As the news of Prince’s death spread on Thursday, April 21st, tributes both impromptu and official came in many forms. Like the many influential artists we have lost too soon (David Bowie, only too recently), Prince and his music have defined people’s lives across generations. It is not surprising that people have taken their grief to the streets and to sound stages.
On Saturday, even a subway panhandler had something to say in our car: “Prince was my father!” he proclaimed, followed by a string of expletives we cannot type out here. But the tributes to Prince in New York City that we list here range from guerrilla statements to formal tributes, with a social media hoax in between.
1. Prince Street Subway Pastings
This photo, shared by Signe Pierce on Twitter shows the Prince Street subway station in Soho with a few new “subway lines,” in purple of course in honor of Prince. One pasting shows a “P line” and one has Prince’s symbol, which he used solely as his name from June 7, 1993 to May 13, 2000. The symbol, officially copyrighted as “Love Symbol #2” was released in conjunction with the prolific artist’s 14th album – titled as the symbol itself, but known as the Love Symbol Album or the Love Album. With the release of the album, Prince also became known as the “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”
Read about the history of Prince Street and other royal street names in Manhattan here.
2. Prince RIP in Prince Street Subway Station
Meanwhile, inside the Prince Street subway station someone updated the iconic mosaic tiles of the former BMT subway line with RIP over the words ST. We particularly appreciate the effort to mimic the mosaic tiles here. Art wise, besides the tablet mosaic and initial P in the station, there’s the Arts for Transit work “Carrying On” by Janet Zweig, a title appropriate in the context of Prince as well. On both the uptown and downtown platforms, the work stretches the entire length and shows New Yorkers carrying objects.
3. Hamilton Tribute to Prince
At the end of the Hamilton performance on April 21st, the show’s star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and cast led a rendition of Prince’s song “Let’s Go Crazy.” As Rolling Stone writes, though the performance appeared impromptu, the director and cast worked on it during the day, while Miranda tweeted his own tribute to Prince earlier in the day.
4. New Yorker Cover In Tribute to Prince
The New Yorker released this week’s cover early, on April 21st entitled “Purple Rain,” in honor of one of Prince’s most famous songs from the album of the same name released in 1984. It was the artist’s sixth album. In a short description, the staff of the New Yorker wrote in the announcement:
“The pop singer Prince died on Thursday, at the age of fifty-seven, but his legacy will remain with us for a long, long time. Our cover for next week’s issue, Bob Staake’s “Purple Rain,” is a tribute to the great performer.”
5. Prince’s Image at Prince Street Subway Station
Prince Street became a popular tagging spot, both in real life and on social media. On the other side of the same downtown subway station entrance at Prince Street, someone pasted an image of Prince.
6. The Empire State Wasn’t Purple But People Thought It Was
Social media has a way of spreading misinformation and hoaxes quickly, and one of the most prominent instances of that is often around tributes. Similar to how the Empire State Building was mistaken for being red white and blue on the evening of the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015 (it actually went dark in tribute), it spread on social media that the landmark lights had gone purple for Prince. They were in fact, the standard white that evening. Hint: You can actually look up what the colors are for the Empire State Building on a given day for verification, and go back in time.
Many other monuments around the world were lit up in purple in tribute however, including the Superdome in New Orleans, City Hall in San Francisco, The Forum in Los Angeles, the Rain Room in Los Angeles, the I-35 W Bridge in Minneapolis, where Prince was born, and more. Niagara Falls and the CN Tower in Toronto were purple but coincidentally – the lighting was intended for the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.
7. The Color Purple Broadway Tribute to Prince
The cast of The Color Purple, led by Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo performed the Purple Rain at the end of the show. Hudson opened speaking to the audience recounting a recent invite from Prince to the cast of the Broadway show. Erivo opened the song, followed by Hudson. If you haven’t teared up yet for Prince, this performance will do it.
8. Spike Lee Block Party in Fort Greene, Brooklyn
On Thursday, Spike Lee summoned mourners to an impromptu block party outside his production offices in Fort Greene Brooklyn on South Elliott Place. The celebratory gathering opened with Prince’s own words from the song “Let’s Go Crazy”: “Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life,” and ended with Purple Rain.
9. Apollo Theater Billboard for Prince
The Apollo Theater lit up its billboard for Prince with the words “In Honor of the Beautiful One. PRINCE. Nothing Compares 2 U. 1958 – 2016” followed by lyrics from Purple Rain.
10. Bruce Springsteen Opens Barclays Center Show with Purple Rain
“Never meant to cause you any sorrow, never meant to cause you any sorrow,” rang clear in Bruce Springsteen’s tribute to Prince at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday night. Rolling Stone notes that “Sadly, the ‘Purple Rain’ performance marked the third time the E Street Band honored a rock giant who died in 2016 with an onstage tribute, following their covers of David Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’and Glenn Frey’s signature Eagles cut ‘Take It Easy.'”
Next, check out 5 iconic David Bowie moments and places in NYC.