Making a Pilgrimage Along Prince’s Purple Trail

AP Photo/Jim Mone, File

Even when their music exists outside of time and space, certain musicians become inseparable from the places they lived. Lou Reed was New York. Édith Piaf was Paris. Prince was Minneapolis.

For Vogue, writer Rebecca Bengal and photographer Alec Soth search Minneapolis for the houses where Prince lived or that he somehow touched during his life. Bengal talks to the man who owns the house where Prince recorded Dirty Mind. She talks to a fan who moved from Japan and saw hundreds of intimate small club shows. The woman who owns the house where Prince’s teenage band practiced put it best: “This is where greatness came from.”

When she came back to north Minneapolis to look at the house she didn’t recognize the address. “When we were teenagers, we didn’t know it by the house number,” she said. “We just knew it was the Anderson house. We could close our eyes and find it by following the music.” They used the side door, heading straight for the basement, where a teenage Prince Rogers Nelson would be jamming with his best friends, André Anderson now known as André Cymone and Morris Day, in their early bands Grand Central and Champagne (later Shampayne). They played one of their first paying gigs at a church around the corner, for which they each earned $3. When Prince was kicked out of his father’s house, Mrs. Anderson, who had six kids of her own, took him in. “Prince was already so focused, so serious,” Robin said. “He could go really deep and then he’d hit those high notes. Our friends called him ‘Gazoo,’ like from The Flintstones, ’cause he’d wear this white space suit–type suit, bell-bottoms, and high-heel platforms—and then he had this big Afro.”

“You see down the street?” She pointed through her kitchen window. “We would sit on that corner there on Plymouth in our pink foam hair curlers and wait for the go-ahead so we could come over and be groupies and watch them practice. It was okay to be a groupie! It was part of our culture. We were north-siders and so were they.”

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