The world lost a legend when Prince passed away unexpectedly at the age of 57 on April 21. As word of his death spread around the globe, millions turned to Facebook to share articles, videos, and moving tributes, while global and local news outlets used Facebook Live. 39 million people had 117 million Facebook interactions related to his passing in the first 24 hours after the news broke. In that process, we gained a deeper understanding of his impact — as a musician, songwriter, guitar god, activist, and neighbor.
“Nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative,” said President Obama in a tribute on Facebook, as Justin Timberlake wrote of his “overwhelming grief.” Billboard used Facebook Live to discuss the news and remember his incredible career, while E! News called Prince “a piece of art…that didn’t want to be defined” in their Live coverage.
Minutes after breaking the news of his death, TMZ was on Facebook Live as a visibly shaken Harvey Levin spoke of the “remarkable” and tragic passing of both Prince and David Bowie in such a short amount of time.
People Magazine reported on Facebook Live about his ability to “break all kinds of barriers for people of color, people of different gender identities, for women,” while MTV’s Jessica Hopper highlighted Prince’s groundbreaking stance against the major label system.
The world learned even more about the music legend through these posts and outpouring of tributes. For example, CNN shed light on his incredible (and often unsung) songwriting abilities — he wrote hits for Sinead O’Connor, Alicia Keys, The Bangles, and countless other artists.
Eric Clapton even wrote “Holy Mother” after watching “Purple Rain,” and the experience pulled him out of a depression. “It gave me hope,” he wrote, “he was like a light in the darkness.”
People also learned more from countless tales of Prince’s guitar mastery. In an article widely-shared on Facebook, The New York Times referred to his 3 minute guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony performance with Tom Petty and others as a “Prince Milestone.”
Prince’s passing was felt both globally and locally around Minneapolis, where he was loved not only as a worldwide legend, but a neighbor. His music could be heard from the Minneapolis City Hall bell tower as posted live by local radio station The Current, which also played his entire catalog on the air immediately following his passing. Fans also placed flowers outside First Avenue, as captured by CBS Minnesota.
Another Minneapolis music legend, Bob Mould, who recorded part of his first solo album at Paisley Park in 1988, said “Prince was the brightest star in these Northern skies…[his] music will give consolation and comfort to the collective grief.”
“The mourning of artists has become so potent,” said NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson in a Facebook Live video. “There’s a universal moment where everyone is talking about the same thing and it wears on you…I will think about this day the same way I felt on the day that Whitney died and the day Michael died.”
Other public figures mourned Prince’s passing with their own thoughts, as well.