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Friends remember a young Prince on the anniversary of his death

Before Prince broke through in the late '70s and became a global icon, childhood friends say he spent his younger years playing in bands with them in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS — Standing in his old neighborhood, Terrance Jackson — a childhood friend of Minneapolis legend Prince — remembers the sounds that once echoed throughout the school back in the 1970s.

“This is Lincoln Junior High School; this is pretty much where the Minneapolis sound started,” said Jackson. “On the stage in the auditorium, I saw Prince, Andre Anderson and Charles Smith as a trio in seventh grade, I was like, 'That was so cool and I want to be a member,' and about a week or so later, we became a quartet,” said Jackson.

And the music that filled the alleys in the back of his home, where he practiced with the band, Grand Central.

“We rehearsed at my house on 1248 Russell, and in the back of the house is a screened-in porch, so certain days, especially in summertime, we’d bring all our equipment upstairs and start playing and rehearsing,” he said.

During the '70s, Prince spent part of his youth living in north Minneapolis near Jackson, while also living for a time in parts of south Minneapolis. While friends remember Prince playing sports, Jackson says music was always in his heart.

“From north Minneapolis, it’s alphabetical order on the streets from Oliver to Xerxes to Zenith, and almost on every block through this neighborhood there was a band," Jackson said. "And so, people compete in basketball, football and baseball, we started competing in music. Music became our sport,” he said. “I think the attitude of Prince with being competitive, really enveloped all of us.”

“My uncle is a founding member of ‘Little Anthony and the Imperials’ and they used to do these rock and roll shows,” said Pepe Willie.

Willie was once married to Prince’s cousin and remembers the moment he met Prince. “We went over to her aunt’s house — I can’t remember which one, and this is my first time in Minneapolis — and I met Prince for the first time,” he said. “He was wrestling on the floor with his cousin Charles.”

Prince broke through in the late '70s with the hit "Wanna Be Your Lover," and soared over the following decade with albums such as "1999" and "Purple Rain,” becoming a global icon and one of the greatest artists of all time.

But in April 2016, a devastating blow reverberated across the globe. Prince had suddenly died at his Paisley Park home at the age of 57.

“I was getting dressed to go play golf and my daughter called me and she said, 'Dad,' and I go, 'What’s up?' and she goes, 'Did Prince die?' he said.

“I said, 'It ain’t true,' and three minutes later, Owen calls and he says, 'Pepe did you hear?' He says, 'Turn on your TV,'” he said.

 “I was just watching the news and had it on mute, and they had a helicopter over Paisley Park,” said Jackson. “I turned up the TV and they said Prince had passed, which to me was totally crazy.”

Now, Prince is remembered for being a pioneer of the “Minneapolis sound,” starting in the streets outside Jackson’s home. “If it hadn’t been for the music program at Lincoln Junior High School, there would have never been a Prince,” said Jackson.

He hopes the history of this neighborhood encourages “positivity” and inspires others to dream big.

“I really think there are a lot more Princes out there somewhere,” said Jackson.

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