By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For Prince fans, celebrating his life and music is something that comes from the heart.

But for those who can count themselves among Prince’s inner circle, playing the music that made him a legend brings about mixed emotions.

“My feet were in the fire every day I was 19 when I started working for Prince,” drummer Michael Bland said. “I didn’t know nothing, but I learned quick.”

From 1989 until 1995 Michael Bland was the man behind the drum set in the New Power Generation. He played with Prince periodically after that, staying close to all who considered the “Purple One” a mentor and friend.

“The impact was more intimate for me because I was in the inner circle, but I can’t say that there is a musician in Minneapolis who is still doing it who wasn’t touched by Prince in some way,” Bland said.

Prince’s death devastated many in the Minnesota music community, but for this group, playing his music is therapeutic.

“It’s fun, but it also invokes memories,” Bland said.

For Bland, it gets truly emotional when he plays with the band that catapulted his career.

“If I’m surrounded by Tommy, and Sonny, and Morris, and Tony, and Damon, and Kirk, and Levi, and Rosie — the more people from that life that are around me the more you expect to see him,” Bland said.

Bland hand-picked a group of musicians, with a lineage that goes back as far as his with Prince to honor the legend.

“Odell and Rick Rock from Mint Condition — I was in Mint Condition before I joined Prince’s band. And I know everything Prince did — they were on top of it,” Bland said.

Jeremy Hildersocker, Ryan Listman — who once played with the Jonas Brothers and Ryan Bynum — rounds out the group who will get Prince fans dancing outside First Avenue Saturday.

“What do I miss most about Prince I think making him laugh,” Bland said.

Michael Bland hopes playing Prince’s music makes fans across the globe light up, just like Prince did whenever his drummer cracked a joke.

Most who know Prince say they believe he would want people to celebrate his life and music more so than to grieve his death. The music is what bonded all of Prince’s fans together.

The musicians who once graced the stage with him say they want this weekend’s celebration to be all about the music.


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