The time Prince gave a free suprise concert at a private college for deaf & handicapped students.
1. Let's Go Crazy
4. Little Red Corvette
“Be glad that you are free; there’s many a man who is not. Be glad for what you got,”
“God made you. God made me. He made us all equally.”
7. When Doves Cry
8. Baby I'm A Star
9. Purple Rain
Prince was at the top of his game when he came to Washington in the fall of 1984. “Purple Rain” was one of the biggest albums and movies of the year, and he performed an astonishing seven concerts at Landover’s Capital Centre — selling out all of them — over the course of two weeks. But before he left, he stopped off at Washington’s Gallaudet University, a private college for the deaf. We have republished The Washington Post’s story about his remarkable concert on campus.
In a surprise, free performance at Gallaudet College, Prince, the rock star, dazzled and thrilled about 2,500 handicapped students from the campus and the city’s public schools yesterday afternoon.
There were blind students who could not see him. There were deaf students who could only feel the vibrations of the songs that have made Prince one of the country’s most popular performers. But none of that seemed to matter.
As Prince performed, often smiling and grinning as he played, hundreds of students raised their hands with thumbs, index and baby fingers extended and the two middle ones curved inward to tell him in sign language, “I love you.”
For Prince, the controversial performer whose risque “Purple Rain” tour has sold out a record seven concerts at the Capital Centre, the show was a bit toned down, apparently for the young “special” audience.
Promoters said Prince requested to do the show for handicapped students who would not otherwise be able to see or hear him perform. It was his second charitable appearance this week.
On Tuesday night he was the featured guest at a reception held to raise money for maverick Chicago educator Marva Collins and Big Brothers of America, which has more than 1,000 black males in D.C. waiting to be matched with role models, spokesmen said.
Prince wore a psychedelic crushed velvet Edwardian suit. Later, he threw his white glove, and some of his jewelry into the crowd. Members of his back-up band, The Revolution, tossed flowers and masks to the excited students, many of whom did not learn of the concert until yesterday morning shortly before they boarded for the trip to the quiet campus.
Several interpreters for the deaf, standing on podiums throughout the Gallaudet field house, translated the lyrics, danced and tried to convey what Prince meant when he screamed, screeched and plucked his guitar’s strings.
“I had a lot of fun. I felt his music,” Angela Maxey, 18, a deaf student at Gallaudet, said through an interpreter. “I couldn’t hear the words, but I could feel the vibrations. Deaf people really appreciate and love loud music.”
The interpreter, Joyce Doblmier, said, “Some deaf students have dim hearing ability and can hear when” the music is pounded into their eardrums. “They can’t feel the notes, but they can feel the rhythms.”
Joan Lee, the wife of the president of Gallaudet College, and several students presented gifts to the 26-year-old performer. Then Prince and The Revolution took to the stage for an encore rendition of the moody “Purple Rain.”
In all he played more than a dozens songs and melodies, including “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” and “When Doves Cry.” Noticeably missing were his more erotic songs.
“He didn’t really go all out like he has before,” said Warren Graves, 19, a Prince fan and a student at Spingarn High School who said he recently overcame emotional problems that interfered with his ability to learn. “He really respected these young kids.”
During several songs, Prince emphasized phrases as if trying to motivate the handicapped youths, often discriminated against, ostractized and left out of normal activities.
“Be glad that you are free; there’s many a man who is not. Be glad for what you got,” he sang at one point. And later he sang, “God made you. God made me. He made us all equally.”
“The whole performance was touching,” said Carol Kirkendall, whose G Street Express company has promoted the Prince tour. “I’ve seen many shows and he was really at his best. I know that he was touched, you could sense it.”
By Edward D. Sargent
November 30, 1984
Prince performing at Gallaudet University on November 29, 1984 (Photo: Courtesy of the Gallaudet University Archives)
Fans all over the world are mourning the sudden death of Prince Rogers Nelson on April 21, 2016, the singular musical genius who masterfully blended rock, R&B, jazz, funk and pop. But did you know that Washington, D.C. played host to one of his most unique and inspiring performances? At the very pinnacle of his fame during the massively popular "Purple Rain" tour in 1984, Prince stopped to play a free concert for 1,900 students at Gallaudet University — the world-renowned school for the deaf — and 600 special needs students from D.C.-area schools.
By the time Prince's tour rolled into D.C. in November 1984, he had already scored two number 1 hits on the Billboard pop singles charts ("When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy"), and "Purple Rain" was also climbing the charts (landing eventually at #2). The album Purple Rain had also reached #1 and sold over 13 million copies by the end of the year. Prince (and The Revolution) were filling large arenas around the country, and he was scheduled to play an amazing seven consecutive sold out shows at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD. But before he left the Washington area, Prince had something very special in mind.
Working with legendary D.C.-area concert promoters Darryll Brooks and Carol Kirkendall, Prince arranged a surprise, free concert on the campus of Gallaudet University for November 29, 1984. According to the Washington Post, Prince requested to do the show for disabled students who would not otherwise be able to see or hear him perform. The performance was actually Prince's second charitable endeavor of the week — he also made a guest appearance at a fundraising event for Big Brothers of America.
Although, according to the Washington Post, some of Prince's more risqué lyrics were "toned down" for this unique audience, Prince put on a full-length show including hits like "1999," "Little Red Corvette," and "When Doves Cry" in the tiny Gallaudet Field House. American Sign Language interpreters were on hand to help the deaf crowd get into the music, but the loud pounding vibrations provided their own universal language. As one of the Gallaudet students told The Post through an interpreter: "I had a lot of fun. I felt his music," said Angela Maxey, 18. "I couldn’t hear the words, but I could feel the vibrations. Deaf people really appreciate and love loud music."
Towards the end of the show Joan Lee, the wife of the president of Gallaudet College, and several students presented gifts to the 26-year-old performer. Then Prince returned to the stage for a rousing encore of the anthemic "Purple Rain." Speaking to the Washington Post concert promoter Darryll Brooks later recalled of the show: "I never seen so many hardcore road [crew] guys start crying ... I think even Prince broke a tear. It was one of those moments that those kids would never forget. And Prince wrote the check for the whole thing."