In Minneapolis, Prince was everywhere. He held impromptu, late-night shows at Paisley Park, his studio complex in Chanhassen, 20 miles away from the city, testing new songs on audiences that sometimes numbered only in the dozens. He rode his bicycle to the arboretum three miles west of Paisley; he would show up at the Caribou Coffee in Chanhassen and pay with a $100 bill, tipping the change, because his custom-made pants had no pockets. He might slip into a back booth at Bunker’s on Sunday or Monday nights where his old New Power Generation band members Sonny Thompson and Michael Bland still perform. Sometimes he joined them onstage. When he was filming Purple Rain, he showed the director his hometown’s storms: “Clouds would begin to churn and roil,” Alberto Magnoli remembers. “Prince would grab me and take me outside.”?They stood in a field and watched as the sky changed from gray to purple.
“I like Hollywood,” Prince once said. “I just like Minneapolis a little better.” For all the houses he kept at various times, in Spain and in Toronto and in Los Angeles, he always returned to his hometown, where he made his best work. Thousands of unheard songs allegedly survive him in the archives of Paisley Park, but Prince left impressions everywhere he lived. Recently, the photographer Alec Soth and I went looking for them.
Plenty of Prince fans had set out on the same trail.?It also occurred to us that what we were doing was not all that different from Prince himself. As a Jehovah’s Witness,?encouraged by his faith to evangelize, he reportedly knocked on strangers’ doors around Minneapolis and Chanhassen, sometimes as himself, often in disguise.