“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life,” was the mesmerizing opening line of the ground-breaking 1984 album “Purple Rain.” Nothing would be the same after we heard that. Our ears could never listen to music the same way again.
His name was Prince. And he was funky. Born in Minneapolis as Prince Rogers Nelson in 1958, the artist who would briefly change his name to an unpronounceable symbol permanently altered the sound of pop music and carved an indelible mark on his hometown.
Since his untimely passing in April 2016, Minneapolis has colored itself purple. In the last few years, tours, both guided and self-guided, are now on offer, and even his former kingdom — Paisley Park, his home and headquarters — is open for visitors. Wall murals dedicated to the Purple One are sprinkled throughout town. And museums are putting on photo exhibits featuring him.
The movie “Purple Rain” largely centers around the club First Avenue, which, fortunately, is still alive and thumping on a nearly nightly basis. Groups of 10 or more can get a private tour of the club, but the best way to get a sense of First Avenue is to see a show there. In addition to Prince, several other local artists got their start here, including The Replacements, Husker Du, The Jayhawks and Soul Asylum.
Movie fun fact: The backstage scenes from “Purple Rain” were actually shot at the nearby Orpheum Theatre because First Avenue was too small. The Orpheum offers tours to the public twice a month.
From First Avenue, hop on a bike. Nice Ride, the city’s affordable bike-sharing program, offers a self-guided “Prince for a Day” tour on its website. Spots it suggests seeing are Glam Slam, Prince’s short-lived club in the early 1990s, and Sound 80, where the artist first recorded in 1977.
But go the long route and pedal out to 3420 Snelling Avenue South. It’s a four-mile, 25-minute ride from First Avenue, but it will take you through the leafy Longfellow neighborhood.
Here, at this unassuming two-story house, is where Prince’s character in “Purple Rain,” The Kid, lived. Fans of the film will instantly recognize it. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the city went on a building razing craze and, unfortunately, many other locations from the film are now gone.
Now, it’s time to leave “Purple Rain” behind for a spell. On your ride back to downtown, pedal by Electric Fetus, long one of Prince’s favorite record stores and still one of the coolest in the country.
If all that biking has worked up a hunger, stop by Peoples Organic, a local health-conscious chainlet whose and chef and operations manager — Ray and Juell Roberts, — were Prince’s private chefs for the last three years of his life.
The Uptown location’s menu may or may not feature the dish they prepared for the vegetarian-eating Prince on the day he left us — red pepper bisque and a kale salad — but you’re sure to feel like a prince after eating here.
Finally, it would be impossible to be in Minneapolis without taking a tour of Paisley Park, the artist’s sometimes home, full-time recording studio, and massive soundstage where he’d do rehearsals for tours and sometimes hold parties late into the night.
Built in the mid 1980s, the complex in Chanhassen, just south of Minneapolis, looks unassuming from the outside. But once you step inside, you’ll be in Prince’s paradise, starting from the sunny atrium (his favorite spot in the whole building) to the various recording studios and the cavernous soundstage. Tours range from a general 70-minute walkabout to a three-hour superfan tour where guests can play table tennis on Prince’s beloved pingpong table.
Here you’ll learn about Prince’s life at this magical place. And those first lines of “Let’s Go Crazy,” the first song from the “Purple Rain” album, will come floating back to you again, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today … ”