EIGHTH ANNUAL: Doug E. Fresh, Tony M. from NPG, Chaka Khan were part of the eighth annual celebration at Paisley Park near Minneapolis. (Kevin Mazur for Getty Images)
It was a purple pilgrimage when Prince fans from around the world gathered at his creative compound Paisley Park on June 8-11 to celebrate Prince’s life on what would have been his 65th birthday and seventh year of his passing.
The seventh Annual Celebration featured a star-studded program of performances and panels in honor of Prince’s musical legacy including presentations of unreleased music from the Prince vault and special appearances by Grammy winner Chaka Khan, who reflected on Prince, her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the 25th anniversary of her album Come 2 My House, which was recorded at Paisley Park and released on NPG Records.
Hip-Hop legends Chuck D and Doug E. Fresh participated in “Hip Hop 50 Panel: Prince’s Evolving and Complex Relationship with Hip Hop,” which was moderated by Prince’s longtime friend and attorney, L. Londell McMillan, chairman of Paisley Park. After the conversation, Doug E. Fresh gave an impromptu performance.
Guests were also treated to performances from Minnesota’s own Sounds of Blackness, R&B star Stokley of Mint Condition, artist/DJ/producer D-Nice, members of Prince’s band New Power Generation, Prince protégé Shelby J, Minneapolis youth choir Known MPLS and a showcase of new artists Nunnabove and Nur-D. Supporting new and young artists was extremely important to Prince and remains one of Paisley Park’s core values.
The celebration included a discussion with Prince’s luthier Andy Beech, who was behind the iconic Cloud and Symbol guitars, and a special Prince Legacy Tribute to Rosie Gaines, one of the founding members of NPG. The event also honored Prince and Tina Turner with a stirring tribute led by Prince’s longtime DJ and collaborator, DJ Rashida.
“It’s a truth,” said McMillan. “It’s a Prince truth and we are all aligned with his truth.”
Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958, and despite being a global superstar, he chose to stay close to his Uptown birthright until his death on April 21, 2016, at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, 20 minutes outside of the Twin Cities.
Paisley Park, now owned by Prince Legacy LLC and Prince OAT Holding LLC, is a 65,000 square foot purple magic refuge on approximately nine acres with recording facilities, a large sound stage, museum, 200-capacity NPG Music Club and event space open year-round to the public.
Celebration attendance topped 1,500 fans. The event coincided with the seventh anniversary of Prince’s death and it was a number that was of personal significance to the iconic artist, according to McMillan. The 2024 edition of the Celebration will mark the 40th anniversary of Purple Rain, which was released on June 25, 1984.
“This year is the seventh anniversary of his transition and seven was always a special, powerful number for him,” offered McMillan. “We are making sure everything has that purple magic we would want and expect from anything associated with Prince.”
Attendees were given special cassette-shaped USB keys with two previously unreleased tracks from the Prince Vault: “All A Share Together Now,” recorded on Sept. 4, 2006, and “7 (E Flat Version),” recorded on Aug. 9, 1992. Both tracks are set for a worldwide DSP release on July 7.
“We are always thrilled to host people who really loved him,” McMillan said. “Whether you’re a new or old friend, you’re always welcome; and we try to bring a positive experience that people can leave and feel and stay connected to him and his music yearlong.”