Prince was proud to hail from Minneapolis. Continuing to live and work there, he put the city firmly on the map of the music industry through the Minneapolis Sound. Until his unexpected death on April 21, 2016, he hosted parties for local fans at his Paisley Park studio. Prince is probably the only global megastar who has remained so embedded in the cultural life of their hometown.
This symposium will investigate Prince’s unique relation to Minneapolis and Minnesota. What demographic, cultural, and economic conditions were in place for Prince to emerge as a musical genius? How was a new sound born from a small African American population in a very white and segregated state? Why did Prince stay there? How did he reinvent the aesthetics and politics of blackness? How did he at the same time win over white and international audiences? How did Minnesotans, both queer and straight, react to Prince’s ambivalent black male sexuality? How is Minneapolis represented in Purple Rain? How do we interpret his spiritual explorations? What kind of utopia did Paisley Park embody? What was Prince’s mode of operation in the studio? How did the Minneapolis sound affect hip hop, jazz, rock, and electronic dance music? Why do music tourists flock to this city from Europe and Australia?
Appreciating Prince’s impact will provide a window on fundamental questions in US and Minnesotan society. At a time when the political achievements of the 1960s are under grave threat, we hope understanding where Prince comes from will make some room for reimagining social change.
In collaboration with the symposium, the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum is organizing an exhibition organizing an exhibition, “Prince from Minneapolis”, celebrating Prince’s local legacy, from December through June. Immediately after the symposium Paisley Park is hosting “Celebration 2018” and there will be other commemorations in the Twin Cities.