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Prince 'hurt me to my soul': Jesse Johnson kicks off Celebration 2019 with emotional onstage interview

Jesse Johnson performing at the State Theater with the Original 7ven in 2011.

Jesse Johnson performing at the State Theater with the Original 7ven in 2011. Star Tribune

Sounds like day one of Celebration 2019, the annual April tribute to Prince out at Paisley Park, offered up a little of what we in the blogging game like to call “content-roversy.”

In an onstage interview with Andrea Swensson of the Current, former Time guitarist Jesse Johnson spoke extensively and frankly about his difficult relationship with Prince.

“A lot of things he did … hurt me to my soul,” Johnson said, according to Ross Raihala of the Pioneer Press. “Would I come here if he was alive? I don’t think so.”

Not everyone was thrilled when Johnson was announced as a performer at Celebration. One concerned Prince fan sent City Pages a link to a recording of Johnson, asking us to “hold Paisley Park accountable for the content you will discover in this email.”

On the recording, Johnson says of Prince: “This is somebody who fucked me over, took money out of my pocket, robbed my kids. So I don’t have that same kind of love and shit that y’all do.” He also claimed that he would never perform at a Prince tribute.

We failed to act on that information by—well, I’m not sure what we were supposed to do, form a human chain around Chanhassen and prevent Johnson’s entry, maybe? In any case, the show went on, following Johnson’s talk with Swensson.

Jon Bream of the Star Tribune characterized the chat as “a little wacky, a little humorous, and totally heartfelt.” Swensson called it “brave, authentic, emotionally candid, and 100% honest about his complicated relationship with Prince.” For Raihala it was “a long, rambling monologue.”

It all sounds very exciting and I’m sorry I missed any of it. Except for the driving out to Carver County part.