I saw Prince at the Bottom Line in New York in 1979, which makes me particularly qualified to comment on the Artist Formerly Known as… It was a great show. He wore bikini briefs, and sported a lot of chest and pubic hair. During "Head," he sunk down behind the speakers and humped keyboard player, Gayle Chatman. I thought he'd eventually get arrested for lewd behavior in public. But Prince survived… until Apr. 21 when he passed away in his home outside MInneapolis. The Purple One was 57.
On Apr. 15, he'd been hospitalized after becoming ill on a flight, which made an emergency landing in Moline, IL. Prince's reps said he had the flu, but it clearly was much more serious. TMZ reported that Prince overdosed on Percocet on the flight. He was seen at his local Walgreens several times in the days before his death.
The toxicology report, issued June 3, concluded that Prince's death was the result of an overdose of the synthetic opiate, fentanyl. It was deteremined to be accidental (the other categories are natutal, homicide, suicide and undetermined). Prince weighed just 112 pounds at the time of his death.
According to the Daily Mail, Prince was a longtime opiate addict dating back to the '80s. His former dealer claims Prince regularly abused Dilaudid and Fentanyl, and that he likely died because of a bad reaction to Percocet.
"He needed the drugs because he was so nervous," the anonymous dealer based in the Los Angeles area explians. "He could be nervous in a room with just five people in it. He was scared to go out in public, he was scared to talk to people and didn't like to go on stage. He had the worst case of stage fright I'd ever seen A lot of performers rely on drugs to make them feel confident on stage but he was by far the worse. Plus he was always paranoid about doctors so he wouldn't ask them for help - he had a phobia of them. I was surprised when I heard he had been picking up prescriptions before he died."
Prince Rogers Nelson was born on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis. He had his musical breakthrough in 1979 with the No. 11 single, "I Wanna Be Your Love," on his eponymously titled second album. Many more hits would follow on such popular albums as Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade and Sign o' the Times.
Along with Michael Jackson, Prince dominated the '80s music scene. His androgynous look, mod outfits, coiffed hair and rock-star demeanor was the perfect fit for the post-'70s funk and classic rock world. Prince never succumbed to disco; he rose above it.
Prince peaked in 1984 with his star turn in Purple Rain, which cemented his myth as motorcycle-riding casanova. He appeared in several other films, Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge, but by 1990, Prince's popularity was starting to wane. He christened himself the Artist Formerly Known as Prince and eventually sank into self-parody. But no one could take away his brilliant body of work.
In my review of Prince's Bottom Line show in 1979 when he was just 19, I concluded: "Prince, who introduced himself as 'My mother's favorite freak,' just may become a household word." I was right.
Note: This is the second death in Prince's musical family this year. Vanity passed away in February.