The sudden death of the visionary, iconic artist Prince in April 2016 left fans, friends and family devastated. My report for OK! documents the days leading up to his passing and the ensuing tidal wave of grief that engulfed the music world.
The world is still reeling with shock and immeasurable grief following the sudden, unexpected death of Prince last week. The visionary music icon was found unconscious in a lift at his Minnesota property just west of Minneapolis at 9.43am local time on Thursday April 21.
Paramedics and police had been called to attend a medical emergency, and following CPR attempts at the scene, Prince was pronounced dead at 10.07am local time. The devastating news was confirmed later that afternoon. He was aged just 57.
The cause of his death wasn’t revealed immediately. Allegations that he had been treated for a drug overdose just days earlier were unsubstantiated, while police ambiguously stated that foul play ‘is neither suspected nor not suspected’. In a harrowing recording of the 911 call, an emergency dispatcher can be heard briefing an incoming paramedic with the words: ‘Male down, not breathing.’ At one point the dispatcher asks: ‘Are you with the person who’s…’ and an unidentified panicky male responds: ‘Yes, it’s Prince.’ The star’s publicist Yvette Noel-Schure confirmed the tragedy by way of an official statement released just hours later, which read: ‘It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson, has died at his Paisley Park residence this morning at the age of 57. There are no further details as to the cause of death at this time.’
American website TMZ was the first to report the story stateside, after authorities informed them of a fatality at Prince’s suburban compound and said that they were notifying the next of kin.
The Carver County Sheriff’s Office posted the following tweet: ‘Deputies are on scene of a death investigation at Paisley Park in Chanhassen. More info to follow.’ They then confirmed on Twitter: ‘Prince Rogers Nelson (57) found dead at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, MN. We are investigating the circumstances of his death.’
A press statement from the Sheriff’s Office was released at 1pm local time. It read: ‘Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson reports that on April 21, 2016 at about 9.43am, sheriff’s deputies responded to a medical call at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassan. When deputies and medical personnel arrived, they found an unresponsive adult male in the elevator. First responders attempted to provide lifesaving CPR, but were unable to revive the victim. He was pronounced deceased at 10.07am. He has been identified as Prince Rogers Nelson (57) of Chanhassen.
Concerns for Prince’s health had escalated in the past few weeks. While thrilling audiences on his Piano And A Microphone tour, he was struggling to fight off what’s believed to have been the flu virus. In the early hours of Friday April 15, just six days before his death, the singer was flying home after performing on stage in Atlanta, Georgia, when he became unwell shortly after take-off.
His private jet was forced to make an unscheduled landing just after 1am at Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois, 48 minutes from his home. He was rushed by ambulance to the ER department at a local hospital, where he was treated and released three hours later. Ms Noel-Schure said he was ‘fighting the flu’ and had been sent home to rest. However, rumours have since surfaced that the influential musician was being treated for an overdose, with multiple sources claiming doctors administered a ‘save shot’, which is usually given to counteract the effects of an opiate. It’s also believed that he ignored advice to stay at the hospital for 24 hours even though he allegedly ‘was not doing well’.
However on Saturday April 16, the generous singer made what’s now known to be his final public appearance, at one of his legendary $10 dance parties at his Minnesota studios, dubbed ‘Paisley Park After Dark’. Keen for his fans to have ‘living proof’ that all was well, he arrived on stage at midnight and showed off his new guitar and piano. Choosing not to sing, he uttered what is thought to be his final words to fans: ‘Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.’ He later tweeted about ‘living in the moment’ and the next day posted a flyer for the event on twitter, writing: ‘2 GIVE THANX 4 THE GOOD WEATHER AND 4 ALL THE LOVE AND SUPPORT…[sic].’
Earlier in the month, Prince postponed two concerts in Atlanta with less than 12 hours’ notice due to flu. The back-to-back sold-out shows at the city’s Fox Theatre were due to take place on Thursday April 7 at 7pm and 10pm. The diminutive singer finally made it to Atlanta the following week – the night of his hospital dash – for the gigs on consecutive nights, which saw him playing solo on a purple grand piano. He paid tribute to David Bowie, who died in January, performing a cover of his song Heroes.
In the days leading up to his death, the notoriously private star was allegedly spotted making four trips to his local Walgreen’s pharmacy. He was seen on the Wednesday night, at around 7pm – less than 24 hours before his death – returning to his car having visited the store. Worried staff said he appeared to be looking ‘much more frail and nervous’ than usual. Indeed, last month he was photographed disembarking from his plane in Montreal, Canada, walking with the aid of the cane he was sometimes seen carrying.
Not surprisingly, there was mounting speculation that his health was far worse than simple flu, and yet a fan posted a picture on Instagram that seemed to show the singer riding a bicycle in the sunshine outside his £7 million estate on Sunday April 17, two days after his ER visit.
His final tweet came last Monday when Prince, whose known epilepsy could have made him more vulnerable to developing serious complications from the flu, posted a link to a local independent music store Electric Fetus and a picture of his final album. As grieving fans flocked to the gates of Paisley Park, family members of the star were reportedly flying in from across the USA to gather at his late mother Mattie Shaw’s home in the state of Minnesota.
His sister Tyka Nelson emerged from his home at 6.40pm on the night of his death and told the assembled fans Prince ‘loved all of you’ adding: ‘Thank you for loving him back.’ She later posted a moving tribute on Facebook reading: ‘Hi, Thank U 4 Loving My Brother! He LOVED Playing His Music & I KNOW He Loved U 2… Tyka.’ She added: ‘John 15:13… Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.’
Referring to the heartbreaking loss of their week-old son Boy Gregory in 1996, Prince’s former wife Mayte Garcia said: ‘I love him now and will love him eternally. He’s with our son now.’