What killed Prince? Fans look to autopsy for answers

Fans pay their respects outside the First Avenue club where music legend Prince who has died suddenly at the age of 57, got his first breakthrough at the start of his musical career in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 22, 2016.
Fans pay their respects outside the First Avenue club where music legend Prince who has died suddenly at the age of 57, got his first breakthrough at the start of his musical career in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 22, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

CHANHASSEN, United States (AFP) - The groundswell of grief over Prince's death kept flowing as fans prayed a Friday (April 22) autopsy would eventually reveal what killed one of the music world's most beloved and respected figures.

"You know, he was the greatest artist of all time. There will never be another one like him," said Antonio Harper, one among a crowd of thousands of fans who partied through the night in Prince's hometown of Minneapolis in a bittersweet farewell to their native son.

Prince was found dead Thursday (April 21) in an elevator at his home and recording studio compound outside Minneapolis, a week after being taken to a hospital with a flu-like illness that he later downplayed.

The local sheriff was to brief the media at 3 pm (2000 GMT) on the investigation into his death, which until now remains a mystery.

 

Preliminary results of the autopsy being conducted Friday should be ready in a few days but more thorough tests, mainly toxicology analysis, could take weeks, the Anoka County Midwest Medical Examiner's office said.

Entertainment website TMZ, citing unnamed sources, reported that Prince was treated for an overdose of the opioid-based painkiller Percocet in the week before his death on Thursday at age 57.

After a show in Atlanta the singer was taken to hospital after his private jet made an unscheduled landing in Moline, Illinois.

 

"Multiple sources in Moline tell us Prince was rushed to a hospital and doctors gave him a 'save shot'... typically administered to counteract the effects of an opiate," TMZ said. AFP could not immediately verify the report.

Around the world and in his home town fans struggled to come to terms with the sudden loss of the "Purple Rain" legend, a singular talent acclaimed for his guitar and keyboard skills and soaring falsetto.

For them it was like a punch in the gut.

"I cried, I cried a few times all night. Every time they played his music, songs that hit me," said Melody Johnson, part of the adoring crowd that gathered at the First Avenue club in Minneapolis, where Prince shot "Purple Rain," a rock musical that featured the signature song of the same name.

"Michael Jackson died and now Prince died. I feel like there's not going to be any good music after that," said fellow fan Jasmine Ellzey.

Spontaneous tributes to the enigmatic Grammy and Oscar winner broke out in other cities, including New York, where director Spike Lee led a Prince sing-along at a packed block party in Brooklyn.

Small in stature but a consummate live performer, Prince became an international sensation in the 1980s, fusing rock and R&B into a highly danceable funk mix.

"Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin led an outpouring of tributes from the entertainment industry, describing him as "an original and a one of a kind" and insisting his music would live on.

Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger tweeted that Prince was "one of the most unique and talented artists of the last 30 years" while former Beatle Paul McCartney tweeted he had seen in the New Year with the singer and that he had seemed in good health.

President Barack Obama, who invited Prince to play a private White House show last year, lamented his passing.

"Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent," Obama said.

Prince - whose huge catalogue of hits includes "1999," "Cream" and "Kiss" - lived on the outskirts of Minneapolis, where he mostly kept to himself.

He was prolific in his output, recently releasing albums through streaming site Tidal, and had taken to scheduling shows at the last minute to avoid scalpers.

In Minneapolis,where authorities lit up a bridge in purple in Prince's memory, the atmosphere was carnival-like with the crowd erupting into renditions of his hits.

"It's crazy how everybody is coming together like this. It's mind-blowing. I've never seen anything like it before," said 22-year-old Madalyn Holbeck.

Named after his jazz pianist and songwriter father's stage name, the pop icon was born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis, although his family had its roots in Louisiana.

In rare interviews he revealed that he suffered from epilepsy as a child but told his mother, jazz singer Mattie Della, that he had been cured by divine intervention.

Among his many achievements, one of the most frequently cited was a spellbinding guitar solo during a cover of The Beatles classic "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

Prince was in the middle of a pared-back "Piano and a Microphone" tour when he began experiencing health problems.

But the Saturday before he died, the musician invited fans via Twitter to a "dance party" at his Paisley Park compound, where he kept his back recordings in vaults, as a way to prove his health problems were behind him, Minnesota's Star Tribune newspaper reported.

"Wait a few days before you waste any prayers," he reportedly told the roughly 200 in attendance.