Jerome Benton described the devastating moment he learned that his mentor, bandmate, co-star and brother Prince had died.
On the morning of April 21, 2016, Benton worked outside of his home to complete the online sale of a treadmill he no longer needed.
“She came to pick up the treadmill and we were standing in my driveway and I was kind of running my mouth,” recalled Benton, who many know as Morris Day’s running buddy from the iconic group, The Time.
“My niece came out and said, ‘Unc, your phone is blowing up,’” Benton remembered. “I said, ‘It’s early. I’ll get to it.’”
Back and forth for about another 10 minutes, Benton’s niece grew more persistent in asking that the musician check his cell phone. The insistence quickly grew into a demand.
“She said, ‘No, you need to come in here and look at the news,’” remarked Benton, who sat watching the news in disbelief. He then got on a call with his Time bandmates Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
“What type of ending to a movie is this?” Benton recalled exclaiming before the trio sat silently, holding their phones.
Benton had not only appeared onstage with Prince as a member of the vaunted “Revolution” but counted among those appearing in the groundbreaking motion picture “Purple Rain.”
He also appeared in Prince’s follow-up movie, “Graffiti Bridge” before taking a co-lead role with the “Let’s Go Crazy” singer in “Under the Cherry Moon.”
Benton’s reckoning with Prince’s death closely resembled that of Revolution bassist BrownMark who recalled lying in bed and being brought to tears by the news.
“I was living in California and it was nine in the morning and a friend of mine who used to be one of Prince’s bodyguards knew some of the [Minneapolis] police officers who said something had happened at [Prince’s home] Paisley Park,” BrownMark said. “He called me back 30 minutes later and said, ‘Mark, he’s gone.’ I was in disbelief. Tears started coming down,” BrownMark remembered.
“It was such a painful moment,” he said.
Prince, the genius responsible for some of music’s most memorable hits and live shows, died at 57.
From his debut album, “For You,” to masterpieces like “1999,” “Purple Rain” and “Sign ‘O the Times,” Prince reigned like no other.
In addition to his endless string of successful recordings, Prince produced hits for Chaka Khan, The Bangles, Sinead O’Connor, Mavis Staples, Sheila E. and Graham Central Station.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee also produced and created The Time, Apollonia 6, Vanity 6 and The Family.
Nominated 33 times for a Grammy Award, Prince won seven of music’s biggest prizes.
Overall, he won 32 music awards, including trophies from the American Music Awards, Billboard, MTV, BET and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Prince also earned an Oscar for Best Original Score for his 1984 blockbuster movie, “Purple Rain.”
The superstar, who routinely wore high-heeled shoes during his energetic performances, battled hip problems for years which led to speculation that he relied on painkillers to ease his discomfort.
One week before his death, a plane carrying Prince from a concert in Atlanta had to make an emergency landing. Prince reportedly overdosed on the flight, and authorities used Narcan to revive the singer.
“I had just reached out to him the week before because of the plane incident and passed on my well-wishes,” Benton said. “I left him a message telling him that I loved him but to this day, I don’t know if the message ever got through.”
The year before Prince’s death, BrownMark received an invitation to visit his friend at Paisley Park.
“He’d have me fly in and sometimes he would forget that he’d ask me to come out and I’d be in a hotel for two or three days and I’d be like, ‘Come on Prince,’” BrownMark said. “I went to Paisley and he was riding his bicycle and when I got out of the car, he told me that I had a glowing aura. It was the last memorable conversation we had.”
BrownMark, who joined the Revolution at 19, said he still misses Prince.
BrownMark remembers Prince as a brother – someone he could bounce ideas off and vice versa.
“Big brothers beat up on little brothers. I always beat up on my little brother,” Brown said. “The family love was so strong in The Revolution. We were really tight-knit.”
He described Prince much like those who only knew him from afar and others who only knew his music – a genius.
“Prince was good at everything,” BrownMark mused. “He was from another universe.”
One way Benton has chosen to remember his friend is by writing the long-awaited sequel to “Purple Rain.”
“I have it and I’m just waiting for some company to say they want it,” Benton said. “My journey with Prince and this business has been an array of excitement and privilege. From The Family to when I was asked to join the Revolution and tour the world and sell out 40,000-seat stadiums – the experience is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I get chills talking about it because it was so amazing.”
Benton clarified his use of the word privilege, noting that it’s not used in a cocky way.
“Who can say they’ve done that?” he continued.
The entertainer added that Prince’s death remains difficult to swallow.
“Somedays, I get weak about it. Somedays, it gives me strength,” Benton said. “We lost a great guy. I don’t ever remember having a bad time with him.”