Prince exhibit celebrates musical icon during Black History Month

Until the end of Black History Month, a free, multimedia exhibit on Prince's career will be displayed at Place des Arts, featuring items sourced from CBC Montreal music columnist Duke Eatmon's personal collection.

Prince: His Purple Majesty is a free exhibit at Montreal's Place des Arts and runs until March 3

Prince: His Purple Majesty features multimedia art, music, photograph and literary works about the artist, who died in 2016. (Nousha Salimi/Associated Press)

Until the end of Black History Month, a free, multimedia exhibit on Prince's career, featuring items from CBC Montreal music columnist Duke Eatmon's personal collection, will be displayed at Place des Arts.

Susan Rogers, Prince's former sound engineer, was in town Saturday for the launch of Prince: His Purple Majesty. She worked with him between 1983 and 1987.

In the music industry of the 1980s, being a self-taught female sound technician made Rogers a clear outsider when she applied to work with Prince — but that outsider status endeared her to him.

"If he could hire an outlier, he would. It didn't have to be women, but he liked being around women. He treated us so much like equals," she told CBC Montreal's Homerun.

She remembers that on the cusp of Purple Rain there was a strong sense that the work would be a either a great success — or a flop.

"There was a lot of electricity in the air that it could go either way," Rogers said.

Working with Prince meant keeping up a frenetic pace where songs that would normally take a week to record were being put together in a day.

Rogers said the "hubris of youth" made her feel like any demand was possible.

The two started working together when he was 25 and she was 27. 

"As a young person, do or die, you do it," she said.

Prince worked with many women and wouldn't micromanage them, Rogers said.

"The best thing he did for women, which is rarer than I'd like to admit, is he trusted us," she added.

After ending her career as a sound engineer, Rogers came to Montreal to study at McGill University and earned a doctorate in psychology.

She's now the director of the music perception and cognition laboratory at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Returning to Montreal to be part of the Prince exhibit was important to her because she said she feels a "duty and obligation to honour his memory" so a younger generation can understand him beyond his music.

The free exhibit is being presented in the Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme at Place des Arts until March 3.

With files from CBC Montreal's Homerun