This week, Entertainment Weekly remembers the life and career of enigmatic musical icon Prince, who died of unknown causes on April 21 at the age of 57, with a tribute issue that looks back on his remarkable, four-decades-long career.
In the issue, friends and colleagues share untold stories about his incredible life: James “Jimmy Jam” Harris looks back on his Minneapolis high-school days with the man born Prince Rogers Nelson; Sheila E., his former drummer and musical director, reflects on how he championed female artists; record executive Lenny Waronker opens up about signing Prince to Warner Bros. Records in the ‘70s; New Girl creator Liz Meriwether reveals the passion His Purpleness took to his memorable 2014 guest spot. Friends also share never-before-told stories about what it was like to travel into his otherworldly universe. “He’d come to rehearsal, work us, go work his band, then he’d go to his studio all night and record,” recalls Harris. “Then the next night he’d come to rehearsal with a tape in his hand and he’d say, ’This is what I did last night.’ And it’d be something like “1999” and you’re like, ‘Who does this?'”
Prince tirelessly chased new sounds and ideas up until his final years, and EW critic Leah Greenblatt, who conducted one of Prince’s last-ever interviews, also recalls her unforgettable visit to his Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minn: “The Prince I got that August afternoon was … funny and thoughtful and endlessly engaged in the world around him, even while his whole life seemed to be contained in the lavender bubble of his compound … He constantly offered to call in food, and the spread laid out in Paisley’s bright industrial kitchen looked like a birthday party for a highly lactose-tolerant 8-year-old.”
GALLERY: Prince’s Life in Pictures
Summing up Prince’s contributions to pop culture is as difficult as pronouncing the “love symbol” he changed his name to in the early ’90s. Whether he was redefining what it meant to be a sex symbol with his androgynous style or championing the artistic freedom for musicians in the major-label system, Prince was a fearless boundary pusher who never looked back. As he told EW in 2004, “I’m about the present and moving forward. New joke, new anecdote, new lesson to be discovered. You know that old lady in Sunset Boulevard, trapped in her mansion and past glories? Getting ready for her close-up? I don’t run with that.”