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Prince’s admirers gather in South Los Angeles to remember and celebrate

Dozens of fans gathered in South Los Angeles on Thursday to pay homage to pop icon Prince with a musical celebration that united generations of listeners.

Prince Roger Nelson was found dead at his Paisley Park compound outside of Minneapolis earlier in the day.  He was 57.

In L.A., he was honored with a dance party fitting for a prince. Toddlers and seniors grooved to the tune of “The Purple One” and swapped stories about how his music had affected their lives.

Like so many fans, Erick Johnson, 43, praised Prince for pushing the boundaries musically and stylistically.

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“He was unapologetic,” Johnson said. “He was not afraid to mix the masculine and the feminine. For a black man to do that and still have all the women, all the beautiful women, that says that you are really, truly yourself.”

Deborah Murray, 57, adorned in a purple Prince shirt, agreed.

“He didn’t try to be like anybody else,” she said. “He hit them high notes while wearing high heels. He was a little man with big talent.”

Prince | 1958 - 2016

People get emotional while talking about Prince at a memorial for the artist in Leimert Park.

(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

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The festive tone turned somber when the slow, melodic cords of Prince’s hit “Purple Rain” blared from the speakers.

Dancing ceased. Fans thrusted candles and cellphones into the darkening sky and swayed their arms to the beat. Tears rolled down the cheeks of some people’s faces.

Depress Bady’s voice choked with emotion as he recalled the lyrics to the first song on Prince’s debut album titled “For You."  The 1-minute, 8-second song with one verse was an ode to his fans.

“Through his music, he touched my life,” said the 44-year-old Leimert Park resident. “He didn’t conform and always challenged himself.  I try to do that in my daily life.”

Though he’s never met Prince, Bady considered him his “musical father."  He was introduced to Prince’s music when he was 10, and over the decades formed a deep bond.

Bady said he used to read the liner notes of Prince’s album, which listed the song lyrics and contributors. At times, he felt Prince was speaking directly to him.

“He always thanked God and you,” Bady remembered.  “And not y-o-u. Just the big letter ‘U’ like he was talking to you.”

Bady stopped calling himself a fan years ago after Prince told Oprah in an interview that he didn’t want fans because that was short for fanatics, Bady recalled.

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“I’m a Prince admirer,” he said.

Growing up in Japan, Hiromi Tatsuta said, she listened to Prince’s funky tunes on a static-filled TV channel. When she got cable, she was able to connect the falsetto with the big-haired, high-heeled and makeup-wearing artist. His death hit home.

“You don’t expect your parents to die,” she said.  “That’s how it feels.”

Twitter: @AngelJennings

ALSO

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Prince gave black kids the license to be themselves, not what society thought they should be

Heels, hair and clothes: 6 ways Prince explored sexuality, gender roles and fashion on his own terms

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