Metro Detroit fans react to Prince’s death
When Lauren Hood heard the tragic news of the Purple One’s passing Thursday afternoon, she had to do something to channel her sadness.
Hood called her friends who manage the Majestic Café and asked if they could open it up so the community could come together to grieve and celebrate the life of Prince.
“We were sad and needed a place to go with other people who felt our pain,” she says, while dancing on the floor to Prince hits blasting out of the stereos. “They asked when, and I said, ‘Right now!’ ”
Hood, an urban planning professional and Detroit resident, spread the word on Facebook and sent text messages to a few friends. By 6 p.m., close to 100 musicians, artists, city workers and real estate developers were packed in the Majestic, singing and dancing along to “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” “Purple Rain” and all of Prince’s legendary singles.
Jewelry artist Stephanie Whitfield said Prince’s death struck a deep chord. The two were the same age — 57 — and she’s been following him since age 14.
“This is like a Michael-type of day,” she says, referring to Michael Jackson’s shocking death in 2009.
Whitfield recalled attending a Prince concert in New Orleans ages ago. “It was one of the best concerts,” she said. “I left the stadium at 4 a.m., and he was still performing.”
Everyone in the room had their own Prince story to tell.
Public relations specialist Greg Bowens, 51, of Grosse Pointe was a junior at Cass Tech in 1982 when he was working his first job at the ticket counter of the Palms (now the Fillmore). He said he was upset because all his friends were attending a Prince concert at then-Cobo Hall, and he had to sell tickets.
“Nobody was outside. It was dead quiet. Then this yellow car pulls up. It was packed with people. The girl who was working in the booth with me started screaming like she lost her mind,” Bowens says, smiling at the memory. “Around the corner comes this guy that looks like Prince. He’s like, ‘How do you get to Cobo Hall?’ ”
Bowen said his manager didn’t believe him when he called to say Prince stopped by. “Only in Detroit,” he said.
Ronald Little Jr., a 48-year-old middle school music teacher in Hamtramck, started listening to Prince’s music at age 12. As a piano player, he said Prince was “a great influence on his life.” He particularly remembered attending a concert with his mother and father in 1981. Both didn’t say anything the entire time, he recalled. They sat there with their mouths open, taking it all in. “I had one of the best days ever just sitting there,” he said.
Travis Wright, host of Culture City on WDET-FM, put Prince in perspective of other recent musicians the world lost.
“David Bowie gave a lot of people the freedom to embrace their weirdness. The thing is, I think Prince did the same thing for my generation,” Wright said. “He made it cool to be weird.”
He said the diverse people on the dance floor, ranging in age from early 20s to early 60s, are a “mélange of generations of highly engaged Detroiters.”
“They represent Detroit and symbolize what Prince is all about,” he said.