Prince’s protégée Judith Hill has spoken out about the moment her hero lost consciousness on a private jet, forcing them to make an emergency landing just six days before his death.
The 32-year-old singer was one of the three passengers on board that plane (which also included Prince’s pal Kirk Johnson). And talking to the New York Times, Hill recalled the moment she realized something was seriously wrong.
“His eyes fixed,” she said of Prince, just before he nodded off across the table from her. “Thankfully, I happened to be looking into his face,” she added, explaining that otherwise she would have assumed he was just sleeping.
Once she and Johnson realized they could not rouse the Purple Rain hitmaker, they radioed for help in Chicago.
“We knew it was only a matter of time; we had to get down,” she continued. “We didn’t have anything on the plane to help him.”
Paramedics met the plane after it made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, and the musical icon was given a shot of Narcan, a drug used to treat opioid overdoses.
By the time the star arrived at Trinity Moline hospital, Hill says, he was awake, adding he was “very cooperative” and “serious about getting help.”
The late legend told his protégée he knew he’d had a lucky escape, adding, “I had to fight for my life. I remember hearing your voices from afar and saying to myself, ‘Follow the voices, follow the voices, get back in your body, you gotta to do this.'”
“He said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done, to get back into his body like that,” she said.
Hill was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, and had worked with Prince since 2014 (the star having produced her debut album, Back in Time, last year).
The singer described her relationship with Prince as “very intense” when asked if it had been a romantic partnership. “I deeply cared for him,” she added. “He told me that he loved me and that he would always be there for me.”
Despite their closeness, Hill says she was “unaware” of his struggles with pain.
“He was quick on his feet,” she said. “Never said anything, that this is hurting, never a sign of struggle. That’s why it’s all very shocking.”
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