How do you capture a 37-year legacy in four days? The answer is you don’t. But at the annual Prince Celebration this year, there is an effort to make sure that Prince’s legacy is remembered, celebrated and secured for the future.
Yet there are challenges. The heirs continue to battle with the bank overseeing Prince’s estate. The ‘new’ releases that have been put out by the estate, supervised by entertainment advisor Troy Carter have been met with some criticism by fans who have been circulating and collecting bootlegs for years.
Although there is a documentary coming via director Ava DuVernay, no release date has been announced. Even the Celebration, after 3 years, has its critics, including fans that say the expense of the event don’t match what’s being offered.
But at Prince’s Paisley Park complex where he worked, lived and died in 2016, the focus is on the music he made and the musicians, fans and other artists he inspired. This year’s Celebration included performances and panels by former Time guitarist Jesse Johnson, The Revolution featuring Mint Condition’s frontman Stokley Williams, the Funk Soldiers, including Kirk Johnson and Renato Neto, photographer Jeff Katz, a Graffiti Bridge panel featuring its star, Ingrid Chavez, and Prince’s former manager Bob Cavallo.
The Celebration, depending on your ticket, includes a VIP tour of Paisley Park, including Studios A and B where Prince spent much of his recording time and “Prince: Live On the Big Screen” – a video compilation of two of Prince’s performances with the NPG Band in front of a live audience held this year at The Armory.
The Celebration always includes a host of parties and concerts not officially sanctioned by the Estate and this year included an all-night Pancake Party at Perkins in Chanhassen; a show with the NPG (there are several configurations of NPG as the band changed personnel over time, this one featured rapper Tony M., keyboardist Morris Hayes and guitarist Levi Seacer, Jr.; a panel featuring the writers of several Prince books that Prince protegé Tamar also joined, a performance by Chavez and a cocktail reception with Jerome Benton. Former NPG keyboardist Tommy Barbarella and frequent Prince collaborator, saxophonist Eric Leeds, also performed at separate events.
Here’s what worked…and what didn’t.
Jesse Johnson was the subject of some fan ire when a recording of him saying he’d never perform at the Celebration was released…after he’d signed on to perform at the Celebration this year. During his panel, Johnson acknowledged that he’d been estranged from Prince for some time. The two were once close and Johnson recounted times when the two lived and partied together. He is the co-writer on “Jungle Love” but said Prince used to laugh at his early attempts to create songs.
Johnson said he and Prince clashed over Prince’s control of the Time’s music and image as well as money. He told a story of the time that he made Prince laugh when he scoffed at Prince saying he never watched Hendrix. Johnson also shared Prince showing him a bankbook in the early years with a $12M balance. Johnson, who choked up at times, said he loved Prince and Morris [Day] as much as “3 straight men could love each other” but said Prince deliberately used his fame to try to sabotage Johnson’s solo career.
Johnson also acknowledged Prince’s love for children, including Jesse’s, who said his kids remember how loving Prince was to them. Johnson choked up while considering that Prince’s son, Ahmir, did not live long enough for him to be a father.
Johnson’senergetic performance, including his hits “Be Your Man” and “Can You Help Me” made it understandable why Prince felt threatened by his guitar prowess and maybe also, Johnson’s collection of bedazzled guitars.
Check out Page 2 for more including Prince’s “live” concert and who else was at Celebration.