By Vinette K. Pryce
The color purple was in vogue last Saturday in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn where a free, mass concert / celebration of Prince Rogers Nelson billed “Purple People Party 3” hosted by actor / director Spike Lee marked the 60th anniversary birthday of the Minneapolis native who died three years ago from an opiod overdose.
It was as if everyone had received a memo demanding the color code for attending the third annual tribute to the legendary performer.
Fans of the iconic musician and pop sensation donned the favored color Prince was acclaimed for decorating his Paisley Park Recording studios, musical instruments and more often than not his fashion-forward outfits.
They packed onto a plaza at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Restoration Corporation that former Robert F. Kennedy envisioned for a skating rink when he visited the Brooklyn community as one of the founders of the landmark of the county. Crowds dressed to impress, extending from Herkimer Street to Fulton St. at Marcy Avenue wore purple colored hats, jewelry, outfits, carried fans, umbrellas, signs and outfits while reveling from noon to 6 pm singing and dancing to Prince’s memorable hits.
The gathering first held in 2016 as a “Prince Born Day” celebration organized by Lee invited fans for a free all-day celebration.
That year he also paid tribute to the legendary talent in April hosting a block party in front of his Fort Green headquarters, which was attended by hundreds of fans.
Reportedly, Lee first worked with Prince directing the “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” video. The filmmaker also solicited Prince’s creativity to complete his “Girl 6” film.
With weather cooperating, some soaked up the sun from the ascending steps eating and drinking while echoing Prince’s music spun by DJ Spinna. “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Sign Of The Times,” “Sexy MF,” “1999,” “Purple Rain” “When Doves Cry” and a treasure trove of hits elevated the mood from spirited to celebratory.
Prince’s legacy was also acknowledged in media as radio station WBLS-FM hosted a weekend tribute. His unrivalled music career was hailed by numerous radio outlets throughout the weekend when they dominated their playlist with songs from his storied discography. On his June 7 birthday, listener-supported WBAI-FM dedicated programming to his memory broadcasting blocks of their airtime to some of his live concert performances at the Montreux Jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland.
The station also recalled a legacy that included artists he influence by playing music recorded by Morris Day & The Time, Sheila E, Wendy & Lisa, Vanity 6, Appolonia and others.
Throughout his career the pop singer, musician, actor, and businessman made numerous appearances at Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall. He also treated lucky fans making impromptu late-night appearances and jam sessions at The Ritz and other party outlets. Often without notice, the musician acclaimed as His Royal Purpleness would often make surprise unannounced appearances to entreat fans with extended music and unrivalled concerts that ended into the wee hours of the morning of the next day.
Of his untimely passing in 2016, Wikipedia notes that numerous musicians and cultural figures reacted to Prince’s death.
President Barack Obama mourned him and the United States Senate passed a resolution praising his achievements “as a musician, composer, innovator, and cultural icon.”
Cities across the United States held tributes and vigils, and lit buildings, bridges, and other venues in purple. In the first five hours after the media reported his death, “Prince” was the top trending term on Twitter, and Facebook had 61 million Prince-related interactions. MTV interrupted its programming to air a marathon of Prince music videos and “Purple rain” the movie he starred. AMC Theaters and Carmike Cinemas screened “Purple Rain” in select theaters over the following week.
Saturday Night Live aired an episode in his honor titled “Goodnight, Sweet Prince,” featuring his performances from the show.
At Restoration Plaza a video screen provided simultaneous broadcasts from the main stage area in celebration of what would have been Prince’s 60th birthday.
“This is my third one,” Sonia Chin said as she partied stage right.
“I brought my niece she is visiting New York for the first time and arrived last night.”
Chin made the most of the day arriving early to peruse wares sold by vendors. From Bed-Stuy the music aficionado and cultural contributor rushed to Coney Island in order to make the sunset deadline when cultural celebrants paid Tribute to the Ancestors.
Many wore white, carried fruits and flowers, danced and sang marking a spiritual connection with Africans transported to slavery through the Middle Passage.
Transformed from wearing purple to white, Chin acknowledged that Prince is now an ancestor, survivor and descendant who defied the odds by achieving despite treacherous obstacles.
In addition to annually honoring Prince, since 2009, the year Michael Jackson died of the same fentanyl drug overdose alleged to have killed Prince, Lee has hosted a birthday tribute honoring the avowed king of pop in Prospect Park.