MINNEAPOLIS — She hadn’t done anything like this since she was a teenager.
A little after 1:30 in the morning Friday, Laura, a 46-year-old mother of two who declined to give her last name so as not to be, as she put it, “instantly branded worst mother of the year,” stood in a crowd of hundreds of people trying to make their way inside the First Avenue nightclub for an all-night dance party in honor of Prince, who died Thursday at his Paisley Park estate about a half-hour from here.
A Minneapolis native, Laura had grown up listening to Prince records. “Little Red Corvette” was her favorite, though she admitted it was hard to pick just one. When word broke Thursday that Prince had died, she couldn’t believe it and knew she had to make her way to downtown Minneapolis to pay respect to an artist who had meant so much to her. She asked her husband if he would watch their two teenage kids, and a few hours later, out the door she went.
“It’s usually me calling out to my kids, ‘When will you be home?’ But this time, I was the one saying, ‘Don’t wait up,’” Laura said as she stood squished with other Prince fans, some her age and others not much older than her kids. “I can’t remember the last time I was out this late, but how could I be anywhere else? [Prince] was my childhood. He was the soundtrack to my life. He was one of us.”
To the world, Prince was an iconic, irreplaceable artist who transcended musical genre. And here in Minneapolis, he was that too—but he was also more: a local boy who made good and never turned his back on his hometown. Prince lived here and recorded here, and up until his sudden death Thursday, he was a near-constant presence, frequenting record stores and jazz clubs and riding his bike in the streets as if he were just an average Minnesotan, not a musical prodigy, Oscar winner and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On Thursday, an estimated 10,000 people turned out for the block party outside First Avenue, one of the oldest clubs in the city and where Prince got his start. The musician later paid homage to the club that had been so pivotal in his career by using it as one of the principal locations in “Purple Rain,” the 1984 film that was based in part on his own life as a struggling Minneapolis musician. And the club had paid homage to him by painting a star with his name next to the front door — the first of nearly 500 stars honoring the local and national artists who have graced the club’s stage.
In the 24 hours since his death, Prince’s star has become a makeshift memorial for fans, who have brought bouquets of purple flowers (in honor of the musician’s favorite color), candles and other mementos like guitars and placed them on the sidewalk. On Thursday night, as outdoor speakers blared some of Prince’s best-known hits — including “When Doves Cry” and “1999” — a long line of people snaked their way down the street, waiting to brush their fingertips on the star as a way of saying a final goodbye.
At one point late in the evening, the speakers began to blare “Purple Rain,” the song for which Prince won an Oscar, and the crowd of thousands of people, which now spilled out onto several city blocks, began to sway and sing along. Many openly wept. Above them, the sky seemed to glow purple, illuminated by the several buildings in downtown that had lit up in color to honor a musical legend who never forgot his Minneapolis roots.
“For the residents of Minneapolis, the loss of Prince is too large to describe,” the city’s mayor, Betsy Hodges, said in a statement issued by her office. “Prince was a child of our city, and his love of his hometown permeated many of his songs. … Prince never left us, and we never left him.”
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