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Stevie Wonder to lead Prince fans in final sendoff

Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 14:00
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Nearly six months after Prince's sudden death, his fans will have their chance Thursday to mourn the pop icon at a star-filled tribute concert in his native Minnesota.

[SAINT PAUL, Minnesota] Nearly six months after Prince's sudden death, his fans will have their chance Thursday to mourn the pop icon at a star-filled tribute concert in his native Minnesota.

Stevie Wonder will lead the sold-out show at a 20,000-capacity arena, which will mark the first - and, family members say, only - official public event to remember The Purple One.

Organisers invited fans to show up several hours ahead of time for a free outdoor party near the venue to celebrate Prince, the prolific if eccentric musical genius who was the biggest celebrity to live in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul.

The concert comes a week after Prince's estate opened up Paisley Park - the reclusive star's suburban headquarters that was usually sealed to visitors - ahead of the start of regular tours.

Prince, outwardly a model of health, died accidentally at age 57 from an overdose of powerful painkillers. His family quickly cremated his body and the Jehovah's Witnesses, his religious group late in life, held a memorial service, but both events were private.

Wonder, the soul legend whom Prince had cited as a role model despite their different styles, and pop star Christina Aguilera will headline the concert which begins at 7:30pm (0030 GMT Friday).

Performers with personal connections to the late artist will include "Queen of Funk" Chaka Khan, whose cover of Prince's I Feel For You revived her career, and Morris Day, who grew up with Prince in Minneapolis and played his rival in the classic 1984 film Purple Rain. Newly announced to the lineup is Prince's ex-wife Mayte Garcia. A dancer and choreographer, Garcia was also the mother of Prince's son Ahmir who died a week after his birth in 1996 from a rare disorder.

Ana Moura, one of the leading singers of Portugal's melancholic fado music, has also confirmed her attendance. She found a new global audience after Prince, a fan of fado who is famous for taking on proteges, championed her music.

Other artists will range from 23-year-old breakaway pop sensation Tori Kelly to veteran funk singer Anita Baker and R&B producer Bilal.

Two of the backup bands from Prince's long career, the New Power Generation and 3rdEyeGirl, will perform with the guest artists.

However, several acts closely associated with Prince are not performing, including drummer and singer Sheila E, who is scheduled to play Thursday night in suburban New York with Brazilian great Sergio Mendes.

Plans for the concert had long been in flux with Prince's sister, Tyka Nelson, initially saying the tribute would take place not at the XCel Energy Center in St Paul, where it is being held, but at a much larger venue - the new 66,200-capacity US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Tickets for the tribute start at the accessible price of US$20 as organisers hoped to draw local fans of Prince, whose infectious brand of funk became known as the Minneapolis Sound.

But the concert and Paisley Park tours are expected to help fill the coffers for Prince's estate, whose finances have been in uncertain shape since his sudden death.

Billboard magazine reported that advisers to Prince's estate were in talks to sell Paisley Park's vast vault of unreleased music for up to US$35 million.

Prince's siblings turned over management of his estate to a private administrator but have faced an onslaught of claims, some of them far-fetched, by people who say they are heirs to Prince's fortune.

AFP