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Obama calls Prince, who performed a secret White House show, a 'creative icon'

 (Hasan Jamali / Associated Press)
(Hasan Jamali / Associated Press)

President Obama praised Prince as a “creative icon” on Thursday, marking the death of the legendary pop singer who just last summer rocked the White House in a secret show for Obama and his wife, two of his biggest fans.

Obama said he and First Lady Michelle Obama joined millions of fans in mourning the sudden death of the artist, announced as the president prepared to leave Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for London on a three-nation trip.

“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent,” Obama said in a statement released while he was in flight.

“As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer,” Obama said.

He was in a position to know. Last June, while in Washington for another show, Prince performed in the East Room of the White House for about 500 Obama friends and supporters, including James Taylor, Jon Bon Jovi and Ciara.

If attendee Al Sharpton hadn’t tweeted about it, it might have been the biggest White House music event that nobody ever heard of. Alerted to the party by follow-up news reports, Rolling Stone interviewed Taylor, who revealed details of the two-hour performance.

The highlight was a Prince duet with Stevie Wonder. They shared keyboards to perform “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” a prominent favorite on the Obama campaign rally soundtrack.

Prince infused the rendition with his own brand of funk, taking the tried-and-true Wonder hit “to a new level,” according to one person who was there.

Obama’s statement Thursday was typically sober, but with a nod to the iconoclastic music and persona that marked the man’s career.

“A strong spirit transcends rules,” Obama wrote, quoting Prince. “And nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative.”

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