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Don Lemon Tonight
Musician Prince Dies at Age 57; Examining the Life and Career of Prince. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 21, 2016 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, AC360 SHOW HOST: It's always an honor. Thank you.
STEVIE WONDER, SINGER: Thank you.
COOPER: Stevie Wonder from earlier tonight. That does it for us. Thanks for being with us for this two-hour tribute. We remember the life of Prince. Right now, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.
DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT SHOW HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
And that was the one and one Prince from his 1984 hit, "Let's Go Crazy." Prince Rogers Nelson died today at the age of 57, found unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park Studios. The cause so far unknown, but his death comes far too soon.
His music the sound track of a generation, hit after hit after hit.
LEMON: Five singles like that one "When Doves Cry" topping the charts, 14 others in the top 10. He won an Oscar.
LEMON: He won an Oscar, played the Super Bowl Halftime show.
LEMON: And made America and the world dance with music that was ground breaking, uncompromising and always funky. The life and legacy of Prince being celebrated across the country, including Brooklyn, where Spike Lee is hosting a block party tonight and telling Prince fans to wear something purple in his memory.
CNN's Randi Kaye is there for us this evening. Good evening to you, Randi. My gosh, it looks like they are having a good time celebrating the life of this man. Spike Lee put up the word that for fans to come celebrate Prince tonight. How is the mood there in Fort Green?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mood is incredible, Don. It's actually really -- this is really a celebration of his life. You feel like Prince is alive and well. He can certainly be heard on the streets of Brooklyn tonight. This is Prince's party we think, not really Spike Lee's party.
They have been playing his music tonight, "Little Red Corvette," "When Doves Cry," "I'll Die for You." People are hanging out of their windows, you can see in the crowds here. These women have been dancing all night. It's amazing.
And what's really amazing, Don, is the group. There are people black, white, young, old, holding hands, dancing together celebrating Prince's life, people who are born in the 60s, 70s and 80s. He has brought so many generations. So many people love him, so many people, Don, have been touched by his set.
One woman told me tonight when she heard he have died that she was breathless; many have said they were heartbroken. He really touched people's lives here. They have said, you know, he really got them through make-ups and breakups and relationships and they grew up listening to his music, Don.
LEMON: So, Randi, you have, I'm sure you've been hearing the entire Prince catalogue tonight. Do you have any favorite Prince song?
KAYE: I do. I mean, certainly "When Doves Cry." "Little Red Corvette" I made, I was rockin' out too, and of course, "Purple Rain," one of my favorites. I mean, how can you go wrong with "Purple Rain." But, you know, it's pretty much just about every song that Prince saying, you know, it hits you in some way.
He was so original. I talked to so many people here and they said, you now, he was edgy, he was sexy, he was out there and that's what you feel, and I love seeing his life celebrated here on the streets of Brooklyn tonight.
LEMON: Any idea how long this is going to go on, Randi?
KAYE: Well, you know what? The crowd actually keeps getting bigger and bigger. And the street is now closed off and Spike Lee, he comes out and he encourages everybody from the balcony to get louder. So, it doesn't seem like the neighbors mind. They have their windows open, I think this could go on a few more hours.
LEMON: Randi Kaye for us in Fort Green, Brooklyn tonight celebrating the life of Prince, the music legend.
Joining me now is another legend. On the phone with me to remember Prince and that is the queen of soul herself, Ms. Aretha Franklin. Ms. Franklin, I'm so sorry to speak with you on such a sad occasion. How are you doing?
ARETHA FRANKLIN, SINGER-SONGWRITER: I'm doing OK, Don, doing very well with the exception of Prince's passing. It was just so stunning and what a blow. You just -- you just didn't expect that. You just never connect that with him. It was the last thing I expected to hear this morning.
FRANKLIN: And, wow, what a bummer.
FRANKLIN: But he -- go ahead.
LEMON: You know, we often -- I just saw you last week for your birthday and you look amazing and you live every moment.
FRANKLIN: Thank you.
LEMON: And we often get to talk on such sad occasions, we talk for Whitney, we talked for Michael, and now we're talking for this. And I'm going to talk to Dionne Warwick a little bit later. And my question to her is going to the same to you. Why do you think as I rattle off a list of all this very talented people, that these talented people go so young?
[22:05:06] FRANKLIN: Why do I think what was it?
LEMON: These really talented wonderful people just go so young.
FRANKLIN: Oh, OK. Well, you know, I didn't know Prince personally, so it would be hard for me to speak on it accurately. But just observing him from a distance, he appeared to be very healthy, a healthy strong young man. And on the one.
FRANKLIN: I'm at a loss for words; they are like most of us.
LEMON: You know, just like yourself, Prince is truly an original, unique artist.
LEMON: What are you going to remember about him?
FRANKLIN: I think his uniqueness and yes, definitely an original. There could not be two. He was musical haute couture.
LEMON: You know, he addressed everything in his music like you, love, sex, religion, race. He was fearless, wasn't he?
FRANKLIN: Yes, very outspoken I think and just very, very unique. I didn't hear him speak a lot. I saw him from time to time on TV, but as my colleague, of course I was observing and listening. He didn't have a lot to say but he would give you music and he would give you eyes and attitude.
LEMON: I was in the make-up room as we were, you know, getting ready for this and some of the video came up and the make-up artist said, you know, he gave you smoky eye before people knew what smoky eye was. Prince did it first.
You know, as someone who has been doing this for, you know, in the business as a legend, you know this industry. He really sort of broke the rules in the industry, fighting for ownership of his music. Which is, explain to our audience how important that is for an audience.
FRANKLIN: What was the last part you said?
LEMON: About fighting for ownership in his music, how important that is for an artist to have some ownership over their music.
FRANKLIN: Absolutely, absolutely. The writers, publishing. And he was uniquely gifted there again to be the producer, the writer and the artist. That was a gift for sure.
LEMON: You know, he was just 57 years old.
FRANKLIN: And why shouldn't the artist own their own music? Especially if you wrote it.
LEMON: Right. And the writing, that's really the important part is the writing, because if someone else does your song, it doesn't matter who, you still get the royalties from that as one should, right, correct?
FRANKLIN: Yes, that's true. Yes. If someone records what you have written, yes. Sometimes it's successful, sometimes it's not. Who knows what it will be until, you know, you put it out there.
LEMON: You know, we've recently -- we've lost another icon, we lost David Bowie. You know, when I keep saying to you why do we keep...
FRANKLIN: Natalie Cole.
LEMON: Natalie Cole.
LEMON: Why do we keep losing so many legends? But really it's the cycle of life and it's sad that we have to be here talking about it but it's also good to remember, it's good to celebrate their accomplishment.
FRANKLIN: Absolutely. And one must take care of themselves in this business because it can be grueling, particularly for a successful artist in terms of the concert demand and other demands that are related to your success.
LEMON: He was just 57 years old. He remembers creative.
FRANKLIN: Very young. Too young. Much too young.
LEMON: He was creative his entire life, writing music, performing. So protective over his work. What would you like to see happen to his body of work? Because he recently just purchased his entire catalogue. He owned it. What would you like to see happen to his body of work, Ms. Franklin?
FRANKLIN: Well, I'm thrilled to hear that, delighted to hear that, that he purchased it. And of course that should go into his estate, in the hands of his family.
LEMON: Anything you want to say to his family and friend before I let you go?
FRANKLIN: Yes, my heart and my deepest sympathy and my condolences go out to Prince's family and to his friends and supporters.
LEMON: The queen of soul, Ms. Aretha Franklin. Thank you, Ms. Franklin.
FRANKLIN: Thank you, Don, for giving me the opportunity to express my respect for Prince.
LEMON: Any time. You're welcome here on CNN. We're going to be back here in just a minute, but first Prince's first single to hit the billboard top 10 in the U.S., is was "Little Red Corvette," that was back in 1983, and the rest, as they say, is history.
[22:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Our breaking news tonight, the death of Prince, an American music legend. He died at 57. The cause so far unknown. And autopsy will be performed tomorrow. Prince was found unresponsive this morning at his home, Paisley Park Studios in Minnesota.
CNN's Ryan Young is there for us tonight. Ryan, what do we know now about what happened there at Paisley Park tonight?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, that's the big question so far. We know he was found unresponsive inside an elevator. Then 911 call made and someone was calling 911 saying they needed to get someone there as quick as possible.
That person didn't actually have the address for this location. He just kept saying "Prince's house, Prince's house" and the 911 call goes on to eventually say we need to get an address because we can't track the cell phone.
When they did finally arrive, they tried to perform CPR on Prince, but that did not work. He was pronounced dead here at Paisley Park. I want to show you the scene here, Don. Because this has been quite breathtaking for so many of us who have standing out here for quite some time.
Because of all the people who decided to show up here out in front of Paisley Park. If you ever been here you know so many people who love Prince come here all the time just to stand on the outside, just to get some of the essence of this.
But when you stand here tonight, it is such a different story. Because you see people from all over, people who obviously have been touched by Prince, the artist, who are standing together sharing stories about him.
In fact, we saw one artist painting in the background, painting a picture of Prince and so many people standing there taking pictures of it, telling stories about what their favorite song was or how he impacted their life.
This has been going on for several hours. And the police have been on the inside, making sure that no one tries to run behind those gates. We've seen people going in and out for several hours. But for the most part there's actually music being played over there by the fence right now as people show up, place flowers and pictures and talk about stories about how Prince, the artist, and his music has touched their hearts forever.
[22:15:10] LEMON: Ryan Young at Paisley Park tonight. Ryan, thank you for your reporting. You know, I want to bring in one of the purple one's friends. She says he was an inspiration and that's none other than super model Naomi Campbell. She joins me now on the phone. You know, Naomi, he touched so many lives. What do you -- how are you? What did he mean to you?
NAOMI CAMPBELL, MODEL: He was a very good friend and he was a very, very painfully shy person that some people might think that he was arrogant because he was so shy. I grew up with him in music and I can't imagine how his family been must feel today because I'm in devastation about Prince, how is hurting them.
LEMON: I'm so sorry, Naomi. Where were you when you heard? I know that you're traveling. How did you hear about his death?
CAMPBELL: I'm actually right now in Saudi Arabia working and at first you just don't believe when you hear something like this. It's the same like to me I heard about Charlie; I thought he had brought the joke. I had to call to my publicist in New York because I just wanted to be clear that I understood right.
And he said, no, it's true. But you know, you just don't want to believe that. And I, you know, I don't -- most of the time -- a lot of the time that I got to know him was through Donatella Versace and Danny Versace who is so close to Donatella during -- before -- during (Inaudible) was killed.
And you know, he was so supportive of the Versace family, always at the fashion shows, so I basically grew up knowing him since I was 17, and being with him throughout my working time with Versace and then thereafter that he would always call and tell me when he was going to be in New York, or Paris, or London.
And I never missed a concert. I think I have to get out of my bed because he's someone who would not sleep and play -- once he played a big concert, he'd play another concert after that. He was so generous and so giving to his fans and to all that loved his music.
And he would just keep on giving. And, you know, it's -- I don't think anyone in the world is going to sleep tonight. I hope when they wake up and it was just a dream that didn't happen.
LEMON: Naomi, I want to ask you and I just, you know, I thought about this because I just saw you a couple weeks ago at your book launch, and everything was purple, the cover purple, you were wearing a purple sequined gown.
CAMPBELL: My favorite color.
LEMON: Was that -- did that Prince inspire you in any way? Because it looks, I mean, it was very purple rain Prince?
CAMPBELL: For everyone in fashion knows my favorite color is purple. Johnny Versace used to make my purple dresses all the time. Anyone that's ever worked with me, it's been quite a few people in my 30 years, but, I mean, who wasn't inspired by "Purple Rain."
I remember I wasn't even in fashion and I wanted the frilly shirt with the tie and the purple boot and jacket. I dyed my hair purple once.
LEMON: But he inspired you to -- he inspired you to wear an afro. I heard you tell my friend Wendy Williams that he inspired you to wear an afro again.
CAMPBELL: Yes. I was very upset one time. I was being pressed by my reality show and I didn't like the way the P.R. and the promotion was put out there and how it infringed on my personal life and so I wear an afro and be in my rebellious, in a rebellious way. And I wore an afro the whole press promotions.
And I had just seen Prince in London with his afro and that inspired me. He was unpredictable. He never played the same concert twice. In was never going to be -- I mean, in the 20 days that he played in London at the ultra-arena, I think I went 11 times and it was never the same. The concert is always different. I last saw Amy Winehouse perform with him. I mean, he was a genius; he was just such a genius.
[22:19:56] LEMON: Well, Naomi, I can clearly you're heartbroken and you're devastated and our hearts go out to you and to the family and friends of Prince and we thank you so much for joining us. You take care of yourself, OK?
CAMPBELL: Thank you. Thank you. Bye-bye.
LEMON: Naomi Campbell.
We'll be right back. But first, The New Yorker paying tribute to Prince with this cover, "The Purple One" presented the award for best album during the 2015 Grammys saying, quote, "Albums still matter, like books and black lives, albums still matter tonight and always."
One of his most successful albums was the sound track to his 198 film, "Purple Rain." It includes the hit "When Doves Cry," 'Let's Go Crazy," and the title song which won him a Grammy and an Oscar.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The i-35w bridge in Minneapolis lit up in purple tonight to honor Prince.
Joining me now, Van Jones, a really good friend of Prince, and Nischelle Turner, a CNN contributor who's host of Entertainment Tonight. Thank you, guys, both for coming on. Van, I know it's tough for you. I'm going to talk to you in just a moment. But I want to start with Nischelle to give us some of the news as the entertainment reporter here. So, Nischelle, it's such a shock, isn't it?
NISCHELLE TURNER, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT HOST: Yes. This is a tough one, Don, and really he is my friend. It's one of those ones, you know, Steve Harvey tweeted earlier today, this hurts like M.J., this hurts like Michael, and it does. It definitely does out here at Paisley Park.
There are so many Prince's fans that have made it out here tonight just to pay their respects. But one thing that has struck me about this crowd, it's so quiet here. It's eerily silent. No one's really talking. They're just standing and staring and kind of feeling. And I think that's what we all been doing. It's been hard to get words today for this one. And probably because I'm just like the rest of these folks out here, at the end of the day I'm just a big fan.
LEMON: Absolutely. What are you hearing, Nischelle, about his final days?
TURNER: Yes. You know, there's a lot of information still to be known of course, Don. There is information starting to trickle out. And what we are reporting on Entertainment Tonight this evening and going forward, sources close to our Kevin Frazier are telling us that Prince did indeed have the flu, that that flu turned into walking pneumonia, that he was also battling a hip injury.
That source told Kevin that Prince, quote, "was not healthy." But we won't really know everything until the autopsy comes out. There are -- there is still a lot of information to be known. And of course, we are following this story because it does seem, you know, really crazy to see him one day so up and playing concerts and then the next day we're here, all of us reporting on the fact that he has passed away. So, a lot more information that we hope to uncover in the next few days.
LEMON: And that autopsy happening tomorrow.
LEMON: Hi, Van.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi.
LEMON: So, Van, you and I have been talking all night.
TURNER: Hi, van. LEMON: So, what do you want to say?
JONES: Well, I just want to say that he wasn't just a musician, he was an incredible musician but that there was a core of genius that just used music to express itself. But he also was an incredible humanitarian, Don.
He was a Jehovah's Witness so he was not allowed to speak publicly about any of his good acts, any of his charitable activity. But I was one of the people in his life that helped him with all of that. And so, you know, he supported and help to create something called Yes We Code.
Yes We code has now 15 major technology companies working with kids in the hood getting them ready for jobs in Silicon Valley. That was Prince. He worked with something called Green for All. I was the public face of that but he put the money in. There are people that have solar panel in their houses right now in Oakland, California that they don't know Prince paid for them.
He was the kind of friend, kind of you, Don, he didn't care. If you're having a good day, doesn't know he was there. It's when you're having a bad day that he comes to the rescue. And there are so many people.
I will never forget, Don, I landed -- I was in a plane that landed and my phone rang and it was Prince. I said, "Hey, what's going on." He goes, "where are her kids? Where are her kids?" I said "what are you talking about?" He goes, "Lauren Hill, where are her kids?" He just found out Lauren had gotten in some trouble and the first thing he wanted to know is where are her kids and what can we do to help?
Now this is just how he was. I guarantee you, anybody struggling anywhere in the world, he was sending checks, he was making phone calls, but he did not want it to be known publicly, and he did not want us to say it, but I'm going to say it because the world needs to know that it want just the music. The music was one way he tried to help the world but he was helping every single day of his life.
LEMON: Van, as a friend and a loved one, what are you guys dealing with today?
JONES: Just guilt, feeling like what could we have done? What happened? And just feeling like now people will start talking and you'll start hearing. You know, he was such a private person. The people in the inner circle and everybody got on TV and said anything.
In fact, if you got on TV bragging about you know Prince, you are not going to know Prince tomorrow because he doesn't like that. So, now you're going to hear all these people coming out, oh, he mentored me, he helped me. Like I said he was there for us when we were down.
[22:29:59] When I left the White House, he was the first person to call. Al Gore called me and he called me. And he said "come over." He got me coming to his house, Don. And he sat me down. I was just feeling so low and he looked at me and he said, "Why are you so sad?" I said, well, because I had this great job, I was working in the White House, I was doing good things.
He said "you're going to do good things again." He said, "let me tell you what you do, Van." He said, "go to Jerusalem, stay there for two weeks and pray." He said, "when you come back, sit down and give me a blank piece of paper and you write down everything that you want to do that you think will help the community and I will help you do it, OK?"
So, I went from working for a president to working with Prince and every single thing that I said. I said we got to go to Chicago and do something about violence. We did three concerts in Chicago, Don. Three. And every community group there he brought in. And he didn't like -- there were no vendors. Only community groups to help.
We went to Baltimore. I mean, we went to New Orleans. There's so many things that he did. Those concerts that he was doing were a cover for him to be able to go into cities and help organizations and help leaders and touch people.
And I want people to understand now -- and all of rest of us quit talking just about the music. Everybody that's been on this whole thing knows his humanitarian part as well. And how many people he's helped.
And I know that we're not supposed to talk about it but it's important that people know when you make it to his level, he said I don't need any more attention but I can't be in this world and see this much pain and suffering and not do something, don't give me the credit, don't give me the glory. But he pushed all of us to do more and we all did more. And I want him to be known for that, too.
LEMON: And he was. Thank you, Van. That was very -- that was special. I thank you. And listen, I've been watching you all day and talking to you on the phone and texting you and I know that...
JONES: Thank you, Don. I appreciate that.
LEMON: I sent you a note saying, take a breath. You are so out of breath on one of your live shots earlier that I know so. I appreciate you being so candid with the audience.
So, Nischelle, to Van's point, he was not really comfortable with fame. He loved the artistry. He had a complicated relationship with fame. Let's all of us listen to this Larry King.
NISCHELLE TURNER, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT HOST: Yes.
LEMON: This was back in 1999 and we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, TV HOST: Are you interested in the personal lives of other people?
PRINCE JOHN L. NELSON, SINGER: Michael Jordan. KING: Yes. You understand Michael Jordan. You're a big fan of Michael
NELSON: A big fan of Michael Jordan.
KING: Are you interested in how his marriage goes?
KING: Interested in how he gets along with his children?
NELSON: Nope. No. I'm interested in how he gets along with that rim.
KING: Well said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Amen, Prince. Nischelle.
LEMON: Would Prince be uncomfortable with the way that we're discussing him tonight?
TURNER: Probably. Probably very uncomfortable. But, you know, I think also one of the things that he did love and I know Van said, you know, stop talking so much about the music, but I think that the music also helped us get a little piece of this person who was an enigma but who was so brilliant.
And for a lot of us of our generation, his music was the soundtrack of our lives in so many ways. And I can tell you the first time that I saw "Purple Rain and the feeling I felt and I fell in love with this man who was so androgynous in so many ways, and I didn't understand why he was so wildly attracted to this man who was so very feminine but he was so very fantastic.
All of those things was about the music in a lot ways for me. But it's interesting to hearing that Larry King clip. Because I remember the first time I met Prince, and it was at a basketball game, it was at a Lakers game. And he was sitting front row with Snoop Dog, and just hanging out. And I was so nervous to say hello to him because I didn't know what he would be like.
But when I said hello, he looked to me straight in the eye and said, "hey sister, how are you." And there was just this feeling that came over me, I was like this is Prince, and he is fantastic. But he was very soft spoken but very polite and respectful and wonderful.
And so, yes, you know, he would be. He would be probably very uncomfortable but I would tend to say I don't care because I think he's that fantastic of an artist that we have to celebrate that music.
LEMON: Van, hold on. Because we're going to do another segment with you so I'll get your thoughts. But to your point, Nischelle, he was a gentleman and he was thoughtful and they don't really make like that anymore.
LEMON: It's oh, so very important to have those old fashioned values. So, stand by. We're going to have to a break. But first an early Prince song, one of my favorites, a 1981 song "Controversy." in true Prince style it pulls no punches.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: You're looking live now. These are live pictures. The crowd outside the first avenue club in Minneapolis where an all-night dance party is going on tonight in Prince's honor.
The purple one sat down for a rare in-depth interview with Larry King, that was back in 1995 and he explained why he dropped his name and replaced it with an unpronounceable symbol famously becoming the artist formerly known as Prince.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You're a symbol. OK. How do you promote a symbol?
NELSON: Well, what we found is throughout the world if you hold this up and show it to people, what they think of, they will say Prince.
KING: Obviously. So, you obviously made it famous.
NELSON: Yes, I think so, yes.
KING: Can you tell us what it signifies.
KING: No, what I mean, how you chose it. You designed it?
NELSON: It's sort of come about over time. I've always morphed the female and the male symbol together.
KING: Show it again. Let me see it. And it works.
NELSON: It's very cool, isn't it? It makes for great jewelry, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:40:00] LEMON: Back with me now, a good friend of Prince, Van Jones and the host of Entertainment Tonight, Nischelle Turner.
So, Van, he recently celebrated a huge milestone that doesn't happen for a lot of artists. I spoke with Ms. Aretha Franklin earlier it about owning his own catalogue. That was huge.
TURNER: Wow. JONES: Yes. You know, part of the reason that that symbol came into being, he didn't talk about it then, there was a lawsuit that was going on. As a young person, 17, 19 years old, he signed these contracts that essentially gave everything to the record industry, even his name.
Now, his mother named him Prince Rogers Nelson. That wasn't a stage name. And yet, in this legal fight they said you can't even record under the name Prince. And Prince, that was a searing injury for him. He said hold on a second, my mother named me Prince. How can a corporation tell me I can't even use the name my mother gave me?
And he started writing slave on the side of his face. I mean, he was really outraged by that. And so, I'm just going to use this symbol that nobody can pronounce and I'm going to keep recording my music. But that set off a 20-year war to get his masters back, to get his catalogue back and he succeed in doing that.
And I was in the room when it happened. And a young woman named Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, so he gets two little credit. She was his manager in the last years up until today. She had no law degree, she was a tough sister, organized labor background and she beat the crap out of these executives and got him his masters back and his whole catalogue.
And the weight -- I mean, to see the weight come off of a human being, I never -- nobody understood that that injury was in his mind every minute of every day until he finally got his music back.
JONES: He was a black man whose music was stolen by the industry and who got it back. And I say that deliberately a black man because he saw what happened to James Brown, he saw the struggles of the Jimi Hendrix, of a Little Richard, of Sly and the family Stone, of Larry Graham, all of his greats who had come before him, all of them the industry beat them, and he emerged victorious before he died.
And I give thanks and honor and praise to Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and I was one of the three people in the room when that was finally resolved and I will take that to my dying day as one of the great victories in the music industry to see Prince get his music back.
LEMON: And in order to do that, Nischelle, go ahead. But in order to do that you got to be strong, you have to be strong and you have to be fearless.
LEMON: And you know, even lose your name. He lost his name at one point and got it back, as Van said.
TURNER: Well, it's the ultimate story of betting on yourself. And van is right. You know, I've been talking to a lot of celebrities today, who, that I'm good friends with and, like Van said, if you bragged about being friends with Prince, you weren't going to be friends with him the next day.
People that I'm very close to talking to them today finding out that these relationships they had with Prince that I didn't even know about and how close they were with him and talking about -- I know Van was mentioning this but, yes, he was a gentleman but just funny and he was a man and he was a home boy and he was all of these things that a lot of people didn't know. Just didn't know.
But the private Prince was just -- he was a brother. He was a brother to so many people.
TURNER: And I think that's fantastic. And it hurts to have to talk about this now, but I think it's wonderful for the world to know just how complex and wonderful this man was to so many people beyond the music, like Van was saying.
LEMON: I want to read this to both of you and to our audience. Because this is from the White House today, OK?
It says, "Today, the world lost a creative icon. Michelle and I join millions of fans from around the world in mourning the sudden death of Prince. Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it did it all, funk, R&B, rock 'n' roll, he was a virtuoso, instrumentalist, a brilliant band leader and an electrifying performer. "A strong spirit transcends rules," Prince once said and nobody's spirit was stronger, bolder or more creative. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his band and all who loved him."
Van, you said everyone is talking about the music. Listen, he could do everything. He could write, you know, he could play the keyboard, he could play -- and we know the guitar. He was prolific again in his writing, he could sing, but also he was an incredible businessman. He was, you know, he could do it all in this industry, which is what most artists aspire to be.
JONES: Well, I mean, across the board. And one of his great -- another great thing was him getting a chance to play in the Obama White House. That was something that he had wanted to do and was able to do before the end.
[22:45:00] And then the crazy thing was then he goes on this most recent tour and he says he wants to just be him and a piano and a microphone. And we all just thought, OK, he'll change his mind tomorrow because he likes to have like 12 horns and all that stuff and the dancers.
He goes, no. Now for me it was bizarre because when you're at the house, everybody has to play. I mean, I don't have any musical talent but he'll hand me a tambourine. Everybody has to play. That he just loves everybody playing.
Now, how is he going to go and sit on a stage with no band? And it was brilliant. These last shows were brilliant. That Atlanta show was beyond brilliant. And it was almost like he just wanted to show the world if you strip it all down, take away the horn section, take away all the extra keyboardists, just take away the dancers, take away everything, just give me just from here to here, just this keyboard and one microphone and I can move the whole world and he did it.
LEMON: That's how you know...
JONES: Nobody else can do that.
LEMON: That's how you know when someone is talented, when they could sit there with just the...
TURNER: And by the way...
LEMON: ... keyboard or just themselves and their voice and do it. Go ahead, final word, Nischelle.
TURNER: What I was just going to say, Van was talking about being at the house and those type of things. And just so you all know the hottest invitation ever in Hollywood was the impromptu parties that Prince would throw. If you got an invitation, if you were at that party, that was a memory that you took forever. But everybody wanted to be at a Prince house party. And I never got an invitation so, Van, you're a lucky fellow.
LEMON: There are lots of parties going on tonight celebrating the life of Prince.
LEMON: And there are live pictures from Minnesota, Minneapolis, that we're looking at.
Thanks to both of you. Coming up, what Prince said in one of his last interview.
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LEMON: Prince was famously cautious about what he shares with the media. So, joining me now the woman who did the last Billboard cover story on Prince. Gail Mitchell is the senior correspondent with Billboard magazine. Gail, thank you for coming on. I wish it was under better circumstances. Are you OK?
GAIL MITCHELL, BILLBOARD MAGAZINE SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Me, too. But thank you for having me.
LEMON: You know, you wrote the last Billboard cover story with Prince, it was in 2013. And we're going to put that cover up there. You flew to Chanhassen, Minneapolis...
LEMON: ... to speak with Prince at Paisley Park. You were nervous going into this interview. Why were you?
MITCHELL: I was nervous because for one thing I got a call late Sunday afternoon, I flew out on a Monday morning, late Sunday afternoon asking me, have you ever talked to Prince? We want you to fly out to his Paisley Park and interview him first thing in the morning. And we knew at that point we were giving him the icon award and we were introducing the new design of Bill board.
So, I was excited because he was at the top of my wish list to talk to in all my years at Billboard. But second, I knew he didn't like people recording him, he didn't like people taking notes. But I thought because it was going to be at Paisley Park, I'm on the plane and I'm texting his manager at the time saying can I record this, and I'll transcribe it there at the studio?
And then he can destroy the tape, and she's like, no. I said can I just te a couple of notes in my notebook, I have a notebook, no. So, I just didn't know what to expect. Because I'm excited because I am a rabid Prince fan like a lot of folks are and just trying to mull in my head how do I do all this, you know, embrace this opportunity and not be the fan girl and go, oh, my God, it's Prince.
But inside that's what I was doing when I got there to the studio.
LEMON: That's what I do when I have to interview people like Aretha Franklin and on and on. I thought with Prince when you're like, I don't want to be a fan, I don't want to be a fan. But you know, we're just human.
LEMON: But I have, so, you know, Prince was in the middle of rehearsing when you arrived. So, what was it like at Paisley Park?
MITCHELL: Well, you walk in because the cab -- I've never been to Minnesota. And then I tell the cabbie, I gave him the address. It's just this, it just look a warehouse in the cabbie, and it's winter, it's January, it's winter. There's ice in the parking lot. He's looking at me because there's no signs.
I guess I thought I was going to see the symbol in front announcing it was Paisley Park. And he's looking at me going "are we in the right place?" And I said I think so. And then the manager came out and walked me in. And you see -- you saw the symbol as soon as you walk in. And he was in, as you said, he was rehearsing. He was auditions with a girl band, auditioning for a drummer.
And I was in this vast studio, I guess where he did a lot of jam sessions and parties and things and he's on top of this tall platform with I'd say about 15 steps and he came down and took my hand and walked me up the steps, so I'm sitting on top of platform with him and the ladies and he asked me what do you want to hear? And one of my favorites is "Let's Go Crazy" but I really wanted to
hear "Sexy" which I knew I couldn't ask him to do at that point. But it was just something to be sitting right next to him as he played the piano and then the guitar and other things.
LEMON: Yes. So, in your story, in you Billboard story, you start off, this is the first line. You said "I was reluctant to let you come," right and you're recording Prince here, says "the man sitting in front of me, until I heard that you're planning to do a story about ownership."
And I read that because he famously dissolved his nearly 20-year relationship with Warner Brothers Records, that was back in 1996, and his key issue became music ownership. He wanted to emancipate himself from the label and eventually ended up getting his music catalogue back. Tell me about that.
MITCHELL: Well, he had gotten wind that I was writing about -- I was going to write an essay about ownership, black radio station ownership and how those numbers were declining. And it fit in with his whole thought process on ownership and, you know, way before anybody today thought about owner their masters and things like that and controlling everything, that was Prince.
[22:55:06] He was DIY, you know, following the footsteps of Sam Cook and Ray Charles. But he -- before he even talked anything about music or anything at all, he took me in the conference room and said we need to sit down and talk to see if we're going to vibe before we go any further.
And that's the first thing he started talking to me was about ownership, about how he'd been meeting with different companies to see if he wanted to sign back up with anybody and he just wasn't too sure about all what because, again, he thought that it was at the mercy of the artist and that are the artists weren't being treated very well. And he didn't want to deal with that situation anymore.
LEMON: Gail Mitchell, thank you. You take care.
MITCHELL: Thank you. You, too.
LEMON: Here's a good measure of just how well-loved Prince' music is and how well-loved Prince is. You're looking at top 15 songs on iTunes tonight. Every one of them by Prince. Same holds true for album, the top 10, all Prince.
Just in case you're wondering why we're covering this so much. Here we go.
We'll be right back. But first, here's the Prince 1994 hit "The most beautiful girl in the world," his only single to reach number one in the U.K.
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