The death of Prince Rogers Nelson, one of America’s iconic superstars, sent shockwaves through the world yesterday. He was 57 years old.
At first, many thought it a hoax. They couldn’t believe the legend who brought us “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” “Little Red Corvette” and hundreds of other songs had left us.
Everyone – from the president on down – wanted to say something, anything sufficiently poetic on Thursday to indicate that they were touched by the surprise of Prince’s passing.
In the day since the news broke, The Purple One has been hailed as “impossibly talented, willfully obstinate.” He’s been called the “greatest recording artist of all time” and the “patron saint of Black weirdos.” His transgressive spirit broke boundaries, some outlets say, and he was the “master of playing music.” But these headlines barely touch the mountains of media attention and accolades he garnered throughout his life.
Laredo native Adrian Quesada was part of Grupo Fantasma, an Austin-based band known for their latin/funk/cumbia/soul sounds, when Prince tapped the band be a part of his musical family.
In late 2006 Prince opened Club 3121, and began a residency series called Per4ming Live 3121, in Las Vegas. He had theme nights, and Thursday night was latin night. The house band said they didn’t want to play the Thanksgiving show, they had plans. Quesada says his band picked up the crumbs and played the whole show.
They didn’t have a big crowd, and at first Quesada thought Prince hadn’t shown.
“At the very end of the show, I looked all the way to the side of the stage and he had been in the shadows the whole time, just kind of scoping us out,” Quesada says.
Although Prince didn’t meet them in the green room after the show, by the time Grupo Fantasma got off the plane back in Texas, Prince had fired the house band and replaced them with Quesada’s group.
From there Grupo Fantasma got invited to play at a Golden Globes party in L.A. Quesada says at one point, Prince jumped on stage and from them started hanging out like he was their best friend.
“We’re playing in this tiny hotel room, we’re joking, and he’s like, ‘You know, let’s play your music, don’t worry about me,’” Quesada says. “He’s just playing guitar with us and we’re jamming.”
After a James Brown jam session, Quesada says they must have passed the test. Prince invited Grupo Fantasma to play in London at the IndigO2 for the 3121 album release.
“We went from being his little bros to somebody that was – you can’t say ‘An equal with Prince’ – but somebody that at least deserved to be on the stage with him,” Quesada says. “Those were probably the best shows I’ve ever been a part of. Every little note and every little song and lick that you play is just complete magic.”
Prince had a sense of detail and humor for the little things, Quesada says. For example, the ticket price for the 3121 vegas club was $31.21.
But there was something else about Prince, something unnameable.
Quesada says the “What is is about him?” question will linger with us for a long time. Prince wasn’t just a pop hit wonder.
“He could pick up the guitar and play circles around all of your favorite guitar players … he just didn’t have to,” Quesada says. “He could jump on the drums and play drums better than the best drummer. Keyboards better than the best keyboard player. Bass.”
Prince’s musical ability was one of the most intimidating things about him, Quesada says. A couple of times Prince would take over Grupo Fantasma’s instruments during rehearsal.
“There was just so much to him,” Quesada says. “He was so complex as a human, and obviously a genius. I think we’ll be talking about it for a really long time trying to figure it out.”
Adrian Quesada is a member of the KUT/KUTX Advisory Board.
This post written and prepared for web by Beth Cortez-Neavel.