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Music legend Prince dead at 57

Prince, whose pioneering brand of danceable funk and virtuoso talents made him one of the most influential figures in music, died at his secluded compound in Minnesota, aged 57.

His sudden death came just a week after the enigmatic Grammy and Oscar winner — acclaimed for his guitar skills and soaring falsetto — was taken to a hospital with a flu-like illness that he later made light of.

The news prompted a flood of tributes from the worlds of entertainment and politics, from Barack Obama to Madonna and Mick Jagger, as well as ordinary fans — and even a tweet from NASA of a purple nebula, in Prince’s signature color.

“It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson, has died at his Paisley Park residence this morning,” said his spokeswoman, Yvette Noel-Schure.

UNRESPONSIVE IN ELEVATOR

The Carver County sheriff’s office in Minnesota said that deputies responding to an emergency call found an “unresponsive” Prince in an elevator.

Attempts to resuscitate him failed and he was pronounced dead at 10:07 am (1507 GMT), it said, adding that an investigation had been launched.

The sheriff’s office released a transcript of a 911 call from an unidentified man at the property who was asked if he was with the patient. “Yes — it’s Prince,” he replied.

The cause of death remained unclear, although entertainment website TMZ said the musician had been treated for a drug overdose in the week before his death, citing multiple unnamed sources.

He was taken to a hospital after his private jet made an unscheduled landing in Moline, Illinois last Friday following a gig in Atlanta, amid previous reports that he had been battling flu.

“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.

Messages left by fans outside the Paisley Park residential compound of music legend Prince in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 21, 2016.
Messages left by fans outside the Paisley Park residential compound of music legend Prince in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 21, 2016.

AUTOPSY

Spokeswoman Martha Weaver from the Anoka County Midwest Medical Examiner’s office told AFP that authorities would perform an autopsy on Friday.

Preliminary information would be ready in a few days, but the results of more detailed tests would take a couple of weeks, she said.

The singer became an international sensation in the 1980s, when he popularized the Minneapolis sound, bringing rock and R&B into a readily danceable funk mix.

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

“He changed the world!! A true visionary. What a loss. I’m devastated,” Madonna, a fellow 1980s icon who recorded with and briefly dated Prince, wrote on Instagram.

Rolling Stones frontman Jagger tweeted that Prince’s “talent was limitless,” describing him as “one of the most unique and talented artists of the last 30 years.”

U2’s Bono posted a photo of the lyrics of Prince song “The Cross,” which read in part: “Soon all of our problems/Will be taken by the cross.”

“I never met Mozart, I never met Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker I never met Elvis But I met Prince,” Bono said in a tweet.

Actor Will Smith was among dozens of Hollywood stars who took to social media within an hour of the news breaking, saying he had spoken to Prince the night before and was shocked at the loss of the “beautiful poet” and “true inspiration.”

Public Enemy frontman Chuck D lamented that it was like “the Earth is missing a note” while Lenny Kravitz thanked his “musical brother” who had shown him “the possibilities within myself.”

KEPT TO HIMSELF

Prince – whose huge catalogue of hits includes “Purple Rain,” “1999,” “Cream” and “Kiss” – lived on the outskirts of Minneapolis, where he often kept to himself, although he was known to invite people over at a moment’s notice.

He changed his name in the 1990s to an unpronounceable “love symbol” and wrote “slave” on his cheek to protest contractual conditions by his label Warner Brothers.

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.

Obama lamented the loss of a “creative icon.”

“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent,” said the president, who invited Prince to play a private White House show last year.

“Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer.”