1 of 6 | Prince performs in the rain at halftime at Super Bowl XLI at Dolphin Stadium in Miami on February 4, 2007. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
MINNEAPOLIS, June 12 (UPI) -- Seven years after the death of Prince Rogers Nelson, fans and collaborators gathered at in Minneapolis for a four-day celebration of his life and legacy.
Hundreds of people from around the world traveled to his Paisley Park entertainment complex Thursday-Sunday, paying up to $1,100 to see concerts and attend panel discussions on his prolific musicianship.
Former bandmates, collaborators, fans or "fams" as Prince called them, and Minneapolis-based artists celebrated what would have been Prince's 65th birthday June 7 by expounding on his life and furthering his legacy.
Prince hosted Celebrations, formerly called "Xenophobia," at Paisley Park in 2000, 2001 and 2003, bringing creatives, politicians and musicians together to speak and perform. Since his death from an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2016, there have been Celebrations in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022.
This is the first Celebration since Prince's estate was settled last year. The estate is now split between Primary Wave, Prince's remaining heirs, and Prince Legacy LLC, controlled by his former lawyer Londell McMillan and his partner Charles Spicer.
This year, VIPs were played 10 previously unreleased songs that have yet to make their way onto bootlegs. In his heyday, Prince was one of the era's most bootlegged artists with dozens of unreleased songs becoming fan favorites. The 10 tracks included a song with his father, John L. Nelson, called "Don't Play with Love," from 1985.
Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. and Doug E. Fresh, who shared the stage with Prince, talked about his embrace of hip-hop and their work with him. Fresh was once an unofficial member Prince's New Power Generation band in the '90s.
They were joined by Tony Mosley, who as Tony M, rapped on Prince's "Sexy MF" single and on several songs on his Symbol and Diamonds and Pearls album. The dancer-turned-rapper said he was gratified to hear Doug E. and Chuck say Prince's embrace of rap music through his work impressed them.
Prince protégé Shelby J., who appears on the 2007 song "Chelsea Rodgers" and toured with Prince as part of the NPG for a decade, got choked up during her performance of his song "Sometimes it Snows in April." She thanked Prince for "pouring into" her, saying his mentorship encouraged her to pursue a solo career.
Prince recorded the album Come 2 My House with Chaka Khan on his NPG Records label 25 years ago. She told the story about first meeting Prince in Sausalito, Calif., when he tricked her into meeting him at a recording studio by saying he was Sly Stone. Prince has said Khan was one of his inspirations. In 1985, Khan won a Grammy for "I Feel For You," a cover of a Prince song.
The newly minted Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee said she misses him and wished that more fans could have personally interacted with him in his lifetime.
A "Fam" panel honored Prince historians, podcasters and others who have independently kept his legacy alive. New York University historian DeAngela Duff, who has done several Prince symposia, blogger and podcaster Jeremiah "Dr. Funkenberry" Freed, Casey and Kim from the Prince-themed YouTube channel The Violet Reality and Rodney Fitzgerald of the social group Prince365 shared how they started their platforms.
In an event introduced last year that has proven popular with fans, NPG band members, including guitarist Levi Seacer Jr. and keyboardists Morris Hayes and Tommy Barbarella, played along to a track of Prince's vocals and piano from a years-ago recording session of "Love to the 9's." The track is on the Love Symbol album. Prince was heard giving the band instructions that included him humming the horn parts.
Seacer talked about how exacting Prince was in his pursuit of perfection. He was known for his work ethic and the amount of music he recorded that was stored in his famous vault.
"Do you realize all that had to be going on in Prince's mind?" Seacer said, referring to Prince's ability to play keyboards and guitar -- sometimes at the same time -- and drums and multiple other instruments, as well as producing, writing, composing, arranging, leading a band and touring while continuously coming up with creative projects.
Hayes, the longest-tenured member of the NPG who was also Prince's musical director, said they had to be prepared for Prince's many moods. They assigned a number to each one. "Okay, it's No. 4 today," Hayes said he would tell the band so they could prepare. Hayes shared on another panel that Prince had a house built for him to reward his loyalty and work ethic.
Rosie Gaines, the Bay area-based vocalist who partnered with Prince on Diamonds and Pearls, one of his biggest hits, has struggled with her health for some years. She was honored by the estate with a Legacy Award. Via a recorded message, she thanked fans for their support. Her daughter Letoya accepted the award on her mother's behalf, saying she wanted the world to know that Prince supported her mother "to the end."
Renowned Minneapolis musicians Stokley Williams, the former frontman for the band Mint Condition, and The Sounds of Blackness performed. Williams talked about Prince encouraging his solo career and how he still draws inspiration from their talks. The sibling band Nunn Above and hip-hop artist Nur-D from Rosemont, Minn., were featured in the Celebration's first Emerging Artists showcase.
On Sunday, gospel band Known MPLS closed the event. McMillan addressed fan concerns about "new" music from the vault by saying that it's on the way but that they want to make sure it's the right selections and the best quality. Prince left thousands of unreleased songs, part of the reason why his estate was valued at $156 million.
Prince's sister and heir Norrine Nelson said in a short speech that Prince was only physically absent from his longtime creative space.
"He's always here," she said, "because he's in you."