When the world found out that Prince had been found dead in the elevator of his Paisley Park compound, the news came as a devastating blow.
He was only 57 and had just performed a week beforehand, less mobile than usual behind a piano but commanding the stage as always. His indomitable presence, despite only standing at 5-foot-2, gave pretty much everyone who watched him the impression that he would simply play on forever.
But it was at least fitting that Prince died at home, instead of aboard a jet thousands of feet in the air, or at a hospital across the country from his hometown of Minneapolis. Built in 1987, Paisley Park, in Chanhassen, Minn., was the artist's safe haven and creative headquarters, where he housed his memorabilia, his studio and a climate-controlled basement vault harboring thousands of hours' worth of unheard recordings.
Much as the purple-tinged Paisley Park served as the nerve center of Prince's world when he was alive, so it became a gathering place for bereft Prince fans in the days following his death. And it will continue on as a shrine: Like Elvis Presley's Graceland, Paisley Park is now a museum open to the public, a showcase for guitars, clothing, notebooks of handwritten lyrics and more tangible proof that the "Purple Rain" singer once walked among us. (Alas, all the real candles he favored have been replaced with fake candles, to recreate the mood but prevent the fire hazard.)
A $46 ticket covers parking and a 70-minute tour.
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A four-day celebration of Prince's life kicked off Thursday at Paisley Park with a surprise performance by George Clinton and P-Funk, followed by more musical acts, panel discussions and other events. The First Avenue club in Minneapolis, where Prince got his start and would often perform when he was in town, also threw a party, and the Minnesota History Center has a bunch of memorabilia on display, including his Purple Rain suit.
A new song called "Deliverance" was released on Tuesday, what was supposed to be a precursor to the Friday release of a six-song EP of the same name, made up of music recorded between 2006 and 2008. The fate of the EP is now in limbo after Prince's estate secured a temporary injunction against its release, but the title track is still available for download. The estate also sued Deliverance co-producer George Ian Boxill, claiming he has no authority to release the music.
The brass-tacks aftermath evokes shades of what transpired following Michael Jackson's death in 2009, from Conrad Murray's manslaughter trial and the family's wrongful death suit against AEG and the fight for control of his massive estate.
Meanwhile, a judge ruled that Boxill remains bound to a confidentiality agreement with Paisley Park Enterprises and he was ordered to turn over any recordings in his possession to the estate. Basically, Boxill may have been privileged enough to work with Prince in the artist's lifetime, but anything recorded at Paisley Park belongs to Paisley Park until the estate says otherwise.
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But though fans (in controlled numbers) were known to be welcomed inside the storied studio-turned-estate for dance parties and private concerts, and Prince often had staff, friends and other artists around, the enigmatic star was also leading a most solitary existence.
A few days before the one-year anniversary of his death on Friday, the fruits of the search of his property a year ago were finally made public—and it turned out, Paisley Park had spilled all sorts of secrets in the months after he died.
Answers, however, are another story.
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While the rumor mill was grinding at top speed in the weeks after he died, with speculation about secret illnesses, numerous possible heirs and more making headlines, the ultimate cause of death was revealed to be an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a potent opioid with effects similar to morphine. The investigation into his death became a homicide investigation.
Prince had suffered from chronic hip pain, said to be spurred by years of dancing in high-heeled footwear, but as a Jehovah's Witness he wouldn't undergo a blood transfusion, which could be necessary if he had undergone surgery. So, he refused to have surgery.
It turned out that the medical emergency Prince had suffered mid-flight six days before his death was also an overdose, one that was treated with a what's called a "save shot." His jet made an emergency landing in Moline, Ill.; doctors reportedly recommended he spend the night at the hospital but he took off after only a few hours.
But it wasn't until the final months of his life that Prince started publicly suffering the effects of what would ultimately kill him. How in the world did such a famous person, who toured extensively and was the master of the surprise "Psst, Prince is playing in this tiny place at 3 a.m., be there" show, could keep his tortured life so fully under wraps?
Well, officials have at last provided a major clue as to how that was possible.
In their search of Paisley Park, investigators turned up throughout the residence numerous over-the-counter medicines and vitamin bottles containing narcotic prescription painkillers that he did not have prescriptions for. Rather, they found an opiate prescription made out to Kirk Johnson, a longtime friend and employee of Prince (and one of the people who discovered Prince's body on April 20, 2016).
Dr. Michael T. Schulenberg told investigators he had prescribed oxycodone for Prince on April 14, 2016, but in Johnson's name for privacy reasons, according to the search warrants executed between April and September of 2016 and unsealed by the Carver County Sherrif's Office last week. (Schulenberg's lawyer denied that her client prescribed opioids for Prince, or opioids for someone other than Prince with the understanding that the artist would be using it.)
A suitcase with a luggage tag reading "Peter Braverman," an alias Prince sometimes used, contained several pill bottles in Johnson's name.
Pills containing fentanyl were found in an Aleve bottle, and more were found in a Bayer bottle, but it's unclear if they were the same pills that led to Prince's overdose. The investigation, a collaboration between the sheriff's office and the Drug Enforcement Administration, remains open.
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The search warrants and related documents also shed light on another member of Prince's inner circle—singer Judith Hill, who had been dating Prince and was on the flight that landed in Illinois.
First bit of news: Prince was in a romantic relationship. The artist had been married twice, divorcing second wife Mayte Garcie in 2006, and had been linked to a number of prominent females over the years, but he couldn't have been more private about that portion of his life.
Hill, who had competed on The Voice and was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, would communicate with Prince by phone and via "Peter Braverman's" email address, the artist having stopped using a cell phone after his was hacked.
Described as a protegee of Prince's at the time, Hill told The New York Times last June about that night on the plane, ""We knew it was only a matter of time; we had to get down. We didn't have anything on the plane to help him." She had never seen anything like that happen to him before, she added.
Hill had started recording at Paisley Park in 2014 and Prince introduced her to the audience at a private concert at the compound in March 2015. "Ask your questions now. She's going to be a superstar, and you won't be able to talk to her," the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported him as saying.
Asked if they were romantic, Hill said last year, "There was a very intense relationship. I deeply cared for him." Not long before he died, "he told me that he loved me and that he would always be there for me."
"Now he's gone, and I realize I was leaning on him a lot," she said. "And that's what's scary. I'm on my own."
Paisley Park remains, however, as a "living, breathing exhibit," as archive director Angie Marchese described it to The New York Times last week.
At least the rest of the surprises that the property will continue to provide seem to be more of the intriguing, look-how-this-eccentric-legend-lived variety. For instance, Marchese said that, among the garments cataloged as part of the 7,000-plus-piece (so far) collection, there were no lounging clothes—at least by any regular person's standards. Moreover, each outfit had a matching pair of shoes. Mostly ankle boots, with 3-inch heels.
"Prince didn't seem to have any at-home wear," she said. "Prince was always Prince."
And in a way, Prince is still home. His ashes reside in an urn fashioned to look like a mini Paisley Park that's mounted high up on the wall in the atrium right through the front door.