Party like he's 65: 4-day event honors Prince's birthday

A mural of Prince is seen on a wall
A mural of Prince is seen on a wall behind the Chanhassen Cinema on April 21 in Chanhassen, Minn.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Minnesota pop music legend Prince would have turned 65 on Wednesday. Starting Thursday and running through Sunday, fans from across the world will celebrate the late singer’s legacy at Prince’s Paisley Park studios in Chanhassen in what’s become an annual event since his death in 2016.

“The seventh anniversary of this gathering marks a special milestone for the event — the number seven was somewhat of a lucky number for the musician. He was born June 7, 1958, and the song ‘7’ from the 1992 album [Love Symbol] endures as a classic,” writes Sofia Haan of The Current, a sister organization of MPR News.

Single-day tickets are still available starting at $113.50. They include access to live performances, celebrity panels, exclusive concert footage and a DJ Dance Party to end the night. Visit The Current website to learn more.

Another Prince-inspired music celebration kicks off Wednesday with “Tales from the Northside: Stories of the Minneapolis Sound,” a community fundraising event to benefit the Minneapolis Sound Museum. It will feature performances and a panel discussion about how the musical style associated with Prince came to be.

The event is at the Capri Theater on 2027 West Broadway, Minneapolis; where Prince played his first solo show, and begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are still being sold for $115.

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Audio transcript

INTERVIEWER: It's hard to believe, but had he lived, Prince Rogers Nelson would have been 65 years old today. Instead, we're left remembering the Minneapolis born musician's legacy. He died in 2016 at the age of 57.

This weekend, an annual birthday celebration is back at Paisley Park, marking seven years since we lost him. And most notably, the event will feature more previously unreleased music from Paisley Park's collection, the so-called Prince vault. For more, Andrea Swensson is with us. She's a music journalist and host of the official Prince podcast. And it is great to hear your voice again, my friend. How are you?

ANDREA SWENSSON: Oh, I'm doing great. It's so wonderful to be talking to you, Cathy.

CATHY WURZER: Oh my gosh, it's been too long. Thank you so much for your time. Well, this is not the first time you and I have been talking about unreleased music in Prince's vault. And it is well known that he has had quite a collection of unreleased music. Any idea how much is in there?

ANDREA SWENSSON: That is the million dollar question when it comes to Prince. What is in the vault? How much is in there? I mean, just looking at what's been released so far in the past seven years, we're talking about hundreds of songs that have already come out.

And, you know, the releases so far have been really intentional about being constructed around specific eras and specific albums. So you're getting the reissue of something like 1999 or Sign of the Times. But then it comes with like 40 or 50 or 60 vault tracks. So if every album has that many outtakes and demos, I can only imagine what the total amount is.

CATHY WURZER: Oh my gosh, OK. Because you mentioned that there is so much music that has been released so far over the years, I think we should play some of it. We asked you to share a few of your favorite vault releases. So let's listen to the first one.

[PRINCE, "I FEEL FOR YOU ACOUSTIC DEMO"] Yeah, baby, when you look at me I feel warmth inside. Sugar, sugar, won't you rescue me. Take me for a ride. Mm. Ain't gonna lie to you, baby. It's mainly a physical thing.

I had to listen to that really closely at first. That's "I Feel for You." That was Chaka Khan that had the hit, right?

ANDREA SWENSSON: Grammy winning song from Chaka Khan. And it was on Prince's second album, his version of it. But it wasn't nearly as successful as Chaka's version. So when she covered it in 1984, that's when it really took off.

I love this demo. We don't hear many demos like this from Prince where it's just him and an acoustic guitar kind of working out a song. He actually wrote this song and probably recorded this demo right before he played his first live solo shows ever at the Capri Theater back in January of 1979. So it was in that winter.

His first record had just come out. He's thinking about the second record. And this song comes out of him. It's just such a wonderful little recording.

CATHY WURZER: I love that. You are right. He, of course, was famously independent. He sometimes didn't have a manager or a record label. I mean, obviously, he liked having control over his art, his image, right? Do you think creating his vault was a way for him to control his legacy after he was gone? Did he ever think about that?

ANDREA SWENSSON: I think so. I mean, there's definitely interview quotes that he gave over the years about how that's all going to come out later, you know, after I'm gone. I don't know that it was a huge concern to him. Obviously, he didn't leave a will. So he wasn't thinking specifically about how it would happen.

But I know that he spoke often about how he understood that that was his body of work and that it needed to be preserved and protected. And that's why the vault was started. And that he knew that eventually we would all hear it and that he probably wouldn't be here when that happened.

CATHY WURZER: So let's hear another one of your favorites from the vault.

[PRINCE, "STAND UP AND B STRONG"] Your knees get weak. Yes, they do. Your heart grows cold. And you're tired of doing everything that you're told. Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da. Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da. It's almost on. Stand up and be strong.

Tell us about this one.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Well, you know I had to give you a Minnesota angle for Minnesota Now. This is Prince's cover of Soul Asylum, which just got released from his vault in 2021 on the record Welcome to America. It was actually a full record that Prince finished in 2010, and then decided not to release because he had a very fickle relationship with the recording industry and was not happy about the way that the internet was becoming this force of nature and really making it challenging to own your own material and to control the way that it was disseminated into the world.

So he decided, eh, I'll just not even put it out. But the archivist for the Prince estate found this complete album. And this Soul Asylum cover was on it, which is such a special thing for Minnesotans, I think.

CATHY WURZER: Mm, I love that. So, obviously, thousands of songs in the vault. And you, my friend, know so much about his work and his legacy. Is there anything you're hoping is in the vault that will soon be released?

ANDREA SWENSSON: Oh, I mean, my wish list definitely focuses on his early life. That's been a real area of interest for me, learning about his childhood, his first band, Grand Central, that he played in high school, his first solo demos that he was working on back in the '70s. I cannot wait until they dive into that era because I really want to know what's in there. And I hope there's some recordings of Grand Central. Because how cool would that be to hear high school Prince and André Cymone and Morris Day jamming out with their band?

CATHY WURZER: I know it. I know it. I have friends who actually had that opportunity to listen to all of those guys back in the day. And they say it was amazing, of course.


CATHY WURZER: Let us hear another track from the vault. This is a good one.


- Bobby?

- Yes.

- Everybody ready?

- We're down.

- OK, listen. Starting with the piano, we're going to tune up and we're going to slowly, but surely, all of within a minute. We want to get quiet and then we're just going to build and build and build until we're just making loud fast noise, OK? And then I'm going to go "shh" and you just bring it down.

It all just kind of winds down real quickly. And then Lisa will start. Starting with piano. OK, ready? And just trip. There are no mistakes this time.

This is the fun track, this one. It might not be the one we keep, but we just have fun with it. Play anything you want. Ready? Go with it. Whenever you want, Lisa.





CATHY WURZER: See, I love, love, love, love what I would call archival audio.


CATHY WURZER: To be able to hear him talk to the musicians in the studio, that was fantastic.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Oh, it's priceless. And I love the story behind this recording too. They were all in his home studio in Chanhassen out on Galpin Boulevard. And he had the band spread out throughout his house. So Lisa Coleman on piano was actually upstairs at his grand piano.

And then the rest of them were spread into these different rooms in his studio in the basement. So they couldn't see each other. They could only hear Prince and each other through the headphones.

So to think about what an incredible chemistry they were able to find in that kind of unusual setting. And I just also love his direction to them. You know, "just trip," there's no mistakes. Just do it. Let's go for this. It's so cool.

CATHY WURZER: We might not keep it. Yeah, but let's just do it. Yeah, I like that a lot. You know, it feels like we're learning a lot of new things about Prince with each new song release after his death. And you are producing Prince's official podcast, which is-- that's an amazing job-- which tells the stories behind some of these albums. That's why you know so much.


CATHY WURZER: Have you learned anything especially surprising as you do the podcast?

ANDREA SWENSSON: Oh, I mean, it's every time. Every time I talk to somebody, there's more stories that come out. This is a very unusual person we're talking about the I've literally interviewed at this point 150 people or more. I've done five seasons of the podcast. I'm working on a new one now.

And I am still fascinated by this person. There's endless amounts of new information together, new stories. He changed every day. It's really remarkable.

And I think it's a testament to his body of work and to what he did when he was alive. He was the busiest person that I can imagine. I remember his assistant told me once he had this uncanny ability to keep a hundred people busy 24 hours a day. [LAUGHS]

He just had that much going on in his life that he could just keep all these creative people making clothes and making business arrangements and booking shows and doing all of these things, designing his couch that he was going to sit on when he went home from his long day of rehearsal. You know, his every detail was considered. And he had a hand in making this whole world for himself. It's really just incredible.

CATHY WURZER: Well, we can't end our conversation without listening to this last track. This is your last pick from the vault.

["PURPLE RAIN" PLAYING] Never meant to cause you any sorrow. Never meant to cause you pain. I only wanted one time to see you laughing, yeah. I only wanted to see you in the rain.

That is beautiful.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Yeah, back before "Purple Rain" was even a fully formed couple of words that he could say out loud. I mean, that was so early in the writing of that song. And he's just working it out at home on his piano. I love that. And he's such a talented piano player. I feel like people don't talk about that enough, just really mesmerizing, in my opinion.

CATHY WURZER: Say, before you go, I do need to ask you this about the influence that you continue to see Prince on Minnesota's music industry, on the industry at large. What is that?

ANDREA SWENSSON: Oh, I hear about it all the time, you know, any time I'm interviewing artists, especially now. I think he's graduated to this other realm of being an ancestor and being a legacy artist from Minnesota, someone that contributed so greatly. And I feel like we're getting this distance now that he's gone that we can really appreciate that and understand what it means.

And I hear so many young artists talking about, not just musically being inspired by him, but just how brave he was to take on the recording industry, to literally change his name to a symbol, which actually happened 30 years ago today. Kind of a fun anniversary in Prince world. To say, I'm not going to do all of this anymore. I'm going to make my own way.

And it was extremely controversial at the time. He was mocked for it. But now we can look back and say, wow, that was actually an extremely bold thing that he did. And to see artists of today like Taylor Swift rerecording her masters to gain control over them, like his influence is still rippling out here in Minnesota and in the global music industry.

CATHY WURZER: Wow. You know what? It was great. It was fun listening to the music, talking to you, as always. Thank you so much.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Thank you, Cathy. I always love talking to you.

CATHY WURZER: We got to go with some more music. Andrea Swensson is a music journalist and host of the official Prince podcast. This weekend's Paisley Park celebration is Thursday through Sunday. It'll feature a lot of special guests and musical performances, including Chaka Khan, and Sounds of Blackness. Tickets are at the Paisley Park website.


(SINGING) Late at night when the world is sleeping.

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