Return to Transcripts main page


Music Legend Prince Dead at 57. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 21, 2016 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, shocking death. Prince. The pop singer whose award-winning and memorable hits are the soundtrack for millions of lives around the world is dead at the age of 57. We're getting new details about what happened.

[17:00:23] Grief and gratitude. Reaction to Prince's death is pouring in. During this hour we'll hear from those who knew him, worked with him and admired his music.

Influence and legacy. Pop musicians come and go, but Prince's music already withstands the test of time. Tonight, we look at his lasting influence.

And making changes. Donald Trump's campaign signals that we can expect a more moderate tone from the Republican presidential front- runner. Will it help or hurt his standing with conservatives, and why isn't it on display yet?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

We continue with CNN's live coverage of today's breaking news, the shocking death of an American music legend, Prince. He was 57 years old and had canceled several recent concerts due to illness. Investigators say he was found unresponsive today in an elevator at his mansion outside Minneapolis.

Prince's music topped the charts again and again for decades. Millions of people worldwide know his biggest hits. Grammy-winning albums like "Purple Rain" and No. 1 songs like "Kiss" and "When Doves Cry." Even President Obama is reacting to Prince's death, calling him -- and I'm quoting him now -- "one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time.

Tonight, Prince's fans are gathering outside his home in Minnesota. We're also getting new information from investigators. Our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Let's begin our coverage now with our CNN correspondent, Paul Vercammen. He's joining us from Los Angeles with details on the breaking news. Paul, what do we know? PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we now know, Wolf, that the

county examiner, the medical examiner in Minnesota is going to perform an autopsy on Prince's body. Here's the timeline.

It was today at about 9:43 that deputies responded to a 911 call that was at Prince's Paisley Studios in the Minneapolis area. When they arrived there, they found an adult male unresponsive in an elevator. They then desperately tried CPR, but all efforts to bring this person back to life failed. They identified him as Prince Rogers Nelson, of course, the Grammy-winning well-known legendary iconic performer and singer.

So what will be next here is for them to go ahead, Wolf, and perform that autopsy.

I'm here at Aviva -- Aviva Music, by the way. This is in Hollywood where they're playing Prince. And we should note, so popular right now, the No. 1, two, three and four albums on iTunes, all Prince records. And there's been a run on Prince material here at Aviva, Wolf, as many people here fondly remember him, some of them openly crying.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Not surprising at all. Thanks so much, Paul Vercammen.

Prince's music spanned the eras from vinyl records to streaming audio, from MTV to iTunes. CNN's Tom Foreman has more on Prince's remarkable career. Tom, he was performing as recently as only, what, last week but all of a sudden this happened.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It seems like he was always performing in some ways. He was incredibly flamboyant on stage and perfectly private in person. He never showed up in the tabloids the way some celebrities do. That's another reason why his death at such a young age is so shocking.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Prince was the perfect performer for his time: a blast of brilliance arising as just as MTV and the Walkman were revolutionizing music. He had the sound, had the look, and he had a vision.

PRINCE, MUSICIAN: I learned early on this is what I wanted to do.

(singing): Little red Corvette...

FOREMAN: For almost 40 years, he stayed in the vanguard of musical innovation. A fan says he captured his final performance in Atlanta only a week ago and posted it on Twitter.

PRINCE (singing): Purple rain, purple rain.

FOREMAN: And this is how it all ended. Police and rescue workers at his studio in Minneapolis, stricken fans outside. Prince had not been well. He had to cancel some concerts, and his

plane had to land at one point for treatment. He spoke to some fans about it just a few days back.

MIKE RENDAHL, PRINCE FAN: He talked about what happened and said he was OK and he said, "Don't waste your prayers on me right now. And, you know, wait a few days."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prince in his first motion picture.

FOREMAN: Like the character he played in his first movie, "Purple Rain," Prince Rogers Nelson came from Minneapolis, the son of a jazz pianist and a social worker, and he remained tied to the city.

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: You don't think of L.A., Nashville, all these hot-spot, New York, places? Minneapolis gets it done, too?

PRINCE: Minneapolis has always been the bomb, you know?

KING: Yes?

PRINCE: You don't have to go outside of that.

FOREMAN: But his influence was global. Prince produced more than a dozen top-charting songs, won seven Grammys and an Oscar. Celebrity tributes are pouring in. Justin Timberlake, "Numb. Stunned." Katy Perry, "The world just lost a lot of magic." Whoopi Goldberg, "This is what it sounds like when doves cry."

Prince contributed songs to endless other acts and was renowned as a musical perfectionist, a virtuoso at most composing and performing. But he was also noted for his personal humanity, taking care of struggling friends and even contributing a song to Baltimore in the wake of the devastating riots.

PRINCE (singing): Least a little better than the day in Baltimore.

FOREMAN: Prince was endlessly prolific. His memoir was supposed to come out next year. As it is, he is gone at 57.

Some of his final words on stage, "If I could, I would give you the world."


FOREMAN: He was, quite simply, a musical genius from the day he arrived. His performance at the 2004 Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was absolutely jaw-dropping. If he'd just been a guitar player, if he'd just been a composer, if he had just been a performer, any one of those, he might have been legendary but he did all of them. And so many of these great accomplishments that had to be ahead of him are now lost -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

The White House has just released a statement on Prince's death on behalf of President Obama and the first lady. I'll read it to you. "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 all. Funk. R&B, Rock and 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." That statement from the president of the United States.

Joining us now from Los Angeles is Kerry Gordy. He's the former executive vice president of Prince's company, Paisley Park.

Kerry, thank you so much for joining us. Our deepest condolences to you, to the entire family. You had a long-standing relationship with Prince that goes back many years, right?

KERRY GORDY, FORMER EVP, PAISLEY PARK: Yes, it certainly does. It goes all the way back to before the beginning of his career.

BLITZER: What was it like to work with him?

GORDY: Well, it was amazing. You know, since I was running his company, he gave me full autonomy to do whatever he thought that I thought was the best. He was -- he was a real artist advocate, and he was -- he was just amazing when it came to making sure that the artists that he signed had everything that they could want. He didn't want to take -- he didn't want to take people's publishing, because he thought that, you know, an artist is an artist, and someone else should not own your publishing. So he had a different view than other, let's call it record company owners had.

He was interesting. As a businessman, it was really funny. My daughter Juliette had a friend who was having a bat mitzvah, and the parents were very rich and they said, "Kerry, we will give you $10 million if Prince would just play at our bat mitzvah."

And I was like, "No problem."

I called him and I said, "Hey, man, I've got $10 million for you if you just play at this bat mitzvah for 30 minutes."

He said, "No, no, I can't do that."

I said, "What do you mean you can't do that? It's $10 million."

He said, "Yes, but it's not cool."

So he didn't do things for money. He did things for -- to -- because they were right. They felt right in his spirit. He felt cool about it; and everything he did had to be cool.

BLITZER: It was really a unique experience you had. I want to get into that a little bit more. But do you know the circumstances surrounding his sudden death, only 57 years old? We only know what police said. He was found unresponsive in an elevator in his home there. Do you have any more information on that?

[17;10:04] GORDY: Well, you know what? I don't. As soon as it happened, I started getting this influx of calls, a plethora of calls that started coming to me. And the thing that I thought was, you know, being that I worked with him so long, he was always so into health. He was a -- he was a vegan. He didn't do drugs. He was just a -- he was very -- he was very cognizant of the things that he put into his body.

So I -- and we used to play basketball. He was an athlete. I mean, and he was a good athlete. He was shockingly good for how small he was, because he was a really tiny guy. But he was -- he was very into health.

So I'm -- I'm shocked. I don't know what it could be; and I'm waiting to find out just like everyone else.

BLITZER: Yes. We're showing you live pictures, by the way, Kerry, of Paisley Park where -- obviously, that's his studio, his company over there. People are beginning to gather over there.

Talk a little bit about the impact he had from your perspective, as someone who worked with him for so many years, the impact that he had on music.

GORDY: Well, he had an incredible impact on music. Because prior to Prince, at least R&B artists, they did not own their publishing; they did not own their masters. It was a -- it was a very interesting scenario.

During Prince's time when he came and said, "You know what, though? I'm going to own my songs. I want to own my masters" and all of this kind of stuff. He changed the paradigm and thought process for those artists that came after him. So I think that he had a great effect as far as that's concerned.

What was the other part of the question you asked?

BLITZER: The impact that he had on music. You're giving us a good impact, that he had an enormous impact and set the scene for so many other artists that were just recording music. They were actually the producers. They were the actual business leaders of all that, and they weren't just working for someone else, right?

GORDY: Right. And another thing is, you know, the sound that he came up with. Just like this song -- this song that, look, Maroon 5 has out, "Sugar," I think it is. I mean, to me, that's a Prince record, because it sounds exactly like a Prince record. And I'm sure that they got their inspiration from Prince, as -- as did a plethora of other artists.

And he was so incredibly prolific. I had a chance to work with him in the studio. I had a chance to play with him on stage. I mean, he loved music. He really loved music. So he would come to, you know, a little funky whisky-a-go-go, a troubadour, he would be in the audience; and he would get up and play. Just -- and it was always shocking. But he loved to play.

BLITZER: You know what I want to do, Kerry? I want you to stay with us. I want to play a little bit of "When Doves Cry," the 1984 hit, as we go to break. We'll resume our coverage right after this.



[17:17:52] BLITZER: These are live pictures that we're getting right now from Paisley Park. That's the home, the studio there of Prince in -- outside of Minneapolis right now. We're covering the breaking news, the death of the music legend. He was only 57 years old.

The sheriff's department statement says he was unresponsive when discovered in an elevator at his studio there in his estate in Minnesota. First responders were called and attempted CPR but could not revive him. They now say, at least authorities there, there will be an autopsy.

We're back with Kerry Gordy -- Kerry Gordy, the former executive vice president of Prince's company, Paisley Park. Talk a little bit about the man for a moment, the man you knew and appreciated so much, Kerry.

GORDY: Well, there were two different people there. The first person was the person that everybody knows, the guy who was eccentric, the guy who was Prince, the guy who is known -- formerly known as Prince. He was the eccentric superstar that had an incredible amount of artist integrity.

He was a boss that knew exactly what he wanted, and he -- he was that perfectionist that went after everything that he wanted. He was kind of insatiable as it was -- as it related to, I know, playing his music. He had to play. He was that guy.

He was a guy that loved to be in front of 20,000 people performing but also the guy that loved to be in front of three people performing, because he didn't care. He just loved to perform. That's the Prince that the world knows.

The Prince that I knew was a little bit different. People thought that he was a reclusive and as much as when he was in a big crowd of people and wasn't performing, he would be reclusive. But he was -- when we were alone, he became this fun guy that liked to play games and liked to run around and liked to -- and he was this encyclopedia of musical knowledge, and he would like to play these games.

He made sure that -- I'm digressing a bit, but he made sure that all of his executives that worked for him, all of us, we had to be decked out in, you know, major suits; and we had to always look very professional. That was one of his edicts. He had several edicts, but that was one of them. He wanted to make sure that wherever he went, he looked -- he was represented correctly, and he looked cool.

BLITZER: Yes. He always did. There's no doubt about that.

Kerry, I want you to stay with us because on the phone is Lowell Picket. He's joining us. He's one of the co-owners of the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. That's a venue that Prince frequently attended. He's also obviously involved with the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

Lowell, thanks very much. When was the last time you saw Prince?


BLITZER: This past Tuesday night?

PICKET: Yes. The night before last. He was -- he came to the Dakota for a show on Tuesday night. Lynn Wright (ph) was performing, an incredible singer, very soulful singer. And he came -- he would come out once every four to six weeks for shows here and -- just to enjoy them.

BLITZER: Just to come in and watch and listen? And as you say, enjoy.

What did he -- did he seem OK? Because apparently, he was suffering from some flu earlier in the week, and that's what they were telling us. They said he was OK. What did he seem like on Tuesday when you saw him?

PICKET: He seemed fine. He seemed like Prince. You know, we never -- and to be honest with you, that's not something that we would have really focused on or looked at or paid attention to. We always -- tried to make sure that he wasn't bothered by the people when he came. We had a special place where he came inside and just ushered him up to his table and let him enjoy the show. We liked the idea that he loved enjoying the shows and liked coming here. So we didn't want to bother him.

I had heard that he had been ill earlier, but everyone gets ill and that kind of comes and goes. I didn't notice anything on Tuesday night.

BLITZER: Didn't notice anything. Did he ever perform at your club?

PICKET: He performed here a couple of years ago. He actually initiated it. Kerry, you might remember Julia. I don't know if you were around when Julia worked for him, was managing him. But they approached us and he wanted to do some shows in a small room. And he -- we talked about it for about a month, five weeks and set it up. And he played three nights. He had a different band every night. First night was -- and two shows a night.

First night was all instrumental with a six-piece horn section and a tower of power style arrangement. The second night he sang with three backup singers and that horn section. And then the third night, he unveiled a third idea, a rock band. And at midnight on his third night, he said, why don't you all come back tomorrow night? D.J. Rashad and I will play a little music on the stage and just have some fun, and we'll charge a little bit of money at the door. So he co- hosted a deejay night on the fourth night. We took all of our furniture out.

BLITZER: Pretty amazing. All right. I want you to stand by. Lowell Picket, co-owner of the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. Kerry Gordy is still with us, as well, executive vice president of Paisley Park Studios. That was Prince's company.

We're going to continue our special coverage. Let's take a quick break, and we'll be right back.



[17:28:23] BLITZER: We're covering today's breaking news, the death of the music legend Prince. He was only 57 years old. You're looking at live pictures of Paisley Park, the studio outside of Minneapolis.

The sheriff's department statement says he was unresponsive when discovered in an elevator at that studio in the state of Minnesota. First responders were called. They attempted CPR, but they could not revive him. There will be an autopsy.

We're back with Kerry Gordy, the former executive vice president of Prince's company, Paisley Park. You've got a lot of history in this business. Your father, Berry Gordy, it's fair to say founded Motown. And all of us have enjoyed all of that music over these many, many decades.

GORDY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Talk a little bit -- talk a little bit about how he emerged from Motown as a new generation, a new generation R&B star.

GORDY: Well, Prince wasn't with Motown. Prince was with Warner Brothers.

BLITZER: I know he wasn't with Motown, but he was influenced by that music.

GORDY: There's no question about it. It was really funny, because when I met Prince and I was going to become the person that was running his company along with John Dukakis, he actually looked up to me because I was the son of his idol.


GORDY: So it was a really interesting paradigm, because everyone else who worked for him, he had this thing of where he would look at them like, "OK, you work for me."

But in my case, he was like, "Oh, my gosh, you're the son of the man who I've looked up to for my whole life." Right? [17:30:00] So yes, he's definitely looked up to everybody. I had a

chance to -- I was really good friends with Stevie Wonder and I still am and Stevie was the one person that Prince would say, you know what, that guy -- I'm not -- I'm talented but I'm not as talented as that guy, right?

I mean, he looked up to Stevie. He looked up to Smoky Robinson for his song-writing ability. So he really looked up to those Motown artists and, of course, Michael Jackson was one of his idols as well as his major competition. And at one time, I managed Rick James and Prince opened for Rick James and Prince actually started doing some of Rick James' show where he would go, ooh, ooh. And Rick got so mad. He's like, that guy's stealing my show. And Prince was like, hey, listen, you can't copyright ooh, ohh. So anyway, it goes, it was great and yes, Motown did have an influence on Prince.

BLITZER: It certainly did. Kerry, can you stick around or you got to run? Because I got some other guests, they may want to ask you a question or two. Can you stick around?

GORDY: Sure. Sure. I can stick around.

BLITZER: All right. Good. I want to get some more now on the life and career of Prince. Joining us, Brian Monroe. Brian Monroe is a former specialist, he's now a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. Also he's the former vice president editorial director of Ebony and Jet magazines. Also with us Stephen Thompson, NPR music editor and reviewer, and Don Lemon, our anchor.

When was the last time, Brian, you had a chance to speak with Prince?

BRYAN MONROE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AND EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, EBONY AND JET MAGAZINES: Well, we were very fortunate. Almost eight, nine months ago, in August 2015, I was in Minneapolis along with the National Association of Black Journalists and the convention was there. The last night of the convention, we got a surprise call from Paisley Park. Prince wants us to come on out. So he -- we loaded up the buses, brought 1200 people out there to a private event at Paisley Park, big sound stage as well as a studio and part of the residence.

And then got a little tap on the shoulder and said, Prince wants to sit down with just a handful of you. There was like eight or 10 of us. And we're exported backstage up to his studio, you know, really working -- hands-on working studio. We all kind of crammed into the studio room. And he said, no, it's just too tight in here. He led us out up the stairs, past all of his golden and platinum records. Up the stairs to his conference room. We sat down. Had he two gorgeous assist -- they looked like they're twins. They were dressed out in the same outfit.

And we sat down, and so the next hour, hour and a half, we had a one- on-one conversation with Prince, an interview where he was talking a lot about the music industry or fairly about how important the industry was to him and how much he fought against a lot of the royalties and how the business was structured. You know, he was off Warner Brothers for 18 years before he finally

got his catalog back. So he talked about that. He looked great, energetic, you know, he had the nice hair and was thin and was eager and excited to talk to us.

BLITZER: Stephen Thompson, you've studied Prince, you listened to him, you've enjoyed him, he had a concert, what, it was -- the last concert, the FOX Theater in Atlanta just last week, the president of the theater said this, and I'll put it up on the screen, "Prince was a music pioneer, innovator and cultural icon. His music moved and inspired many including the fans that were able to join him as he took the stage for his final performances last week at Atlanta's FOX Theater. We along with the world mourn the loss of a music legend."

What did Prince mean to be a world of music pop culture?

STEPHEN THOMPSON, EDITOR AND REVIEWER, NPR MUSIC: I mean, I think that, first of all, you look at this absolutely towering collection of music and it's so important and we're going to spend the next weeks and months and years picking it apart and studying it and celebrating it, but I think there are other sides to his legacy that we should also be looking at. I think he didn't get enough credit for being an incredible collaborator and an incredible supporter of other musicians.

I found myself from when I first discovered him as a kid in the '80s, I was always fascinated at how he would bring other musicians up with him up as much as possible, particularly women. He was an incredible and prolific songwriter and wrote the signature songs for a lot of -- for a lot of other artists. You think about "I Feel For You" by Chaka Khan, and that -- that's one of her signature songs. Prince wrote it. Think about "Manic Monday" by the Bangles, you know, this classic pop rock song, Prince wrote it.

Obviously people know about Sinead O'Connor, her -- her cover of "Nothing Compares to You," that's a Prince song. And he -- you know, he also was always bringing up musicians in his band, so like I said, particularly women. Wendy and Lisa who performed in his band, performers like Vanity who sadly died earlier this year as well.

[17:35:03] Apollonia 6, you know, he was always nurturing other talents and seemed to be celebrating that as much as, you know, working as his own towering artist.

BLITZER: Yes. Those are excellent points.

Don, I know he had a huge impact on you. What set him apart, from your perspective, from other artists?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, to be honest, as I've been saying, his individuality but there are lots of things. Let's look at this. Let's break this down. So you have lots of entertainers who are great -- lots of artists who are great entertainers. You know, you will say this person is a great dancer. This person is a great singer. This person is a great musician. This person writes. Well, guess what, Prince was all of those. Prince was a great writer.

He was prolific. He was a great singer, he had a voice. At 57 years old, you know, he's doing falsetto and hitting every note as if he was 19 when he started back in the '70s. He could dance, he could play the hell out of a guitar. He could -- he knew music.

But here is the most interesting thing, he was also a great businessman. So he was the threat across the board. I can't even say for how many numbers. Across the board. Because as your previous guest was saying, he really sort of upset the music industry because he wanted to own his own stuff, his own music. And, you know, record companies don't like that. They want to own it because that's where the money is.

So if you own your own catalog, you make money. Lots of entertainers go to their grave broke because they sing, they perform, they do concerts, they make the money and then when that's done, it all dries up. And so where you have Whitney Houston who made a lot of money in her time but then lost a lot of it. Dolly Parton made a lot of money for "I Will Always Love You" because she wrote it.

So Prince wanted to own his own catalog and then just bought his own catalog and owned it. So now the Prince estate, billions of dollars. So he was the overall artist and business person and the kind of person that most people in the music industry aspired to be.


LEMON: Do you mind, Wolf, if I ask a question to Kerry?

BLITZER: I want you to ask. Go ahead. Go ahead. Ask Kerry a question.

LEMON: Kerry, a question. Here's what I want to know. Everyone is asking me on social media, we keep talking about Paisley Park and that compound. What is inside of that compound? Either Bryan or Kerry, what's in that compound? What's in Paisley Park?

GORDY: Oh, my gosh, it's the most amazing compound for an artist because there is a studio, a recording studio. There is an actual stage that has -- a stage that he can actually perform his show, you know, get his shows together on. It's a real stage with real lighting and it's amazing. He doesn't have to go outside to do that. And he's got a little apartment up there, which is amazing, and so -- and all- inclusive facility that has everything that one could need to do everything that you would do in the entertainment business.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody, stand by for a moment. We have a lot more coming up. I want to remind our viewers, a special note, an important one, Don Lemon will host a special edition of "CNN TONIGHT," 10:00 p.m. Eastern through midnight, right here on CNN. You're going to want to see that as well.

Let's take a break. In the meantime, let's listen a little bit of "Purple Rain."


[17:43:16] BLITZER: We're back with our panel as we cover the death of the music legend Prince.

Kerry Gordy, you knew him very well. You worked for him for many years. I'll ask you a tough question, what was your favorite Prince song?

GORDY: Oh, my gosh. OK. You guys aren't going to like this but my favorite Prince song was "Erotic City." Now that wasn't necessarily a single. I just loved it because I liked dancing with girls and singing those lyrics while I was dancing. But I loved -- you know, who's laughing?

LEMON: That's me. Don Lemon.

GORDY: Because I like -- I love --

LEMON: That's great.

GORDY: OK. That's funny, Don. It's funny because I also like "Controversy." Right?

LEMON: I love it.

GORDY: But the thing about "Controversy," I have to tell you, I thought -- the first time I heard it, I really liked it because I thought he was saying, count your blessings, right? And I didn't realize it was controversy. I thought it was count your blessings.

BLITZER: Don Lemon, same question to you.

LEMON: What, my favorite one? Mine is -- I mean, you're going to -- Gordy will get this. Mine is it's "Head" and we'll go on. One of his first songs and you don't hear it a lot. But every time I think, I was like this is my favorite song, I'd think of another one, like "Controversy" is also my favorite song because it sounds -- one of my favorite songs, because it sounds so different. and you don't hear it a lot. "controversy" is also one of my favorite songs because it sounds so different.

"When Doves Cry" came out, I used to play that song over and over and over again because I had never heard anything like it musically. We were singing a song, the whole group of us, and we were on with you earlier, Wolf, as well, but I think I like that and I like "Soft and Wet" as well. I like his earlier stuff.


LEMON: His new stuff is great but I love -- that was, I mean, I played that over and over again.

[17:45:06] And "Kiss." I just want your extra time and your kiss. And I -- you know, if you keep playing them, but I love -- listen to this song. There's nothing like this song.

BLITZER: All right. Stephen, what did you think? Your favorite?

THOMPSON: Man, well, Don Lemon just mentioned -- just mentioned "Kiss," and I think for me, you know, I was probably 11 or 12 when "Purple Rain" came out. It was one of the first records I was fully obsessed with. And then being 13, 14 when "Kiss" came out, it felt likes this 180-degree turn and it was one of the first times that one of my favorite artists, you know, I was a budding little pop nerd, you know, scribbling down the "Top 40s" as Casey announced it, you know, I was obsessed with this stuff.

But this was one of the first times that an artist I loved completely surprised me. And when I look at Prince's career, that's one of my favorite things about it was he was constantly flipping and turning and surprising you and trying things that you wouldn't have expected from him. And so being a kid and seeing somebody who was incredibly famous and incredibly popular but still willing to take risks and still willing to be surprising or weird or, you know, whatever kids said at the time, that was so important to me.


MONROE: Well, you mentioned a lot of the "Controversy" but my favorite probably has to be one that has a lot of club play, "Housequake." It's got a hard edged rhythm to it, although, you know, if you throw on "1999" anywhere on this planet, at any club and folks are going to fill the floor in a heartbeat.

BLITZER: You know what I'm going to do right now? Let's go out to this commercial break with "1999." Listen to this.

LEMON: All right. Yes.


[17:51:38] BLITZER: These are live pictures coming in from Paisley Park outside Minneapolis, this is the home of Prince. Looks like a memorial is already being developed. People are beginning to drop by. I'm sure a lot more will be coming there in the hours and days to come.

Let's bring in CNN's Van Jones right now. He's joining us, he was a very close friend of Prince.

My deepest condolences to you. I know you were very close to him. How long of a relationship did you have with Prince, Van? What was he like?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We've been together for about 10 years. No, I mean, I think, first of all, there's a lot of talk about him as a musician, that's very, very important. But I also -- you know, that was just a part of him. He was a genius across the board. And he was somebody who really cared about people, about humanity.

There are people who got solar panels on their roof right now in Oakland, California. They don't know that Prince paid for them. There are people -- there are charities all across the world that have money that they're spending right now, helping people. They don't know it came from Prince. Because he is a Jehovah's Witness, he is not allowed to reveal or to brag on his good works.

And so everything he did he did through me and through other people. But this is a guy, the genius of him, the music was just one way to express it. I talked to Prince so much. He really talked about music. He would talk about ancient Egypt. There was a city, Armana, ancient Egyptian city that disappeared, and he would talk about what he thought might have been, and he could paint a picture of ancient Egypt that would just blow your mind. He could have been a philosopher. He could have been a standup comedian.

He was one of the funniest people. He would literally have you about to pee on yourself and you show you no mercy. He was a table tennis player. He could kill you in ping pong and talk trash the whole time. I mean, there's just something, I just hate to -- because nobody could know his charitable side, you just see him as a musician. But we went to Chicago together to try to stop the killings. He did three big shows in Chicago.

We went to Baltimore. You know, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, who managed him at the end of his career, she is a genius. She was the one that got him his catalog back. She was a young black woman with no legal training that went to war and got him his catalog back. The happiest I've ever seen him when he finally got his catalog back, you know.

BLITZER: But, Van, you're a lawyer, you're an attorney. You helped in that case as well, right?

JONES: Absolutely. You know, I was there in the room when the deal got done. I was there when he finally -- yes, I mean, I cannot tell you how angry he was, being a 17-year-old kid, 19-year-old kid signing these contracts, he didn't know what he was signing. And suddenly it turns out he not only could not have his music, he can't even use his own name.

Let's not forget his mother named him Prince Rogers Nelson, and then you had to have the music industry say you can't use your name because we're in court? That's where the whole "Artist Formerly Known As," fine, I'll just use a symbol that you can't even pronounce, I'm going to keep doing my music. And so you're talking about someone who fought the industry and changed it, you're talking about somebody who's given so much to so many people.

Prince never called you on a good day. You got an award, he wasn't going to call you. If your book was a best seller, he wasn't going to call you.

[17:55:01] If you had a bad day, that's when he would call you. If something was wrong, when things were down, that's when your phone is going to ring. That's when Prince is going to reach out to you. He's going to figure out how he can help you when you're down, and not just me. There are celebrities and other people and little people around the world. I will never forget, my plane landed one time, I was on a plane, landed, phone rings. Something happened in some city someplace he thought was terrible. And he -- I guess he thought I could teleport places, you know, what's going on, and how could we help.

He would send money -- you know, he -- when people were hurting, he was just -- I can't explain the compassion that he would have. And he would push us and push us, go there, help those people, call them, find out what's going on. When the Black Lives Matter came out, you know, he understood those kids. And it's because when he was a kid he was a rebel as a musician. And his big prayer was, he said, I hope those kids can become an economic force, let them take that creativity, create jobs, create businesses, create apps, create -- use that energy for creativity.

But he loved Alicia Garza from Black Lives Matter. I don't mean to filibuster, but I just want you to know, he's not just a musician. There was a genius there that had to be expressed through music, but it was expressed so many different ways. And this is a very -- he was so on. He watched CNN. I'd be afraid to come up the air sometimes because he'd give me notes and criticisms, and it'd be brutal, but he'd be right.

This is a man who knew what was going on in the world, who was an influential musician, but behind the scenes, he was influential socially and humanitarian as well.

BLITZER: Beautiful words, Van. We really appreciate your thoughts. Our deepest, deepest condolences to you.

Stay with us. Let's take another commercial break. Let's listen to "When Doves Cry."