The greatest artist who ever lived.

That’s how Marshall Charloff describes Prince, the acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who hailed from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and whose career spanned decades across 39 albums featuring hits like “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Little Red Corvette.”  

A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist himself, Charloff has a special connection to the memory of Prince — Charloff performs as a tribute artist to the late musician, bringing the spirit of Prince to life on stage through the Purple Xperience, a five member group featuring Charloff on lead vocals, Tracey Blake on lead guitar, Ron Long on bass, Ron Caron on drums and Cory Eischen on keys. 

The Purple Xperience was born from a performance at a 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame benefit. Charloff took the stage with Matt Fink, known professionally as Doctor Fink, who played keyboards in Prince’s band, The Revolution. The duo performed a couple of songs by Prince with Charloff on lead vocals, and the two clicked on stage, posing the question of whether they could make the performances a regular occurrence. 

Fink met with Prince to discuss the possible tribute collaboration. 

“Prince’s preference was that we honor the music and make it all about the music, less about the imagery and the costuming,” Charloff said. “And that’s what we try to do.”

Since 2011, the Purple Xperience has brought a live performance that embodies the spirit of Prince to stages across the country. 

“There’s tremendous purpose in doing these shows, especially after April 21, 2016,” Charloff said, referring to the day Prince died. “There’s a torch to carry, so I feel purposeful.” 

Charloff will bring that purpose to the concert lawn at the Buford Community Center for a free show at 7:30 p.m. June 12. 

“I hope people can let their hair down, that they can just kind of lose themselves in the moment, forget about everything else going on around them,” Charloff said of the upcoming show. “Let’s take a time machine back and celebrate each other and this music and the greatest artist that ever lived.” 

While June 12 will be the first time the Purple Xperience performs at the community center, the group is no stranger to the Buford area. Charloff said 37 Main in Buford was one of the first venues the group played dating back to 2011 when the Purple Xperience got its start. 

“As we got way too big for 37 Main, we didn’t care, we just kept coming back,” Charloff said. “We have a relationship with that community. It’s strong.”

Following the June 12 performance at the Buford Community Center, Charloff will return in July for a show at 37 Main on the 17th performing a solo tribute to Prince.

Charloff is also a solo artist, and he released a new album “Unperfect” earlier this year. The smooth jazz album features a song written with Prince’s half-sister, Sharon Nelson, titled “Colours.”  

The collaboration came about after Charloff found out Nelson had been tweeting about him on social media. He invited Nelson to a rare Minneapolis show, where the two connected, and she, in turn, invited Charloff to her home. There, Nelson told Charloff she had visions of the two working together and that she had received a melody in her sleep. She played the melody on a piano and asked Charloff to work with the tune and eventually produce it. She told him, “Don’t question, just do it.” 

“I wrote the lyrics in like 10 minutes, went home, wrote the rest of the progression, and very quickly sent it back to her,” Charloff recalls. 

The song “Colours” can be found on all music streaming platforms, along with the album “Unperfect.” 

If you go

  • What: The Purple Xperience
  • When: 7:30 p.m. June 12 
  • Where: Buford Community Center concert lawn, 2200 • Buford Highway, Buford 
  • Cost: Free 
  • For more information: Call 770-904-2740 or visit bufordcommunitycenter.com
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Deanna Allen has served as editor of the North Gwinnett Voice since June 2021. Effective communication and creative design are her passions.

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