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Prince fans in southeast Queens celebrate the late pop legend

By Madina Toure

About 50 southeast Queens fans paid tribute to pop legend Prince at an intimate celebration hosted by state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park) over the weekend.

Prince, whose musical style spanned funk, R&B, soul and rock, died in Chanhassen, Minn. April 21 at the age of 57.

At the celebration in the gym of Catherine & Count Basie Middle School in Jamaica Saturday, attendees wore purple outfits and purple glow-in-the-dark necklaces to commemorate the singer’s popular song “Purple Rain.” The tribute took place in the dark so the purple of people’s outfits and the lights on their necklaces could be more visible.

The film “Purple Rain” was also screened as the event’s DJ, Springfield Gardens-based DJ Tam Jams, played some of the singer’s hits.

Songs played during the event included “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince and The Revolution; Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl,” which was written and composed by Prince; and Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” A prize was awarded to the best-dressed Prince.

Sitting at the top level of the bleachers with a white-and-purple patterned bowtie and a handkerchief in the pocket of his gray blazer with the same pattern, Sanders was seen mingling with attendees.

He said Prince’s appeal was that his music was intergenerational and that he was not afraid to be different or push boundaries.

“Every one of his songs was either a prayer or foreplay and I would argue some of both,” Sanders said, noting that he had a “personality that could fill a room.”

Sanders’ office had hosted a tribute for the late pop legend Michael Jackson and decided to do something similar for Prince.

Sanders said singers such as singer Little Richard and the late rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix pioneered the androgynous and sensual styles but that Prince was the one who really took it further.

He also said Prince took up causes affecting the black community, citing songs such as “Mr. Man” and “Together.”

“Prince also was very political, very, very political,” he added.

One of Sanders’ aides, Lisa George, a Far Rockaway resident, said she cleared her busy schedule when she learned the senator was hosting the event.

George, who is in her late 30s, appreciated Prince’s musical style, which she described as “spiritual” and speaking of God.

“He was so ahead of his time,” she said. “His music was different from everyone during that time, during that era.”

Rochdale Village resident Marilyn Bell, 61, has been listening to Prince’s music “for a very long time.” She said “Purple Rain” is her favorite song.

“He’s fantastic and he was just awesome,” Bell said. “He was just out there. Look at him. He had it going on.”

Daphne Brewster, 52, of Springfield Gardens, has been a Prince fan since 1979. She saw him perform live for his Purple Rain and Sign of the Times tours as well as his New Power Soul tour with bass guitar player Larry Graham and R&B and funk singer Chaka Khan at Madison Square Garden.

“It was nice to come out here to Queens and to do something for Prince because Queens has a lot of Prince fans, too,” Brewster said. “It was nice of the senator to organize that.”

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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