Monday, May 16, 2016

L.A. Loves Prince Tribute Photos by Shelah Moody and Denise Robertson


It was a funky, purple party for one of the greatest artists of all time.
How do you celebrate a force that was aural and visual, who was singer, songwriter, musician and dancer, who was preacher, pimp and philanthropist?
On May 6, the City of Los Angeles presented a star studded, free concert at City Hall in honor of Prince Rogers Nelson, who was found dead in an elevator at his Paisley Park home in Chanhassen, Minn. at age 57. Another legend gone too soon. The multiple Grammy and Oscar winner left behind generations of fans who will have to learn how to cope with life after Prince. While the exact cause of Prince’s death is being determined, Prince’s fans continue to celebrate his life and party, in his honor, like it’s 2099.
When Prince’s death was announced on April 21, CNN devoted an entire day of coverage to remarkable life. Public buildings in cities across the country, including Los Angeles San Francisco, New Orleans and Minneapolis, Prince’s birthplace, lit up purple.
“Prince loved L.A. and L.A. loves Prince,” said activist Najee Ali, one of the organizers of “Prince Loves L.A.”
This was Prince’s second home. He spent a lot of time here; in fact, the video for his hit song, “Diamonds and Pearls” was shot right behind us, in City Hall. Prince was cremated so soon that L.A. fans didn’t have a chance to have closure; to say goodbye. Prince deserves a proper goodbye, so we decided to have a great, free concert for all of the Prince fans.”
Downtown Los Angeles was ablaze with color on the day of the celebration, and the trees surrounding City Hall rained purple blossoms. As fans queued outside City Hall, pop up vendors hawked bootlegged Prince R.I.P. T-shirts, hats, commemorative buttons, ribbons, music and other memorabilia from duffle bags. Seven-year-old Amari Evers, one of Prince’s youngest fans and a “retired” Prince impersonator, showed up in his purple/paisley best and his new haircut with the Prince/love symbol shaved into it.
                                                          Amari Evers

One fan known as Cody the Funky White Boy said he’s seen Prince perform more than 100 times and had the rare opportunity to hang out with His Royal Badness at Paisley Park. I asked Cody a burning question, what did Prince smell like?
“He wore a floral scent; he smelled like flowers,” said Cody. “He was the sweetest, funniest dude. One night, after a concert, he even invited me to his house. I got to watch that night’s concert with him, and he was critiquing himself, and cracking jokes. It was amazing. We stayed up until 8:00 in the morning. ”
On the steps of LA City Hall, civic leaders, spiritual leaders, glitterati and artists who had worked with Prince over four decades paid tribute to the Purple One.
“I didn’t know Prince, but I met him,” said Ali. “He had a great heart and a great spirit, and I know for a fact that Prince was not just a musician, he was an activist. Prince believed that black lives matter. That’s why he donated, that’s why he gave to a lot of causes to support our community, but he gave quietly. Whether one person or a million people show up today, the fact is, Prince is a legacy that will be unequalled. His music will last forever. I’m just grateful to see so many fans out today. We’re gonna have a big party and have fun. I know that right now, Michael Jackson, Prince, James Brown, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, Tupac and so many others are jammin’ in heaven right now.”
DJ R-TISTIC, revved up the crowd with Prince’s greatest hits such as “Let’s Go Crazy,” “1999,” “Raspberry Beret” “Sexy MF” and “Glamorous Life,” which Prince produced for his superstar protégée, percussionist Sheila E. Emcee Tammi Mac of Radio Free 102.3 KJLH FM showed the audience how to do the “Bird” dance, inspired by the eighties hit recorded by Prince protégées Morris Day and the Time. Even the sign language interpreters had fun interpreting songs like “I Feel for You” while dancing at the same time.
Michael Bernard Beckwith, New Thought minister, author, and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, CA, blessed the stage and called for a moment of silence for Prince.
Let us think, just for a moment about all of the sweet memories that Prince gave us,” said Beckwith. “Think about the inspiration; think about the creativity, the celebration of life. Think about the philanthropy, the activism. Be aware that all of those spiritual qualities never were born and will never die. They continue to unfold in a great and mighty way. Prince was a man who left nothing on the playing field, who gave us everything he had, who lifted us up into the stratosphere of celebration so that we could ‘go crazy’ for God.
                                                     Morris Hayes

                                           Marva King , Maya and Nandy

Backed by members of Prince’s New Power Generation Band, including keyboardists Cassandra O’Neal and Morris Hayes, an incredible and musically diverse line up of guests artists honored Prince in song. Eric Benet performed Prince’s 1970s breakthrough song, “Wanna Be Your Lover.” Rahsaan Patterson performed “Pop Life,” and Deitrick Haddon performed “Raspberry Beret” and “I Would Die 4 U.” Faith Evans performed “I Feel for You” which became a hit for Chaka Khan in the eighties. Afro-ed vocalist Marva King performed “Kiss” accompanied by Prince twin dance sensations from Australia, Maya and Nandy McClean. One of the best vocal performances of the evening was delivered by singer/songwriter BJ the Chicago Kid, who sang a fiery sensual falsetto version of Prince’s ballad, “Do Me Baby.”

                                                       Cassandra O'Neal

                                                          Aloe Blacc

Singer/ activist Aloe Blacc received a 2015 Grammy nomination Best R&B Album for “Lift Your Spirit,” and is perhaps best known for his international hit, “The Man.” Wearing a purple velour jacket, Blacc honored Prince with his version of “Diamonds and Pearls.”
“Prince is such an important piece of the fabric of music,” said Blacc. “Historically, he was one of the most brilliant musicians, one of the most brilliant songwriters, one of the best entertainers you can imagine. We will never forget what Prince has given us. Because of what he was able to do and the footsteps he walked, doors opened for artists like myself, who can now stand on stage and share with you the music that I create. Prince is “The Man.”

As evening segued into night and after several white doves were released at City Hall to the tune of Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” the crowd’s excitement built in anticipation of a surprise guest. The crowd roared when another icon and creative force, Stevie Wonder, emerged on the stage, leading the band in an all rendition of Prince’s theme song, “Purple Rain.” Incidentally, Wonder is also the owner of one of the event’s sponsors, Radio Free 102.3 KJLH FM. Ironically, Wonder was called upon to sing at the funerals of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Natalie Cole in the span of less than a decade. In an interview with Larry King, Prince cited Stevie Wonder as one of his greatest inspirations.
Wonder thanked the city leaders, artists and fans for coming together to celebrate the life of one of the greatest artists in history.

 “What a celebration, what an incredible life—the music, the legacy that he gave us,” Wonder said from the stage. “I think the only thing we can do, in the spirit of Prince, is to truly love one another and come together. We can’t just talk about it; we’ve got to be about it.”

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