Prince in Toronto: a selected history

As Prince is set to play two surprise shows in Toronto, CBC News looks at the musician's ties to the city.

Whether at clubs or at a Raptors game, Prince known to make unscheduled appearances

Prince was watching the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament between Spain's Rafael Nadal and Serbia's Dusan Lajovic at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France, last year. (The Associated Press)

Editor's note: This story was originally published on May 19, 2015, just before Prince was scheduled to perform in Toronto, a city that held special meaning for the renowned musician and performer. On April 21, 2016, police responded to an emergency medical call at the 57-year-old singer-songwriter's home studio in Minnesota. A publicist later confirmed that Prince had died.

Prince is in Toronto to play a pair of shows tonight.

It's not his hometown city, but one that seems to hold a special place in his heart.

Manuela Testolini and singer Prince are seen attending the 77th Academy Awards in Los Angeles in February 2005. The couple filed for divorce the following year. (Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press)

"I love Toronto," he told The Canadian Press a decade ago, in an interview that was printed in the Toronto Star.

Praising the city as "cosmopolitan," he talked about the variety of people that live within Toronto and its nightlife — including its music scene and its restaurants.

"It's a real melting pot in every sense of the word," he said of the city.

In return, the city has loved him back.

When Prince played a show at the old Warehouse back in 1997, long lines of fans waited to see him play, just as they did at at Massey Hall in November, when a rumour the Purple One was playing a show turned out not to be true.

"Very short, but very, very sexy. We love him," said one fan, who described the singer to CBC News while she waited outside ahead of the 1997 show, which was a warm-up for a longer tour.

In the early- and mid-2000s, he was married to a Torontonian, Manuela Testolini. It was a pairing that led to Prince spending time in the city.

It was during this period that Prince recorded the album Musicology. Media reports from that time indicated the recording work was done in Toronto. But the jacket of the CD only lists recording work at Mississauga's Metalworks Studios, as well as additional work in Minnesota, his home state, and New York.

The back cover of Prince's album Musicology includes this photo of the artist in front of some iconic Toronto buildings. (Prince)

He and Testolini would later split, filing a petition for divorce in July of 2006, according to People magazine.

Over the years, Prince has reportedly been spotted at Raptors games, or even taking to a stage on occasion — including as a DJ.

A Toronto Star feature story from April 2004 described the sequence of events that would typically occur before Prince would drop in to a downtown club. "Prince's security calls ahead, checks things out, then the singer takes a low-key spot, either alone or with his wife, and sips coffee, Amaretto on ice or Merlot through a straw," the paper reported.

Prince was spotted attending a Raptors game back in January of 2002, a time period in which he was married to a woman from Toronto, Manuela Testolini, and reported to be spending some of his time in the city. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

But that's not even the end of Prince's connection to Toronto. A member of his current project and sometime backing band is Donna Grantis, who plays guitar in 3rdEyeGirl, the band that has recently been playing with Prince.

A bio on her website describes how Grantis moved to Toronto after earning a jazz performance degree at McGill University.

Living in Toronto, Grantis became an "in-demand studio musician," she went on tour and she fronted a band of her own.

She ended up joining 3rdEyeGirl after they came across her work on the Internet.


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