NEW YORK, April 26, (Agencies): Prince may not have had biological children but he is survived by a vast number of proteges, who found in the late pop icon a mentor like few others. For dozens of artists, most of them women and many plucked from obscurity, Prince became a cross between a producer and a father figure who would invite them into his inner sanctum, the Paisley Park complex in Minnesota.
The Purple One, who suddenly died last week at age 57, was legendary for his stamina and capable of playing virtually every instrument on his own.
But he nonetheless delighted in working with lesser-known musicians, some of whom would perform in his back-up bands or side projects such as The Revolution, Apollonia 6 and The Family.
Artists who saw their careers rise or be revived thanks to Prince include pop singers Sheila E. and Sheena Easton, “Queen of Funk” Chaka Khan, R&B great Mavis Staples and dancer-turned-singer-turned-model Carmen Electra.
The prolific Prince also wrote hits popularized by other artists — including Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and The Bangles’ “Manic Monday” — but with most of his proteges, he appeared to rejoice in a backseat production role rather than pushing his own sound.
Ingrid Chavez, a poet and songwriter, met Prince at a bar in 1987 when she was living in Minneapolis and shared her writing with him. She said he contacted her a few nights later.
“He was like, ‘I have a studio I want you to go in and produce something’”, she told AFP.
“I came out with something that he thought was really strange, but it was uniquely me and he knew that I did what I said that I do”, she said.
Chavez soon appeared on Prince’s “Lovesexy” album on tracks including “Alphabet Street” and portrayed the pop star’s love interest in the 1990 movie “Graffiti Bridge”, a sequel to the classic “Purple Rain”.
“It was very surprising. I had never done any acting and I have never done any acting after that”, she said with a laugh.
As for her own work, Chavez in 1991 released through Paisley Park Records an album of spoken word — true to her artistic wishes but going against pop formulas.
So why did one of the era’s most celebrated musicians spend so much time with little-known artists? For Chavez, Prince simply enjoyed making music and understood the deep gratification of finishing a recording.
“I know it’s kind of silly sounding, but I think he really enjoyed seeing people’s dreams come true, if he thought you had enough potential and drive and you believed in yourself,” she said.
Chavez, whose credits include co-writing Madonna’s erotic “Justify My Love”, plans a new spoken-word album later this year on the 25th anniversary of her work with Prince and said she was “completely devastated” he would not be there.
“In my heart, it will be my little record that I wish he could have heard,” she said.
Collaborations are not rare in the music world, with hip-hop in particular full of tie-ups.
But Prince was unusual in the sheer extent to which he discovered and championed artists, many of them far from being household names.
In his final months he would make weekly recommendations on streaming service Tidal where he recently heaped praise on little-known soul singer Sidibe.
Prince, who defied conventional record releases, last year sent widely to reporters a free download of the debut album recorded at Paisley Park by R&B singer Judith Hill, whom he declared would become a superstar.
Hill, best known earlier as a contestant on the television show “The Voice”, wrote on Twitter after Prince’s death that she felt “scared and alone”.
When he was alive, Prince made hundreds of millions of dollars — for record companies, concert venues and others. That much is certain. What’s less clear is how much he left behind and who’ll come forward to claim it.
Less than a week after the pop star died and an outpouring of grief and nostalgia prompted fans to buy 2.3 million of his songs in three days, it’s still uncertain whether he left a will, or who will handle his estate.
Prince owned a dozen properties in and around his famous Paisley Park complex in suburban Minneapolis: mostly rural pieces of land and some houses for family members. Public records show those properties were worth about $27 million in 2016.
Estimates of how much licensing his personal brand will bring in after death reach to the purple clouds.
“He was as big as they get”, said Mark Roesler, chief executive of CMG Worldwide, which handles licensing for the estates of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and other late stars.
Prince’s longtime lawyer called the death of the superstar a complete shock and said Monday that the singer lived a clean and healthy lifestyle, disputing suggestions that he had a drug addiction.
Lawyer L. Londell McMillan had known Prince for 25 years and at one time was his manager. In a phone interview Monday night, he told The Associated Press he spoke to Prince the Sunday before he died, after it was reported that his plane made an emergency landing to deal with a medical emergency involving the singer.
Prince assured McMillan he was fine.
“He said he was doing perfect,” McMillan recalled. “He said, ‘OK, I’ll call you soon’”.
Celebrity website TMZ, citing unidentified sources, reported that Prince was treated for an overdose of the powerful painkiller Percocet while traveling home from concerts in Atlanta last week. The site said his plane made an emergency landing April 15 in Moline, Illinois, where he was briefly hospitalized. Prince had postponed concerts in Atlanta citing an illness but rescheduled them and performed there April 14.
Prince’s Paisley Park home in Minneapolis is set to be turned into a museum, according to the late musician’s brother-in-law, Maurice Phillips.
“We will turn Paisley Park into a museum in Prince’s memory”, Phillips told the Sun. “It would be for the fans. He was all about the fans — this would remember his music, which is his legacy”.