Prince, the popular and virtuosic musician who died Thursday at age 57, was known for maintaining his Minneapolis roots. He also made an impression on Baltimore at a critical moment — as the city dealt with the death of Freddie Gray and the unrest that followed.
Last May, the "Purple Rain" singer/songwriter performed a quickly announced "Rally 4 Peace" benefit concert at Royal Farms Arena — his first performance here since April 2001. He also released a song dedicated to and titled "Baltimore," with lyrics that cried, "Does anybody hear us pray for Michael Brown or Freddie Gray?"
In an email statement to The Baltimore Sun, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said: "My heart aches over the loss of one of the most brilliant and iconic artists of my generation. Prince's efforts to help our city after last spring's events were so meaningful to so many."
After Prince performed "Baltimore" at the concert, he ceded the spotlight briefly to State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, who did not address the crowd and watched the show on stage with her husband, Councilman Nick Mosby. It was a controversial appearance for Mosby, coming days after she announced charges against six officers in the Gray case.
The concert was widely attended, with ticket costs ranging from $22 to $497. Prince allowed the show to be streamed on the website of the music streaming service Tidal, which raised nearly $35,000 for the Open Society Institute-Baltimore's Baltimore Justice Fund, according to OSI-Baltimore's Debra Rubino.
The next month, through a news release, Prince announced he was donating proceeds from the concert to the NAACP's Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO), the city's YouthWorks program and the newly established OneBaltimore foundation.
Prince, via his company NPG Music Publishing, donated $30,000 to YouthWorks, said Brice Freeman, the organization's communications director. YouthWorks is a summer jobs program for young Baltimoreans from the mayor's office of employment development. Freeman said it costs about $1,500 per five-week job placement, so the donation created 20 jobs for the program. Last year, YouthWorks found 8,000 jobs for local residents, Freeman said.
"We're really appreciative of Prince's donation," Freeman said, describing it as "pretty significant." He said Prince's decision to donate to YouthWorks raised awareness of the program around the city.
Michael Cryor, chair of OneBaltimore, however, said his organization never received a donation. Cryor said Prince's team was "eager and upfront" about donating after preliminary discussions, but he cited the initiative's "absence of infrastructure" as the reason why there was no follow-up on securing the donation. (Rawlings-Blake announced the campaign in early May 2015 in response to the unrest.)
"We would have appreciated it, but I can't hold them responsible for that," Cryor said. "It was a difficult time in those first few months."
OneBaltimore is in a position now to receive contributions, Cryor said, but he does not plan on asking Prince's estate for a donation because the opportunity had come and gone, he said.
Yvette Noel-Schure, Prince's publicist, did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week from The Baltimore Sun.
ACT-SO, the third announced recipient of Prince's choosing, did receive a donation but cannot disclose the amount as part of an agreement with the singer, said Raquel Coombs, vice president of communications and digital media for the NAACP.
As news spread of Prince's death Thursday, Baltimore residents mourned the loss on social media by sharing old performances on YouTube, favorite songs and personal memories. The Senator Theatre announced it would show "Purple Rain," Prince's 1984 movie, on Friday, Saturday and Wednesday as a tribute.
At the "Rally 4 Peace" concert, Prince emphasized society's need for young people to instill change with fresh and creative ideas.
"The system is broken. It's going to take the young people to fix it this time. We need new ideas, new life," Prince told the crowd. "The next time I come to Baltimore, I want to stay in a hotel owned by you."
He won't have the opportunity to see such endeavors in person, but Prince aimed to set the wheels in motion in Baltimore with his music as the vessel.