What Were Prince’s Funeral Service & Cremation Like?

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The death of a celebrity can often feel like the death of a close friend. These are people who the public feels they know on a deeper level, and their deaths send a shockwave through society. One such celebrity is Prince, an American musician who gained worldwide fame in the 1980s for his music. 

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When Prince died in April of 2016, the world stopped for a brief moment. His fans remember where they were when they heard the news, and the entire world mourned the death of this shining star. Because he had a private funeral, many people have speculated about what this service was like. 

With impromptu memorials popping up across the country, many of which are still seen years later, it’s no wonder that so many people have a deep connection to his death and legacy. Learning more about the funeral service is one way to feel closure after a tragic event. What exactly were Prince’s funeral service and cremation like?

Why Did Prince Have a Private Funeral? 

Prince was an extremely private person, so it only felt natural for him to have a private funeral service. A private service is one that’s only open to the close family and friends of the deceased. This isn’t an uncommon choice for many famous figures, especially since these funerals can draw large crowds. 

Though the public usually wants to mourn along with the family, it’s helpful for some boundaries to be in place. The family chose a private funeral for Prince as a way to respect the boundaries he set between his public and private lives. There were around 50 high-profile guests in attendance. This was a far cry from the 500 people who lined up along the streets of the Minneapolis suburb where the service took place. 

By holding a private funeral, those closest to the megastar are able to process their grief amongst those that knew him the best. For the families of celebrities, being surrounded by the loved one’s adoring fans can be unsettling during the time of mourning. Though it’s inspiring to know the deceased loved one’s legacy lives on, it can also feel disingenuous to see them mourning someone they didn’t personally know. 

Instead, family and other musical legends honored Prince in their own public ways. For example, Prince’s ex-wives held their own memorials in his honor in Los Angeles, California. Across the globe, fans created impromptu memorials in his honor. The private funeral was a chance for the family to carve their own mourning amongst global grief. 

COVID-19 update: In May of 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Prince's estate hosted a three-day livestream of Prince's 1985 concert, "Prince and the Revolution: Live," in partnership with YouTube. The event helped raise funds for COVID relief.

This came at a time when more and more families were turning to virtual and livestream funerals to keep in compliance with social distancing and travel restrictions. 

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What Happened During Prince’s Funeral? 

Because Prince had a private funeral, only those who were present know for certain what it was like. Reporters were not allowed within the Kingdom Hall where the service took place. However, reporters were able to gather copies of the program, and some have given their own accounts of the event. 

The funeral location

Though Prince was raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist, he became a Jehovah’s Witness later in life after years of study. As such, he had a Jehovah’s Witness funeral at a Kingdom Hall. 

The church was located in a suburb of Minneapolis, and it was a place he worshiped before. The funeral location was highly personal to his faith, his community, and the final years of his life. 

Funeral music

As one might expect for a world-renowned musician, Prince’s funeral included a lot of funeral songs. According to the program, the service began with the song “He Will Call.” His service ended with the song “See Yourself When All Is New.” 

Funeral music isn’t an important part of most Jehovah’s Witness funerals, but this was a large part of Prince’s life. These songs were a comfort to fellow worshippers in a time of need. Though he considered his music to be a gift to his fans, Prince also wished to leave religious scripture with those who followed him. 

Speakers

There was one notable speaker at Prince’s funeral that was included within the program. This was Larry Graham, the former bassist of Sly and the Family Stone. Graham was Prince’s mentor who helped introduce him to the Jehovah’s Witness faith. 

In addition, there were several religious prayers, readings, and scriptures given in honor of his life and death. Funerals in this religion are notably brief. It is believed that the true believers will be called to God when he returns to earth, so mourning isn’t something that’s done openly. 

Regardless, his friends and family remarked that the service was a somber, sad affair. It was a way to give thanks to the man who contributed so much of his life to the public and his art. Though simple, his funeral was a time to come together in prayer.  

Was Prince Cremated or Buried?

Did Prince have a cremation or a burial? Jehovah’s Witnesses have no reservations against how the body is treated in death. Because it’s the spirit, not the physical, that lives on, cremation is an option along with burials. 

Prince’s family had him cremated secretly the Friday after his death. This was withheld from the public to protect his and his family’s privacy. His ashes were released to his sister, Tyka Nelson, who brought them to his memorial service. 

His ashes are secure in an urn designed to resemble his famous Paisley Park estate. Including his famous symbol in the classic purple color, it’s now on display to the public. Custom designed by his sister and nephew, his urn is a testament to his legacy and his impact. 

Purple Rain: A Death Heard Around the World

The death of a celebrity always hits society hard, but Prince’s death was especially challenging for longtime fans of his music. Though he was formally remembered in a private service, listeners of his music celebrated his life in their own way. From full-size murals in his honor to candlelight vigils, he was remembered in all corners of the globe. 

Even years later, his death is something that people still remember vividly. The deaths of famous musicians become a cultural event in themselves, shaping the culture around mourning and public grief. Prince’s funeral was shaped by his religious beliefs, private personal life, and longstanding legacy. Glimpsing inside of this powerful event is a form of closure for those still reeling from the loss of a favorite musician. 

Ultimately, like deaths of a similar nature, Prince’s death is a reminder that time limits us all. As he says in his hit song “1999,” life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last. 


Sources

  1. “Here’s What Prince’s Memorial Service Was Like.” Fortune. 16 May 2016. Fortune.com
  2. “Prince Biography.” Biography. 22 April 2020. Biography.com
  3. Runtagh, Jordan. “First Photos of Prince’s Final Resting Place.” People Magazine. 15 October 2016. People.com
  4. Henderson, Cydney. "Prince and the Revolution's live concert set to stream on YouTube for coronavirus relief." USA Today. 12 May 2020. www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2020/05/12/prince-and-the-revolution-live-1985-concert-stream-youtube/3119896001/
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