Honoring Prince Program Of Events
There’s a new doctor in the house – and he’s purple and funky…!
Prior to Prince’s untimely death in 2016, the University of Minnesota had been preparing to present him with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, the University’s highest honor. This was an idea presented to him while he was still alive, and his purported response was one word back, “Cool”.
The honorary degree was presented recently at the Ted Mann Concert Hall on the university campus, recognizing distinctive achievement that has materially added to knowledge, and is in recognition of Prince’s remarkable talent, enduring influence in music, and his role in shaping the city of Minneapolis.
The Chamber Strings from the University Symphony Orchestra and their own Jazz Ensemble I (both under the direction of Dean Sorenson) were joined on stage The Minneapolis Funk All Stars led by Family/F-Deluxe singer/bassist St. Paul Peterson. Joining him was guitarist Jellybean Johnson (Family/The Time); keyboardist Tommy Barbarella (NPG), drummer Kirk Johnson (NPG) and vocalist Cameron Kinghorn.
The evening began with a four-song Prince medley with songs culled from the early 80’s, inducing an immediate celebratory spirit which brought the crowd up on their feet, clapping and singing along. Nelson family members were in attendance including Omar and half-sister Sharon, along with university dignitaries, and the lucky fans that managed to RSVP before the public access quickly closed after reaching capacity.
Director of the School of Music Michael Kim next welcomed everyone to the evening, and made introductory remarks, including his own personal connection to the night’s subject. Asst. Professor Elliott Powell then made the case for Prince and his music being an instrument of social change, reflecting timely issues in songs like ‘Baltimore’, ‘Controversy’, and ’The United States of Division’.
The band fired up again for a faithful ‘Little Red Corvette’ and St. Paul took center stage for one of his favorites to sing- ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, a song made most famous by Sinead O’Connor, but one first given by Prince to The Family to record.
Dean of The College of Liberal Arts John Coleman made his remarks, followed by The University of Minnesota’s President, Eric W. Kaler, who presided over the presentation of the candidate (with sister Tyka Nelson accepting on Prince’s behalf) and the conferral of the degree ceremony, along with University Regent Darrin Rosha.
The band then resumed for a Purple Rain-era two-fer of ‘I Would Die 4 U / Baby I’m a Star’ as video images and captioned song lyrics filled the video screen behind the musicians. Coleman returned briefly with closing remarks, then (somewhat surprisingly) Tyka Nelson retook to the stage, full of emotion from the evening, to sing the closing number, ‘Purple Rain’, pointing to the sky as Johnson cut loose with the song’s signature guitar solo.
Though Prince never did attend college, he did play at the University (at Northrop Auditorium in 2000 for the first Celebration event) and from the night’s comments, seemed open to receiving this highly prestigious honor from the university- they apparently first offered up the idea in the early ‘90’s, only to have him change his name to that unpronounceable symbol shortly after, which in part, tabled the idea until it was resurrected just a few years ago.
While there was some air of somberness that he would not be present, the evening was overall more celebratory and joyful in spirit and everyone in attendance, was undoubtedly happy to have been present to witness Prince receiving his Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
(click on any photo below to enlarge and see full image)
|Tyka Degree||John Coleman||Michael Kim||Elliott Powell||Cameron Kinghorn|
|Tommy Barbarella||Jellybean Johnson||Kirk Johnson||Honoring Prince||Tyka with St. Paul Peterson|