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Prince, hugely inventive, influential musician, dead at 57

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The party is officially over.

Legendary pop musician Prince, one of the most inventive and influential musicians of modern times who encouraged everyone to continue partying like it was 1999 for decades, was found dead at his home in suburban Minneapolis on Thursday. He was 57.

In addition to his numerous tuneful talents with hits including “Little Red Corvette,” ”Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry,” for which he gained fans all over the world, the superstar was known for sporadically showing up in San Francisco even as recently as last month, both to perform in concerts and hit up local hot-spots.

On Thursday night, San Francisco City Hall was illuminated with purple light in Prince’s honor.

“You could find him popping up anywhere in the Bay Area,” said Dee Spencer, chair of the music department at San Francisco State University. “He would pop up in a dance club; you could look up and Prince just walks through the door.”

During his most recent visit to the Bay Area in late February and early March, Prince quietly dined at Nopa and attended a Warriors game amid a handful of shows that sold out in minutes, the SF Weekly previously reported.

“As a stage performer, he managed to pull together so many eclectic elements, a tapestry [of] incredible stage design, lighting, makeup,” Spencer said. “He was just a prolific and amazing figure.”

She recalled about a year ago sitting in the Boom Boom Room when Prince entered with his entourage to watch the live music there.

“Everybody was just like, ‘Whoa,’” Spencer recalled. “I didn’t talk to him. I was trying to not to be overwhelmed by the fact that he was there.”

Spencer described his appearance in the music club as “genuine” and “shy.”

Prince’s publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, told The Associated Press that the superstar “died at his home this morning at Paisley Park.” The local sheriff said deputies found Prince unresponsive in an elevator late Thursday morning after being summoned to his home, but that first-responders couldn’t revive him.

No details about what may have caused his death have been released. Prince postponed a concert in Atlanta on April 7, after coming down with the flu, and he apologized to fans during a makeup concert last week.

President Barack Obama released a statement Thursday saying he and his wife “joined millions of fans from around the world” in mourning Prince’s sudden death.

“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent,” said Obama, for whom Prince was a White House guest last year. “‘A strong spirit transcends rules,’ Prince once said — and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative.”

The dazzlingly talented and charismatic singer, songwriter, arranger and instrumentalist drew upon musicians ranging from James Brown to Jimi Hendrix to the Beatles, creating a widely imitated blend of rock, funk and soul.

The Minneapolis native broke through in the late 1970s with the hits “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” and soared over the following decade with such albums as “1999” and “Purple Rain.” The title song from “1999” includes one of the most quoted refrains of popular culture: “Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999.”

Born Prince Rogers Nelson, he stood just 5 feet, 2 inches — yet made a powerful visual impact at the dawn of MTV, from his wispy moustache and tall pompadour to his colorful and suggestive outfits.

In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame, which hailed him as a musical and social trailblazer.

“He rewrote the rulebook, forging a synthesis of black funk and white rock that served as a blueprint for cutting-edge music in the Eighties,” reads the Hall’s dedication. “Prince made dance music that rocked and rock music that had a bristling, funky backbone. From the beginning, Prince and his music were androgynous, sly, sexy and provocative.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  • JuiceWeasel

    Prayers filled with warmth and comfort for Prince and his devoted fans.