COLUMBIA — When Eric Butterwick got out of the shower before going to work at Hitt Records Thursday morning, his wife told him Prince had died.

“And it was sort of like … when someone tells you a joke, and you don’t quite get it,” Butterwick said. “It’s like, ‘really?’”

The music legend died Thursday morning at his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota. He was 57. Over his 40-year career, he released more than 40 albums, and in total his records sold more than 100 million copies.

Prince had been a formative figure for Butterwick. When he was younger, Butterwick didn't connect with most popular music.

"Prince was actually one of the few artists of the period that I enjoyed, because once again through the eclecticism of the music, to me, it justified my own tastes," Butterwick said. “It made it cool to be out of lockstep. … You can live any life you want to.”

For Robert Greene, the filmmaker-in-chief at the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism, Prince had been an artistic role model since Greene was in elementary school in the 1980s.

“I could love Michael Jackson forever, but Prince would be what I would need to understand if I wanted to be an artist myself,” Greene said. “I knew this as an 8 year old.”

Greene remembers standing in a 7-Eleven in Philadelphia and looking at a rack of albums, noticing music from both artists.

“I remember thinking, that’s my comfort zone — Michael Jackson,” Greene said. “But Prince is this wild thing that I’ve got to understand before I die, basically. So Michael Jackson’s what I’d listen to when I want to feel free and happy; Prince is what I listen to when I want to be inspired and try to understand the world in a deeper or artful way.”

Greene said Prince was “radically adventurous” in his music, especially in the way he invented new styles and sounds. When Greene began making movies, he turned to the creativity of Prince for inspiration.

“I like to think that I make documentaries and films that are innovative in their own way too, and I’m always trying to find a new way to look at something and a new way to represent something,” Greene said. “He always thought of his audience and tried to surprise his audience at all times, and … pretty much every filmmaker tries to surprise viewers the same way.”

Greene said he would always come back to Prince because doing so rejuvenated his creativity and joy in his work.

“Why do you go to see a Picasso?” Greene said. “You go to see a Picasso not because it’s going to tell you anything about yourself; it’s just going to show you what genius looks like. And (Prince) was truly a genius. It’s totally devastating.”

Supervising editor is Austin Huguelet.

  • Formerly an assistant city editor & reporter on the public health and safety beat. Reach me at jaredhkaufman@gmail.com or on Twitter @Jaredography.

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