BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
MINNEAPOLIS – A lone jogger sprinted down the pathway between the hulking white Paisley Park compound and Minnesota Highway 5, indifferent to the history living on the other side of the sagging chain-link fence.
A purple makeshift wall on the property – the Prince4Ever Tribute Fence - cluttered with fan-donated mementos and photos, remained off limits on Tuesday, as Paisley Park closed to prepare for Celebration 2017, the four-day event launching Thursday.
The first anniversary of Prince’s still-incomprehensible death arrives Friday, and the commemorative gathering is expected to attract about 2,000 fans from 28 countries, as well as present musical performances from The Revolution, Morris Day & The Time and New Power Generation – a collective hug to honor the memory of the musical titan who died of an accidental opioid overdose at 57 .
Although Paisley Park, located about 30 minutes from downtown Minneapolis in the suburban enclave of Chanhassen, now functions as a museum - a quick turnaround from studio to tourist attraction by the same folks who manage Graceland in Memphis, Tenn. – many fans have chosen to contribute to a “Graffiti Bridge” of sorts a few steps from the property.
The Riley Creek underpass, which connects Lake Ann Park and Paisley Park, was, prior to April 21, 2016, a naked slab of curved concrete.
Now, spray-painted R.I.P.s and messages of sadness, hope and gratitude are etched on the walls.
“Purple rain is what we bleed,” read one, while another also invoked a Prince lyric: “There’s something else…the afterlife.”
While Prince spent his later years in his Chanhassen hideaway – an area that was devoid of commercialism when he built it in the ‘80s but now resides less than a mile from a Target and across the street from a daycare center – his loss is hardly relegated to the city of about 25,000.
In nearby St. Paul, the Minnesota History Center retrieved one of its treasured artifacts – the purple coat and white, ruffled shirt Prince wore in his 1984 career-making “Purple Rain” movie – to place on display this week.
The outfit, which Prince gave to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1992, is in danger of fading, so it can only make brief public appearances.
Tuesday evening, St. Paul residents Jason and Rachel Gorski donned some purple attire specifically to visit the small exhibit at the History Center.
“He and I were born the same year,” Jason Gorski said. “I’m trying to maintain just a tenth of his coolness.”
Rachel Gorski, 50, said she and her friends became Prince fans in high school.
“It was wild to be here (in Minnesota) when he died. The entire energy of the city was just down. People would cry spontaneously,” she recalled.
But, like many of Prince’s fans, the Gorski’s eventually found a way to combat the sadness – they attended a Prince tribute show with Morris Day & The Time at the famed First Avenue music club in downtown Minneapolis and “danced the night away.”
Jason Gorski is also confident that Prince’s legacy is solidified for generations.
“He will beat time because he has 100 more years of music (in the vault),” Gorski said. “It’s just too bad he won’t be here to spread it.”
It’s probably not an exaggeration that everyone who lives in Minneapolis has some sort of Prince story.
But it makes sense that the staff at the Electric Fetus, the funky independent record shop that has been a musical mainstay in this city since 1968, would have much to say about one of their most famous, and most loyal, customers.
Fans might recall that Prince visited the store on Record Store Day 2016, five days before he died. He tweeted his thanks on April 16, and noted that he “rocked” a Stevie Wonder album on the way home (he also scooped up albums by Santana and Missing Persons).
Despite his obvious feelings of nostalgia that day, Prince was renowned for his interest in new artists.
“He would always be on top of the new music,” said David “Chilly” Caufman, who has worked at Electric Fetus for 18 years. “He really supported the scene here. He loved supporting local businesses.”
The store, unsurprisingly, has created a Prince sales display of books, candles and T-shirts, as well as a mug with the inscription from that final tweet.