paul, gushed about her work on the stream —she also provided voiceovers. “I listened to [Prince] when I was younger [and] to be on the project [like this] as an adult, it’s an honor. I’m speechless.”
“I’m hoping to do more with MPR,” said the entertainer. “I’m very humbled to be part of the project.”
During a test launch in late March at The Current’s studios, McGuinn reported, “We couldn’t stop listening to it.” They also received positive emails from people locally, nationally and internationally who heard the sampling, he added.
“Right now it is an experiment we’re launching and seeing how people react to it,” McGuinn concluded. “We are looking forward to everyone’s feedback to help make this better. It’s just going to get better…this is just the beginning,” he predicted.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is the senior staff writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com