"nightline." prince, death of a legend. >> tonight the farewell to rock royalty, prince, dead at 57. ♪ >> "purple rain" turned to tears tonight. remembering the genius, his sounds, life, and legacy. tonight, what killed the music legend. stunned fans and fellow artists he inspired throughout the world. reverberations of grief. in minneapolis tonight, and what we never knew about this intentionally private artist until now. >> this special edition of "nightline," prince, death of a legend will be right back. edition of night
tonight fans in mourning. we are joined from minneapolis where the artist grew up and spent his last moments this morning. dan. >> reporter: good evening to you from downtown minneapolis where thousands of people have come out for a massive street party in honor of a native son who became pop music royalty, prince. as i said, thousands of people here. they have shut the streets down. they're blaring prince music and people are singing along and when this winds down, the action will move inside the first avenue club, an iconic club here in downtown minneapolis. a place where prince played many times. in fact, it was a backdrop to some of the scenes in that classic movie "purple rain". there will be an all night dance party inside there tonight. there is celebration as you can see. there is also, however, an under current of sadness. >> prince stood just 5 2k3, and by every music measure, he was a giant.
>> dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. >> prolific, pioneering. a star so big the world knew him simply by his first name, prince. ♪ >> but now the world in mourning. >> i need a paramedic on paisley park. >> at 9:43 this morning, an ambulance was dispatched to paisley park just outside of minneapolis where the music legend was found unresponsive in an elevator. paramedics weren't able to revive him. he was pronounced dead. he was 57. just last week on this atlanta stage, prince performed what would be his last show. ♪ ♪ purple rain, purple rain
>> hours later, a moment of crisis. his private plane made an emergency landing in moline, illinois so the singer could be rushed to the hospital. his spokesperson saying he was battling the flu. he had cancelled two shows earlier this month. soon he was home and tweeted this, i am transformed. the next day he hosted a party at his house where he showed off his new purple piano and guitar. fans there that night didn't notice anything amiss. >> he was in good spirits. he said when you hear something, give it a couple days before you have prayers. >> tearful fans gathers outside paisley park. this evening his sister came out to be with supporters. >> thank you for loving him. he loved each and every one of you. >> all across the country, it's all prince all night. ♪
>> even spike lee hosting a prince dance party in brooklyn. online an outpouring of grief for music's biggest stars. madonna saying he changed the world, a true visionary. what a loss. i am devastated. mcjagger writing prince was one of the most unique and exciting artists in the last 30 years. and obama writing also. and on the apollo theater, this message. nothing compares to you. born prince rogers nelson 1958 in minneapolis. he took his father's name, his parent's talent. he was called skipper as a boy and played basketball even though he was just 5'2". soon music called him writing his first song at 7. his first album at 19. >> this is a fantastically successful album. ladies and gentlemen, here is prince. >> making one of his first television appearances at 21 on
american bandstand. always a bold performer he said his style was a product of overcoming hardship. in a rare admission saying he suffered from epilepsy as a child. >> from that point on i've been having to deal with a lot of things. getting teased a lot in school. early in my career i tried to compensate for that by being as flashy as i could. >> as he told arsenio hall, music was the only thing he thought he was good at. >> when i was 16, i was completely broke and needed to get a job. i got the yellow pages out and i couldn't find one thing that i wanted to do, so i decided i was going to push as hard as i could to be a musician and win at it. >> and win he did. his hits, endless. >> prince was not content with one kind of music. that's the legacy.
you can make funk, dance music, rock and roll, pop, and do it all on the same songs at the same time. >> creating more albums than his years as an artist and winning seven grammys. >> prince. prince. >> a golden globe. more than 100 million records sold worldwide. but it was his 1984 appearance on the silver screen in "purple rain" that propelled him to mega stardom. ♪ >> the sound track would earn him an academy award. >> i could never imagine this in my wildest dreams. >> his talent seemed limitless. known to have played every instrument, and sung every line. >> prince could play everything, and play it well. he would always say attack the instrument. he would like be like you have to really -- and he made playing
an instrument very physical. >> transcending race beyond gender and even a name, changing it to a symbol and becoming the artist formerly known as prince. >> most people don't get famous with one name and then change it. right? what's the story of that, by the way? >> i had searched deep within my heart and spirit, and i wanted to make a change and move to a new plateau in my life, and one of the ways that i did that was changing my name. it sort of divorced me from the past and the hangups that go along with it. >> when he made that transition to the artist formerly known as prince. it was a moment where something overshadowed the music. and for some people the music never came back to center stage. unless you saw prince live in the 90s and early 2000s, it was easy to forget how great he was.
>> he was flamboyant, but he always had a woman on his arm. during the 80s and 90ings, he was wing with models and even madonna. images like on the back of the motorcycle in "purple rain". he eventually married one of his backup singers in 1996. the two had a child together, a boy named gregory who was born with a rare genetic condition and died days later. prince's marriage soon ended as well. >> his ex-wife said she is devastated, and in many ways he was really the love of her life. >> and not long after this hit -- ♪ tonight i'm going to party like it's 1999 ♪ >> he returned to the name prince. he became a jehovah witness. his lyrics less provocative. >> he maintained a sense of mystery throughout his career. he loved making music, and being
a public figure was secondary to that. ♪ >> despite becoming a global superstar, prince chose to stay close to his roots settling down just outside his hometown of minneapolis. he was an active part of the community, performing at the 1991 special olympics. ♪ >> he was often seen supporting local teams like the minnesota timber wolves. ♪ >> when you talk about the sound track of your life, i think everybody probably has a prince song in there somewhere. >> based on the way he flashed upon the world stage, some presumed he would die young. instead, he lived young. forever sleek, stylish. ♪ >> a real star with real talent, the private prince kept the world at a distance, but prince the performer embraced us all with his music.
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>> reporter: he was a star. on the concert stage where his shows became legend. ♪ >> reporter: in the unmistakable music videos. ♪ >> reporter: and through the storm at the super bowl halftime show. if you're wondering what made prince special, the answer is everything. >> you're very sweet and very much to yourself band shy? >> i wouldn't say shy. >> off off stage your zblsh i'm just that way around you. >> reporter: he wouldn't say
much at all, in public at least. but when he sang, when he played, his breathe taking command of funk, soul, and rock and roll, and that dancing made him sexy, sensational, and utterly electrifying. ♪ i just want your extra time and your kiss ♪ >> he set the bar so high that even michael jackson at certain points you could feel wanted to keep up with prince. >> reporter: he was a prolific creative musical visionary, always pushing limits, and in total control of his ground breaking look and sound. and he never backed away from kicking up controversy. his drenched in sex approach and those explicit lyrics left some listeners apopletic. lyrics leading to the parental advisory warning. he was a provocateur with his sound and style from his band to
his rear window jump suit. the mtv vmas to the oscars. he helped mike sheila e a star. and he collaborated with the likes of sheena easton. >> he was the physical embodiment of pure music. so he couldn't stop. >> i don't know what artist wouldn't want to work with him. if he wanted to work with you, you couldn't turn that down. >> reporter: his compositions were smashes for other artists. manic monday he wrote for the bangles.
and then "nothing compares to you". >> he has the ability to then make other people grea >> reporter: if his hits grew less frequent, his musicianship and stage craft remained impeccable and respected by contemporary stars. every award show appearance earning an immediate standing ovation. >> albums still matter. like books and black lives, albums still matter. tonight and always. ♪ don't need experience >> reporter: contemporary stars playing homage. that sound of justin similar of adam levine and justin timberlake eerily similar. >> there's something about a falsetto that women go crazy for. if you hit that high note, they go crazy. so thanks, prince.
>> reporter: to prince, it was always about the music, but to viewers he transcended a cultural force in his own right, lovingly set up on saturday night live. and by david chappelle on his show. >> why don't you purify yourself in the waters of the lake? the backdrop of our favorite movies. his songs so distinct, even with julia robert's rendition. >> don't you just love prince? >> more than life itself. he wrote about the rainfall strife in the city of baltimore and continued to play live gigging at private homes including the white house, and always an advocate for the artists, refusing to allow his songs to appear on most streaming services. ♪
>> let's talk about titles. your favorite title in the prince catalog, what's your favorite song, turns you on every time you do it? >> i usually answer by saying the next one. >> reporter: part of the anguish of prince's death is that there will be no next one. though within his vaults may yet reside a treasure-trove of music. >> i heard that you have a vault of hundreds of unreleased songs? are you ever going to release them and let us hear? >> one day someone will release them. i don't know that i'll get to release them. >> we'll be hearing new things he left us that are stored in the vaults. he turned himself inside out to bring us music, and that's so sad. i mean, it's so sad. >> reporter: for those who spent decades enthralled with his music, his royal badness will never be dethroned. the grieving tonight mixed with gratitude. the creativity he brought to the
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