It’s been a few months since the passing of pop icon Prince, who died in April at the age of 57. His loss was shattering, especially to those around him. Saxophonist Marcus Anderson was one of those people.
For four years, Anderson was a member of Prince’s New Power Generation band. The Purple One saw a video of Anderson doing his thing, and immediately flew him to Minnesota, where he began recording with him and eventually took him along on tour.
“I still think of him and think of his life every day of the week,” says Anderson, 31, as he travels to Atlanta for a performance. “There hasn’t been a day that goes by that I don’t really think about it. I guess that with it happening so abruptly, there’s no, like, preparation. It’s not like he died of old age or anything like that. It happened all of the sudden. So there’s a shock factor that goes with it. And I think, more than anything, it almost feels like a life has been robbed, you know, from this world.”
Anderson tries not to focus on the negative aspects regarding Prince’s death that media has documented. (“Not everything that comes out in the media is actual fact or true,” he says. “It’s just whatever they put out.”) Instead, he prefers to remember the good times. “There were so many,” he says. “He would always just kind of, like, playfully poke fun. We did a show one night and he called up for a solo. And I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna do something special.’ So I did this little James Brown slide up to the front of the stage. The next night, we were at rehearsal and he stopped us in the middle of playing a song and he said, ‘Did y’all see Marcus last night? He did the James Brown up to the microphone. Whose show do he think this is?’ It was kind of funny and everybody laughed.”
As much as he misses his former boss, Anderson is continuing his career as a solo artist. Born in Spartanburg, S.C., and based in Cary, the N.C. Central University grad dropped his latest release, an album of inspirational music aptly titled “My Inspiration, Vol. 1,” earlier this year.
“I’ve been wanting to do an inspirational album for some years now,” he says. “My travels weren’t in the way but, in a sense, you kind of make time for what you really want. And like me having a church and a spiritual background, I really needed to take time and give it to God.” He also wanted to release an inspirational album for our troubled, violent times. “I really needed to give this inspirational album, not just for me but for the people I felt like it would bless.”
“Inspiration” is a complete 180 from his last album, 2015’s “AND Coffee,” full of java-themed tunes that also coincided with Anderson selling his own line of coffee flavors, also called “AND Coffee.” A frequent consumer of energy drinks, Anderson took to coffee only recently. “If you drink more than one energy drink in a day, you’ll notice a side effect – something they call the shakes,” he says. A friend told him to switch over to drinking joe and, after that, he never looked back. “As I was drinking the coffee, I just started writing music about coffee.”
For Triangle folk who want to consume more of this sax-blowing entrepreneur, he will be one of many artists performing this weekend at the two-day African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County in downtown Raleigh. He and his band will be doing a Prince tribute, as well as reminding everyone that African-American gatherings are usually off-the-chain.
“African-Americans – you know, we aren’t violent, as the media may say,” he says. “We like to come together and have great fun. So, we’re just gonna show the world that, hey, we can have good, clean fun.”
What: Marcus Anderson at the 2016 African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County
When: 6:45 p.m. Saturday
Where: City Plaza, 400 Fayetteville St., Raleigh
Info: 919-833-0140 or aacfestival.org