ESSENCE Fest Headliner Maxwell Remembers Prince as 'The Greatest'

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The R&B star shares his private memories of the legendary Prince, who he always told, "All of our careers are our careers because of you." 

Maxwell paid his own special tribute to Prince when he performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival just two days after the legend's death on April 21. "During 'This Woman's Work,' I went into 'Dearly beloved, we are gathered here...' and then 'Sometimes It Snows in April,' and the crowd went nuts. The most important thing was being able to tell the crowd to look up into the sky with his symbol there and say, 'I love you, Prince.'"

Like many artists, the neo-soul man—who is one of the headlining performers at the 2016 ESSENCE Festival, held June 30-July 3 in New Orleans—owes a huge debt to His Royal Badness. "Every time I [saw] him, I said to him, 'All of our careers are our careers because of you,' because of the courageousness to be unflinchingly himself," says Maxwell. "In this day and age, no one does that."

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Maxwell will always treasure his special memories and memorabilia of Prince. "He flew to Paris with Spike Lee when I did my show in Paris, when I was 23 years old," recalls Maxwell, whose new single "Lake by the Ocean" previews his long-awaited album blackSUMMERS'night, due July 1. "He purposely didn't tell me he was in the room."

Also, Maxwell says, "I have a note that he sent me when I was about to do my show in Minneapolis. I framed it, and it hangs on the wall in the studio in my house, because it's just his handwriting."

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And Maxwell will never forget the last time he saw Prince, who was performing a private show in New York City two months ago. "My last interaction with him was just like, 'You are the greatest, and thank you so much for making us have what you gave.' He was like, 'Aw, you know, I ain't nothing,' just as humble as he could be. And then of course he was like, 'Okay, I just want the two girls to be upstairs. Everybody [else] downstairs!'"

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