Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Music Legend Prince Dead at 57. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 21, 2016 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Deepest condolences to his family.

Brooke Baldwin is going to continue our special coverage right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


PRINCE, MUSICIAN (singing): Only want to see you laughing in the purple rain. Purple rain, purple rain. Purple rain, purple rain.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Just can't believe this today. Continuing our special breaking news coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A massive loss in the world of music, pop culture, art. Superstar, music pioneer, music legend Prince has died at the age of 57. He is an artist who truly transcended genres, generations and eras. And up until last week, one week ago today in fact, he was performing, sold out solo concerts across America.

Trying to learn exactly what happened this morning. Here's what we have here at CNN thus far. That police responded to a medical call at his home in Minnesota this morning. Remember, he was born and raised in Minneapolis. Then a death investigation began at his estate. We know that he was hospitalized last week for the flu. And that is all we know at this point in time.

But you know Prince. You know, his hits go on and on. You think about "Purple Rain," "Let's Go Crazy," "Kiss," "Little Red Corvette," "1999," "When Doves Cry." I mean the list is endless. It has been three decades we have come to know and love and respect this music pioneer. He blended his electric style of soaring guitars and funk and flamboyant dance moves. And, remember, it was about a year ago when he went to Baltimore and he performed that rally for peace concert to rave reviews. That was in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray there. And so many people took to the streets. And at that concert, at that show in Baltimore, he unveiled a song called "Baltimore." I was a protest song written in the wake, as I mentioned, of the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American, a young man who was shot and killed by a police officer then.

We have lots to go through in the course of the next two hours here, so please keep it with me as we get new information. Let's begin just on the investigation side and my colleague Miguel Marquez joins me for that.

Miguel, what do you know? What happened?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, tough news to report here. Look, he had had a couple of sort of mysterious weeks. The Carvary (ph) County Sheriff's Department this morning responding, as you said, to his Paisley Park home and sort of electronic studio area west of Minneapolis for a health emergency. It was clear that there was a death earlier on in the day, but it wasn't clear who. The police trying to keep it very close to the vest, but it is hard to keep news like this, shocking as this, that close to the vest. Sure enough, a short time ago, we did hear from his - a family friend and then from the publicist saying that with profound sadness she had to announce the passing of Prince at the age of 57 today.

We do know that last Thursday he performed in Atlanta. He then had a - was on a private plane back to Minneapolis. They had to stop overnight in Moline, Illinois, an emergency stop because of a health emergency. He checked into a hospital there, was released. And then the next day, the 16th, he had Paisley Park after Dark, an event that he puts on every year and sometimes performs at. He attended this event it seems. His publicist saying he had been - had a bad flu lately and was trying to recover from that and that - that was the end of it, and now this news.

Very, very shocking to hear. A seven-time Grammy winner, 30 nominations. A person, an artist who did it his own way. Who can forget the back and forth fight with Sony Records over his own name, "Prince." And rather than give in, went by the name "the artist formerly known as Prince."


BALDWIN: It's Brooke, Miguel. I know it's been a crazy day. I appreciate it. thank you so much. Miguel Marquez there. As we're learning more on the investigation, and perhaps there will be some sort of news conference and we can learn more from law enforcement there around his estate, as he mentioned, just west of Minneapolis.

I want to bring in someone who signed Prince to his first record deal when he was just 18 years of age. His name is Owen Husney.

Owen, are you with me?

OWEN HUSNEY, SIGNED PRINCE AT 18 YEARS OF AGE (ph) (via telephone): Yes, I am.

BALDWIN: First of all, just my condolences to you. I've talked to a number of people who - today who either, you know, were dear friends with him or collaborated with him and it is just gut-wrenching news. So my heart and thoughts with you today.

[14:05:11] Can you just - let's begin -

HUSNEY: Yes, And I'm -

BALDWIN: Please, go ahead.

HUSNEY: I'm still in shock. I'm still in shock. I sat down at my desk this morning, ready to go to work and I get a call from a local television station in Minneapolis. I live in Los Angeles now. And I just thought it was somebody putting me on. Just shocking.

BALDWIN: It is beyond shocking. And when you think about - 57. He was just performing a week ago today and now this news. But, you know, you have such an extraordinary perspective in the fact that you go way, way back to Prince to when he was 18. How did you even come to know him to sign him?

HUSNEY: Well, I was in the music business in Minneapolis. I also had owned an advertising and marketing firm and I had a studio and I was a concert promoter. And this guy named Chris Moon comes into my office one day and sat on the couch for about four hours and finally I said, OK, let's talk. What do you got? And he said, well, I got the next big thing. And I said -


HUSNEY: I listened to the demo tape and I said, geez, that's - that - that - I was a musician. I started out as a musician, so I kind of knew musicality-wise. And I said, this is great. Who's the group? And he said, well, it's not a group. It's one kid. He just turned 18. And he was in my studio playing all the instruments, writing everything and doing all the voices.


HUSNEY: And I was - I was floored because it was - it - it was the real deal. He had - the music had crossed many, many barriers. And it was - it was just beyond and I knew at that point that I was going to have to commit my life to him at that point in time.

BALDWIN: Incredible.

HUSNEY: And I was going to have to - he was very young. He had just turned 18. He was living in Andre Simone's basement on the north side of the Minneapolis. And I knew that I would have to protect himself for a while, and I think that was my - you know, that was my role. I was compelled to do it because of his talent and didn't meet him until a few days later, actually.

BALDWIN: Well, before we talk about that meeting, and I want details, I mean I want to hear what he sounded like at 18, because what a lot of people may not realize, I mean he had music in his blood from when he was itty bitty. His parents were musicians. His mother a jazz singer. His father had a piano. From what I understand, he was writing songs on his dad's piano back from when he was like seven. So when you heard him on that demo at 18, what did it sound like?

HUSNEY: It - the - again, I'm going back to the sheer music that was - that was there. He was combining sounds at that point between the guitars and between keyboards that were very unusual for that day, that, you know, back in '76. It was like he was borrowing from elements that I could hear but he had created something new. And, obviously, the demo tape was not - it really wasn't record ready, you know? It was - it was long. But yet I could hear in this the elements of somebody who was exploring a new sound and then his vocals came in.

BALDWIN: Uh-huh.

HUSNEY: And he was not using his lower voice. He was singing in this falsetto. And my goodness, when I heard his vocals come in, he was so vulnerable and it was so good and it was right on, I - I wanted to hug somebody that I had never met before 20 minutes before that, before I heard that. I just immediately wanted to embrace him. Which I did in figuratively, you know, within a couple of days. I - we arranged a meeting. He was in New York with his sister trying to get a record deal, which was not happening for him. And he came back and he came over to my house in Minneapolis.

BALDWIN: If you're just joining us, we're talking to Owen Husney, who signed Prince to his very first record deal when Prince was all of 18 years of age and was his first manager. And, you know, we're having this conversation here about, you heard that special sauce in his - in his instrumentation, in his voice. I mean talk about a true talent. And so when you finally meet him, you know, we see Prince - so many of Prince's fans see him as this flamboyant, ostentatious, colorful, on- stage. What was he like when you met him for the first time?

HUSNEY: He was - I immediately noticed his eyes. And that his eyes had an intelligence that it's - you know, I've worked with a lot of artists and I've worked with a lot of people in my lifetime, but you could see it in the eyes. You could almost see it in Little Richard's eyes when - when he was coming up. There was just a certain look that was very direct. But yet there was a softness about him. And he was very, very shy with me in the beginning. Eventually we became very, very good friends. And that shyness kind of went away when he felt, you know, comfortable.

[14:10:37] But I noticed that he was extremely bright. Extremely bright. And, remember, he was just 18 at the time. And I also noticed by the way he was talking to me and what he wanted to do that he was driven and focused and he - he had the focus of someone and the drive of someone 20 years old - you know, 18 is a time when kids are out there, teenagers, experimenting and being stupid. That was not him. That just was not him. He was -

BALDWIN: He knew what he wanted.

HUSNEY: He knew what he wanted. He knew how to get it. He needed me on that first album. He didn't need me after that, trust me. He has an ability to absorb information at a rapid rate. But he needed me on that first album because I had been, you know, kind of the music guy in the city. I had my own little regional hit record and people knew me and I was a concert promoter. And so he needed - and I had the contacts at warner Brothers and the other labels. And so he really needed me. And we worked very hard on that first album. Subsequent to that first album, he picked it up and he knew exactly what he wanted to do. And it's - I'm sorry, I'm still in shock. It's just devastating to me. BALDWIN: Yes, I think a lot of people are. I think a lot of people are.

HUSNEY: But I've never met, and I've worked and been around almost every one of the major stars in the history of this business, and I have never met anyone with this kind of brilliance. And I will make one statement that, you know, posthumously, and I can't even believe I'm saying that at this point, the body of work that Prince will leave for all of us is -


HUSNEY: It's yet to be discovered at this point. And I think it's going to be phenomenal for years and years to come. Again, he was supposed to outlive me. This is not supposed to be this way.

BALDWIN: He was supposed to live - outlive many of us.

HUSNEY: Devastating.

BALDWIN: You talk about his body of work, Owen. Let me ask you, I mean, this may be like asking me to ask you to pick your favorite child, but do you have a favorite song of his?

HUSNEY: Oh, boy, that's - that's - that's really - you know, one of the first songs that I ever heard him do was a song called "Baby." It was on the first album. And it was about I guess getting pregnant out of wedlock and what are we going to do. And that was one of the first things. There was another song. We had had a little bit of a fight at one time and he - I came over - I had rented him a home by that point and I went over and he sat - he wrote a song called "So Blue," which also went on the first album. And he sat on the kitchen floor and played that song for me. And it - it was kind of his way of saying, I'm sorry and I hope you're sorry. It wasn't about me or anything, but he had written that song as a result of this. And I just remember sitting on this little kitchen floor in Minneapolis and him playing that song. And there's just so much depth to it.

But I think it's really hard, you know. We can all go to the iconic songs, "1999" to the "Purple Rain" and all of that. But I think where he's really vulnerable, those songs. And I think a couple of songs on the first album certainly "Into Dirty Mind," there's some great, great writing. It's impossible. It really is, it's really impossible that he's -

BALDWIN: I'm still trying to - I'm trying to wrap my head around the scene of you sitting on your kitchen floor and hearing him perform for you.

Owen, I mean, this is - we're talking about, you know, this goes back, your relationship, obviously, decades. When's the last time you were in touch with him?

HUSNEY: Well, I mean, it's kind of privileged. I can't really talk about it. I can't. But the last time that I saw him, I saw him, he played 21 nights here at The Florum (ph) and I went to two of those nights and he had even shocked me at this time because he had broken free from a band at that point and he was almost like this incredible performer standing out in front of the stage.

[14:15:06] But one of the neater things that my wife and I were invited to "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno before - just before he left the first time. And we were just stand - my wife and I were standing there on the edge of the stage right up close just watching him. And that was very special to do that. But I have to tell you, when I saw him at The Florum, he went beyond where I thought he was going to be as a performer. And, you know, he's written me letters and saying, OK, you believe in me and you know I'm going to do this and I - and I would say, yes, I know you're going to do that. And then when I saw him at the Florum, he had gone beyond where I thought - he like went from - he went from a kid in a band to a kid who was a front member of a band, to then having the new power generation and the band kind of behind him, to then having the band completely away from him and he just performing out there on stage. It's just - it -

BALDWIN: Incredible.

HUSNEY: It - it boggles the mind that kind of talent in one human being.

BALDWIN: Incredible. And I love how you -

HUSNEY: And, again, I'm sorry. I'm very devastated by this.

BALDWIN: No, I will let you go. I love how you say you knew it because you saw it in his eyes. Owen Husney, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time today.

HUSNEY: OK, Brooke, thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Wow.

We will continue talking to these incredible people who knew this pioneer of a man. In fact, now standing by on the phone with me i have Latoya Jackson, Michael Jackson's sister, entertainer.

Latoya Jackson, it is an honor and a privilege. I hate the circumstances under which we're speaking, but how are you feeling?

LATOYA JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S SISTER (via telephone): Oh, Brooke, I - I have to tell you, this is a sad, sad, sad day. It's a - I never thought that this would come again. You know, that same feeling, it just bringing back memories of my brother, of losing him. It's the - it's that same feeling that overwhelms you, that comes across your entire body where you feel helpless. It's like, oh my gosh, it - we can't believe it. We're devastated and shocked by this news.

BALDWIN: Tell me about your relationship with Prince. How well did you know him?

JACKSON: Prince was a very good friend of the family. He knew the family very well. He even studied - you know he was a Jehovah Witness and he studied with certain members of the family. And I, you know, I can't stop thinking about Prince. We used to go skating - roller skating together.

BALDWIN: No way.

JACKSON: And - yes, we used to go roller skating together and it was always tons of fun because he was such a great roller skater. He was so coordinated. And it was always happy times. And this was - this was when we were very young, actually. And we would do this. And it was just - those memories will always stay with me now at this - this moment because you want to grab something that's in a good - in a good place of making you feel warm and happy about it and not the sadness that's overwhelming your body at the moment. But he was always such a lovely gentleman. He was so kind and so - (INAUDIBLE) always a man. And that's what I really liked about him because sometimes it's difficult to find that today.

BALDWIN: It is, Latoya Jackson, it is. You know, you come from a legendary music family and so many people have been talking, you know, this exactly what you said, this brings back everything from when your brother passed away. And, I mean, I could sit here and listen to so many stories from roller skating to who knows what else that you experienced with him, but in terms of his music legacy and these hits, and, of course, we all know the big ones. I was just talking to his first manager who was going through his catalog and remembering Prince in his very early years as a teenager. What, for you, really stands out about Prince and his electricity on that stage?

JACKSON: Well, you know what? He was an extraordinary talent. And I always say that Michael was an incredible talent. Well, Prince is there, too. He was an incredible talent, as well. And they just had so much charisma when they were on stage. And Prince was one of those artists that whenever he was on stage, it was hard to get him off because he just - he loved what he did. He would like to keep performing and keep performing and keep performing, which was really wonderful, which was really great and that's what I love most about him is that the fact that he loved his art. He loved what he did. And he was excellent at it. He was great at everything that he did. And it just - it's just, again, I can't stop saying, it's that (INAUDIBLE) even think that he's no longer with us. And as I keep saying to myself, another one who's extraordinarily talented, wonderful who's gone too soon. And I don't know when's happening, but it's just - it's one of those things that I'm still shaking because I can't stop shaking because it's hard to believe.

BALDWIN: OH, Latoya Jackson, thank you so much for taking the time. I truly appreciate it.

[14:20:03] JACKSON: Brooke, you're welcome.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

JACKSON: You know, I appreciate it. My condolences to him and his family and - well, his family and everybody else. And it's - I just have to say, I called my mother when I first heard the news and she says, I know what you're going to say and she started crying and she said, he was like my son. That's why it reminds me of Michael. And I said, I know, mother, I'm feeling the same thing. BALDWIN: Oh. Oh.

JACKSON: So it's so sad. But, anyway, I - my condolences to his family.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Latoya. Thank you for the - for the time. I appreciate it.

Condolences from all of us, you know, as we continue talking about Prince. I want to hear his music. Don't you, as well? So we have a little bit more and he did talk to Larry King some years ago. Take a listen.


PRINCE: I used Stevie Wonder as an inspiration whom I look up to a great deal. Just for the way that he crafted music and his connection to the spirit. And, boy, back then I - I used him as a role model and trying to play all the instruments and be very self-contained and keep my vision clear. So word spread very quickly about what I could do. A lot of people knew about it, you know.

LARRY KING: How would you describe your music? What idiom would you put it in?

PRINCE: The only thing I could think of, because I really don't like categories, but the only thing I could think of is inspirational. And I think music that is from the heart falls right into that category. People who really feel what it is that they're doing. And, ultimately, all music is or can be inspirational. And it's - that's why it's so important to let your gift be guided by something more clear.

PRINCE singing.


BALDWIN: Sitting here sitting along, every word. And I'm sure so many of you are, as well. Prince dead at age 57. He was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame back in 2004. I was there. And it was Alicia Keys and Outkast who inducted him. And I know Outkast, I'm personal friends with Big Boi, and I just want to pass along Big Boi too broken up to even talk about it but he texted me this. "I am truly heartbroken, saddened and absolutely shocked. His music will live forever through all of us who loved him. We have to love and cherish our heroes while they are here. God bless." Big Boi, thank you so much.

Prince just performing one week ago today in Atlanta. And Lisa Cox, who is a CNN producer, was there at his - what we now will call his final show. And Lisa Cox is joining me now.

Lisa -

LISA COX, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Hey, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So, no one would have ever imagined that that would be the last time he ever performed. How was it?

COX: I mean, first, I'm just in shock and I think the thought that that was his last concert and that I was there is just crazy to me. But everybody knows Prince is a genius. And I think it was perfectly displayed the night of that concert. I mean it was a packed house. And it was just him and his piano in the middle of the stage and there was this strobe light, purple, of course, that just beamed down on the piano. And so he went - he did two showings that night, 7:00 and 10:00. I was at the later show. So I truly was at the last concert.

[14:25:07] And he just went through a medley of songs. He did covers. He talked to the audience about social issues, about relationships, all the same time playing on the piano. And it was just him. There was no band. There was no backup. It was just him. So imagine somebody playing that kind of library with just your fingers, your hands.

And there were times he would get up and, you know, kind of get the crowd going. Everybody was standing up screaming and all that, but he would shake his hands. Kind of like jazz hands. And we were thinking maybe that was so he could rest because he was playing his butt off. It was incredible. It was awesome. It was something that I'll never forget.

I've been to several Prince concerts. That was the first one where I had gone where the setting was just that intimate. And it was just unbelievable. Eight rows in or eight rows from the pit. So I snuck a couple pictures because, you know, Prince was very strict about taking pictures of him, taking video of his concerts and, of course, everybody had to sneak a little bit and the guards were there, but I got a couple snapshots of the stage, of the backdrop. There was this kind of kaleidoscope animated image of him and I think I - we've got those pictures up if you want to put them up. But it was an image of him and it would dissolve into a backdrop of all the different album covers or all the different looks, if you will, that we've seen with him over the decades. But that single shot of that piano, that will just be there indelibly in my brain forever. I just will never forget it.


COX: And the last CD. Everybody got a CD when the concert was over. So - just, wow, man. Just, wow. I'm just shocked.

BALDWIN: How long did he play?

COX: He played about 90 minutes, which was what we were told. The 7:00 and then the 10:00 and there was about an hour in between. So we started maybe a little bit after 10:00 and we were out just before midnight.

BALDWIN: How - how did he seem? Was he strong all night? Were there any signs that something was up?

COX: No. I mean he had a cane but, you know, I believe, you know, he's had surgery before with his hip or whatever. So he had the cane, but he was using that as a prop and then, you know, usually a lot of people - some people would think that that was a prop that he would use, not realizing that I think he really did need it for medical reasons. But it was part of his outfit for sure. But he seemed fine.

He got up. He walked around. You know when Prince gets hyped, he hops up and he just bounces around the stage and he did that. And he joked with the stage. He even dared us to get louder, saying that we weren't ready. He was playing one of his old school joints and the crowd was kind of, you know, we were halfway there but not quite there and he stopped and said that we weren't ready. He left the stage. And then everybody got all excited and he came back and he finished. He did three encores.

BALDWIN: What were his encores?

COX: Oh, gosh, he - let's see. He started out with "Primes" (ph) and "Black Muse." "Black Muse" is from the new album. And then he did "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore" and then he left and then he came back and he did "If I Was Your Girlfriend," which is one of my favorites. And h did a cover of Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain."

BALDWIN: Oh wow. Wow.

COX: So, imagine, he started with "Waiting in Vain," and then he swooped in with an old school song called "I Love You But I Don't Trust You." And then came in, "If I Was Your Girlfriend." Then he would go back to the Bob Marley cover, "Waiting in Vain." And then he started talking about the movie, "The Way We Were" with Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford while he was playing "If I Was Your Girlfriend." I mean it was just crazy.

Then there was another encore and he played "Sometimes It Snows in April," and everybody just went wild. "Purple Rain." He played "The Beautiful Ones," which is another one of my favorites. "Diamonds and Pearls." I mean the catalog is so endless. There were songs we didn't hear but you know they were played at the 7:00.

BALDWIN: Just talking to his first manager and he was saying to me, Brooke, you know, we have no idea, the world has no idea his body of work and so much has yet to be discovered.

Lisa Cox -

COX: Exactly.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much. I hope you held on to that ticket stub just as a little memento.

COX: Oh, you know I did.

BALDWIN: Of greatness. Lisa, thank you so much for calling in.

COX: Sure, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I want to go now to Los Angeles here as we continue our special coverage of the life, the legend, the pioneer that was Prince. Paul Vercammen is standing by at a record store there. [14:30:01] Paul, to you.

PAUL VERCAMMEN: Brooke, right behind me, this is the sort of Prince display. And people are coming in right now and they're snapping up all sorts of Prince CDs, DVDs --