The tragic death of Prince Rogers Nelson, better known simply as Prince, sent shockwaves across the world when his death was announced April 21.
I heard the news on CNN as I lay in bed stunned in disbelief. Prince was only 57 and lived a healthy lifestyle. An enormous amount of sadness came over me.
I grew up listening to Prince. His first single, “Soft and Wet,” was a staple on the dance floor at our high school dances. I can remember watching his movie “Purple Rain” at University Village across from the campus of USC.
The theater was jammed packed and after the movie had ended my fascination with Prince began. I had never seen someone as multi-talented as Prince in my life.
Michael Jackson was my all-time favorite artist. But Prince was doing things artistically Michael could never do. Prince, was a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor. He was a musical innovator and known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, extravagant dress, makeup and wide vocal range. His music covered a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, soul, psychedelia, and pop.
Living in Los Angeles, and being active my entire in life, I’ve had the opportunity to meet almost everyone I’ve had a desire to meet. But when I met Prince in the mid 1980s for the first and only time, I was hanging out with one of my buddies, ex-Laker great Norm Nixon, at an underground private club called “Tramps” located by the Beverly Center.
Norm’s younger sister Tracy, who is my age, was visiting from back east and I essentially was her escort. I didn’t mind. I liked Norm and looked up to him.
So I was just happy to be invited. As Tracy and I hit the dance floor that night, suddenly she turned around speechless. It was almost as if she couldn’t move. She was dancing now in slow motion pointing behind me.
I turned around to see what was wrong. I then became stunned and it probably seemed like I was dancing in slow motion. I was shocked to see that Prince was dancing a few feet behind me. I couldn’t believe it.
As soon as that song ended, I walked over to Prince to say hi, as he was surrounded by a bodyguard. He smiled back and said, “Hi, how you doing?”
My meeting with Prince was brief, and I couldn’t believe how short he was, but I felt his spirit of kindness. I was moved. I followed and supported Prince’s career to his untimely death last week.
I bought his music, attended his concerts and for me, growing up a huge Michael Jackson fan, I never felt like I had to decide between the two of who was the greatest entertainer. They were both the greatest in their own distinct styles. But Prince wasn’t just an artist.
Apart from his music and performance style, Prince’s legacy includes black activism advocating for several causes from center stage to behind the scenes included political stances, donating money to the Trayvon Martin and Tavis Smiley foundations respectively, the introduction of more minority youth into the tech field, challenges to record execs and an overarching focus on African-American empowerment.
One of the lasting impressions that Prince left with me with was when he walked on stage to a standing ovation carrying a cane and rocking an Afro to present the 2015 Grammy for album of the year. Then he stole the show with a line that reminded everyone he was more than just a pop superstar; he was a black activist.
“Albums still matter,” he said. “Like books and black lives, albums still matter. Tonight and always.”
At the Grammys in Los Angeles, Prince was referring to the Black Lives Matter movement that was galvanized by the 2014 police killing of an unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
But Prince didn’t stop there. After protests rocked Baltimore over the death of a black man who suffered a spinal injury while riding in a police van, Prince stepped in and performed a tribute song named for the city that included the line, “Does anybody hear us pray for Michael Brown or Freddie Gray?”
Prince also signed on with Tidal, the music streaming service backed by Jay Z, telling Rolling Stone last year: “Once we have our own resources, we can provide what we need for ourselves. Jay Z spent $100 million of his own money to build his own service. We have to show support for artists who are trying to own things for themselves. He also told Ebony that artists should seek to control distribution, saying, “Where we finally get into a position to run things — we all should help.” That’s why in my opinion Prince was an artist who our world will never see again. He was the truth; his legacy will live on forever.
As I continue to mourn the death of Prince, so do thousands of fans locally. I was particularly moved by a Facebook post by Dallas Fowler. She was so grief stricken she missed the candlelight vigil that was held the night of his death in Leimert Park, co-sponsored by KJLH Radio Station. The vigil was moving, touching and an amazing celebration of life.
When I heard the news the over the weekend that Prince had already been cremated and a private memorial service was held, attended by about 20 close family members and friends, I felt even worse.
I respect Prince’s last wishes, but Los Angeles was his second home. The city is still mourning. We need to say goodbye with a tribute fitting a Prince.
I thought about Dallas who had missed the Leimert Park tribute. I decided we needed to have an official city of Los Angeles memorial service for Prince. I immediately contacted my council member, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, a longtime Prince fan, to request that his office help sponsor a memorial service.
Harris-Dawson agreed and the momentum began to pick up steam with KJLH Radio Station also joining the partnership. That comes as no surprise. Greg Johnson the community relations and marketing genius for KJLH has been at the forefront of pressing community issues for over 20 years.
So our coalition of committee members was created and joined by Commissioner Dallas Fowler, LAPD Permit Review Commissioner Mike Davis, Asya Shein and others are joining.
So save the date, May 6, 2016, 5 p.m. at L.A. City Hall.
The city of Los Angeles will hold a tribute and memorial for Prince Rogers Nelson, featuring very special guests to honor his legacy in music and philanthropy. Our very own City Hall was the prime location for the “Diamonds and Pearls” video.
The city is proud to have been the home away from home for a tremendous talent that touched our city and our world.
The Prince memorial is sponsored by the office of Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, 102.3 KJLH Radio, Project Islamic Hope, with special thanks to Solomon Rivera, chief of staff for Councilman Harris-Dawson, and city staff . We’re going to do this! #LALovesPrince
For news-tips email Brothernajeeali@gmail.com or follow me on twitter @Najeeali.