Thousands of fans of Prince have gathered for a vigil in Los Angeles after the pop icon was found dead in his home in suburban Minneapolis. He was 57.

A local sheriff said that police deputies called to Prince's studio found the superstar unresponsive in an elevator at his home on Thursday. Attempts to resuscitate the singer failed, the sheriff told the Associated Press news agency.

An autopsy was scheduled for Friday.

The Minneapolis native rose to fame in the late 1970s with the hits I Wanna Be Your Lover and Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?, and soared over the following decade with such albums as 1999 and Purple Rain.

He was widely acclaimed as one of the most inventive musicians of his era.

The title song from the album 1999 includes one of the most widely quoted refrains of popular culture: "Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999."

Prince was found unresponsive at his Minnesota home and was later declared dead, his publicist said [Lucas Jackson/Reuters]

The man born Prince Rogers Nelson stood just 1.57m and seemed to summon the most original and compelling sounds at will, whether playing guitar in a flamboyant style that openly drew upon Jimi Hendrix, switching his vocals from a nasally scream to an erotic falsetto or turning out album after album of stunningly original material.

During last year's Grammy awards, he showed his political side, speaking up for racial justice and for long-format recordings.  

"Albums still matter. Like books and black lives, albums still matter," he said.

Fiercely independent 

He was also fiercely protective of his independence, battling his record company over control of his material and even his name.

Prince once wrote "slave" on his face in protest at not owning his work and famously battled and then departed from his label, Warner Bros, before returning a few years ago.

In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame, which hailed him as a musical and social trailblazer.

"He rewrote the rule book, forging a synthesis of black funk and white rock that served as a blueprint for cutting-edge music in the Eighties," reads the Hall's dedication.

"Prince made dance music that rocked and rock music that had a bristling, funky backbone. From the beginning, Prince and his music were androgynous, sly, sexy and provocative."

Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in 2004, which hailed him as a musical and social trailblazer [Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters]

The singer's death came two weeks after he cancelled concerts in Atlanta because he was not feeling well. 

A small group of fans quickly gathered in the rain on Thursday outside his music studio, Paisley Park, where Prince's gold records are on the walls and the purple motorcycle he rode in his 1984 breakout movie, Purple Rain, is on display.

The white building, surrounded by a fence, is about 30km southwest of Minneapolis.

Steven Scott, 32, of Eden Prairie, said he was at Paisley Park last Saturday for Prince's dance party. He called Prince "a beautiful person" whose message was that people should love one another.

"He brought people together for the right reasons," Scott said.

Music journalist: Prince's death 'a terrible surprise'

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies