A Purple Pilgrimage: Remembering Prince In Minneapolis

Elijah C. Watson Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When…
Joel Matos Dresses Up As Prince For The Prince Tribute In St. Paul, Minneapolis, On October 13, 2016

Morris Day Performing At The Prince Tribute In St. Paul, Minneapolis, On October 13, 2016

As an outsider it’s hard to believe that Prince, a man immortalized in stories that spoke to his mystical, unseen and untouchable self, was surprisingly present in Minneapolis. One of Katherine’s friends, David Gayman, recounts a moment where he and his girlfriend at the time, ran into Prince at a Lunds while tripping on LSD and weed back in 1986.

“He was accompanied by a brunette woman, with both of them wearing what looked like silk pajamas and viewing magazines in that section of the store,” David said. “We exchanged glances and smiles before the two of them politely left. As teenagers, it only contributed to the psychedelic experience we were both having.”

Prince was a fabric of Minneapolis and that ultimately grew following the release of his magnum opus — Purple Rain. He had brought Hollywood to Minneapolis, showcasing an array of spots that have since become tourist attractions for the city: the Crystal Court of the IDS Center, Lake Minnetonka and the famed First Avenue.

“After Purple Rain everybody started showing up in a ruffled shirt, Jheri curls and a demo tape,” Anderson says. “They were from Kentucky, they were from Tennessee, they were from all across America. That’s when we realized that this had become something bigger.”

But in hearing of Prince’s inevitable rise to international fame, it’s nice to hear about Prince when he was still cultivating his sound and identity.

Cymoné wasn’t only Prince’s bassist during his formative years but basically a brother, with Cymoné’s siblings adopting him when he left his home.

A friendship between Cymoné and Prince formed their shared love of music, with the two dedicating hours and hours to creating music together.

“I was in the attic and he was in the basement, and we’d go back and forth showing each other our music,” Cymoné says. “I still have a lot of recordings from him on cassette: ‘Whenever,’ ‘Sex Machine’ and ‘Just As Long As We’re Together.'”

Through their bond the two would write songs together for one another and other artists, most notably the Minneapolis funk band 94 East. When Prince signed to Warner Bros. in the late ’70s, he asked Cymoné to be a part of his touring band, where he served as the bassist up until his departure in 1981.

Cymoné doesn’t disclose what led to him leaving, only citing creative differences and tensions as the reasons. He embarked on a solo career of his own but was plagued by media scrutiny, where stories attempted to pit him against Prince.

Cymoné stopped giving interviews and after releasing his last album AC in 1985, produced and wrote songs for other artists before returning nearly three decades later with The Stone.

Although Cymoné and Prince later resolved their issues, the former hadn’t really engaged with the latter’s music up until now. In doing the tribute Cymoné had rediscovered Prince.

“I was so proud to be able to get into his music through the other artists that performed,” Cymoné says. “When I heard ‘Erotic City’ or ‘So Blue,’ I kept thinking ‘I know what inspired these songs.’ Through that reconnection I realized how far Prince took what he started with his music.”

A few days later and I’m spending my last day in Minneapolis talking to Cymoné, who now resides in California. He shares some more stories, including a conversation he had with Morris Day at the tribute, where he asked him how he’s been holding up ever since Prince’s death. The question ultimately left Cymoné in tears, right as he took the stage to perform “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker”.

“We’d always say that we would get together,” Cymoné says. “I regret not following up with him about that. I should’ve walked on up to Paisley Park and said, ‘Let’s cut a record, let’s jam, whatever.”

He talks about a new album he’s working on, and how Prince was the main person he wanted to share it with. There’s some hesitancy in his voice as if he, like most of us, is still trying to accept the fact that Prince is no longer with us. That his friend, brother and musical soulmate is gone.

“I didn’t think he would not be here,” Cymoné says.

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