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Thursday March 30th

Prince’s purple reign at Carmichael in 1980s

<p>Courtesy of UNC University Archives</p>
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Courtesy of UNC University Archives

On February 15, 1983, the then-12-year-old Burnette snuck to the front of Carmichael Arena — then “Carmichael Auditorium” — to watch Prince perform.

A year later, she spent every Sunday watching Prince’s film “Purple Rain.”

Burnette had been saving up in hopes that Prince would expand his tour to include more locations, like the Triangle.

When she got a call Thursday announcing Prince’s death, Burnette said she was devastated.

“He was my first concert,” she said. “I always thought I’d see him again.”

Prince at UNC

The 1983 performance at Carmichael Arena was part of the Prince’s “1999 Tour.” The Time and all-girl band Vanity 6 were the openers.

African, African American and Diaspora Studies professor Perry A. Hall said Prince performed at UNC before he was a major star.

“In 1984 ‘Purple Rain’ came out, which pushed him to the level of major superstar, but in ’83 he was still relatively unknown as far as the pop-crossover market,” he said.

Still, he said, the arena was packed.

“If not for his music, people wanted to see the controversy,” Hall said.

“He gave us everything.”

Crossing generations

Hall was teaching when he heard.

“Although (students) were younger than the generation that grew up with him, they still had a connection to Prince.”

Senior Judy Robbins, who grew up listening to Prince, said she has spent several days processing his death.

“Prince really redefined art for me, and I think that losing him, for me, was part of that artistic understanding,” she said. “I saw that a lot in my peers as well because, yes, we might not have listened to all of his hits all of the time, but the way that he affected his own art and the art of other people was really significant.”

Burnette said Prince’s art continues to be appreciated by all, regardless of age.

“Last year, I asked my daughter for a Taylor Swift album for Christmas, and she didn’t want to get me that type of music,” she said. “Ironically, she put the ‘Purple Rain’ CD and the VHS in my stocking to replace my worn-out copies. She knew.”

Prince’s legacy

Robbins said in Prince’s lifetime she started to see some traditional barriers in music and art being challenged.

“You could not put Prince in a genre, and if you tried, it just wasn’t whole or didn’t fully connect,” she said.

Following Prince’s death, tweets emerged displaying Prince’s unpronounceable “Love Symbol #2” taped over bathroom signs on UNC’s campus.

The genderless emblem, which Prince once described as a combination of male and female symbols, taped over bathroom signs came shortly after the passing of House Bill 2.

Hall said Prince’s barrier-breaking actions stemmed from the singer’s creative soul and will inspire others.

“He was a superstar, and he probably made a lot of money, but that wasn’t what he was primarily about,” he said. “He was about being a vessel for creative impulses to come into reality.

“His sheer creativity will live on.”



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