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How Prince Took Over Minnesota

On the singer’s long devotion to his home state.

Prince performing in 1982. (Photo: Yves Lorson/CC BY 2.0)

Today the world mourns a musical genius.

Prince was a beloved singularity, whose career stretched across nearly four decades, with tours spanning the globe. But nowhere was more important to Prince than Minnesota. He grew up in Minneapolis, played his first show there, and, for the past 28 years, lived and recorded in Chanhassen, Minnesota, a suburb outside of the Twin Cities, at a studio where the artist built his dreams. 

“Prince never left us and we never left him,” Betsy Hodges, the mayor of Minneapolis, said in a statement Thursday. “For many of us, we grew up with his music and it became an essential part of our youth.”

Near his Chanhassen studio and home, known as Paisley Park, a highway was shut down after hundreds of fans streamed there, many clutching purple flowers. 

Prince’s studio at Paisley Park. (Photo: Bobak Ha’Eri/CC BY 3.0)

This was the man who created the ”Minneapolis sound,” but why Minnesota? In the course of his 57 years, Prince arguably became more important to the state than Bruce Springsteen is to New Jersey.

“I can go out and not get jumped on,” he told Rolling Stone in 1985. “It feels good not to be hassled when I dance, which I do a lot. It’s not a thing of everybody saying, ‘Whoa, who’s out with who here?’ while photographers flash their bulbs in your face.”

“It’s a good and a bad thing that I live here. It’s bad in the sense that I can’t be a primo ‘rock star’ and do everything absolutely right,” he added. “I can’t go to the parties and benefits, be at all the awards shows, get this and get that. But I like it here. It’s really mellow.”

Prince was hardly the first Minnesota music star, of course. But he might have been the first to make it big and stay.

“People knew you could make it out of here and make it big. Bob Dylan is from here. He went to college here, but he had to move to New York to make it,” Jon Bream, the longtime music critic at the Minneapolis Star Tribune told NPR in 2011. “Prince proved you could stay here to make it, and you could make it huge.”

Prince might have been tied to Dylan thanks to Minnesota, but he seemed to acknowledge early on that the two didn’t have a whole lot in common. 

“I don’t know too much about Dylan,” Prince said, “but I respect him a lot. ‘All Along the Watchtower’ is my favorite of his. I heard it first from Jimi Hendrix.”

Prince was shuffled around his parents’ homes when he was younger, after they split up, later attending Minneapolis’s Central High School, before cutting a demo tape at a studio in the city and landing a recording contract. 

His first show was at Minneapolis’ Capri Theatre:

A ticket to Prince’s first concert, at the Capri Theatre in Minneapolis. (Photo: Minnesota Historical Society/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Prince used a different Minneapolis venue, First Avenue, in the filming of his 1984 movie, the lightly-autobiographical Purple Rain, and for a time many of the film’s locations, especially the downtown club, became fan destinations. That made it harder for Prince to go dancing there without interference, but, he said in Rolling Stone, after a few years the old scene came back. 

(Photo: mulad/Public Domain)

“There were a lot of us hanging around the club back in the old days,” he said, “and the new army, so to speak, is getting ready to come back to Minneapolis. The Family’s already here, Mazarati’s back now too, and Sheila E. and her band will be coming soon. The club’ll be the same thing that it was.”

Prince’s Minnesota, in other words, was all about the music. He completed his studio at Paisley Park in 1988 and never left, recording more than two dozen albums there.

He was found dead at his studio on Thursday. He was probably working on new music.