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Columnist: Doves are now crying for a musical legend

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

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He is dead. A musician, an entertainer, singer and yes, an American icon. His death is shrouded in mystery as was the life he lived for 57 years.

Leading up to his death, he had earlier canceled concerts in Atlanta because of his experiencing flu symptoms that made him very ill. In fact, on April 15, his private jet made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, so that he could seek medical treatment. This was a day after performing two makeup shows for fans in Atlanta.

This is what we do know about the entertainer before his death. Media sources report that the entertainer had been complaining about not feeling well for several weeks. The lack of consistent medical attention alone with a rigorous schedule of performing finally caught up with him.

On April 21, 2016, the internationally famous entertainer was found dead in an elevator at his Minnesota compound. News of his unexpected death shocked the music industry and fans all over the world.

Here was a person who, after finally getting into the music business, became one of the industries’ greatest performers. Standing only 5 feet, 2 inches tall, he essentially began his professional career in the 1970s and by the 1980s most people in America had seen his movie or heard his song called “Purple Rain.”

The album sold more than 13 million copies in the U.S. alone, and his movie grossed more than $80 million. The album was so popular it spent 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

He was born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis, Minnesota. If you saw his movie “Purple Rain,” you now know that his early family life mirrored what was presented in the movie which depicted a young man torn between his music and horrible family life.

Although many of his fans continue to believe that Prince was born to interracial parents, the reality is that they were African-Americans. Prince did very little to dispel these notions.

His parents, both of whom were outstanding musicians, divorced while he was quite young. He moved around from home to home before actually moving in with neighbors whose son he had befriended.

Prince was a precocious child and seemed to have had an innate musical ability, mastering the guitar and piano at an early age. He would later go on to master playing more than 27 instruments. As a child he would partner with other friends and play gigs for clubs and parties held in the Minneapolis area.

He did everything to excess from performing to partying. His concerts were legend as were the outfits he wore. Some of the lyrics to his songs were considered so X-rated that censors mandated parental advisory notices be placed on one of his albums.

He was electrifying — appealing to men as well as women. The public essentially perceived him to be asexual. This was the magic of Prince. He was what his fans wanted him to be: gay, bisexual or heterosexual.

He was the personification of virility to some — dating and being seen with beautiful women of all races and ages. He was also iconoclastic — wearing clothes and shoes most men would consider to be feminine attire.

My daughter actually introduced me to the world of Prince and I was immediately hooked. Each wall in her room was adorned with pictures and posters of the famous artist.

Here was an adoration that I thought would never end. She and I loved “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry” and of course, another great hit of his called “1999.”

While controversy may have surrounded him, mainly related to his professional career, he lived a relatively clean life unaffected by drug addiction, which has ruined the careers and lives of many other musicians and entertainers.

Prince appeared to have been prophetic concerning comments he made at a dance party near his home in Minnesota the night after his brief hospitalization. Although he didn’t perform, he did feel obligated to address the audience that was concerned about his health. It is alleged that he told the audience, “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.”

Taking an inventory of the tributes around the world to the musical legend, fans are now honoring his request.

Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at glenn.dowell@gmail.com.