Musician Prince performs during the "Pepsi Halftime Show" at Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on Feb. 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty

'This can't be real': Fans, celebrities mourn Prince's death

— Updated

Tributes to Prince poured in Thursday after his publicist confirmed the prolific pop singer, whose superstardom spanned more than three decades, had died.

"He was someone who combined not just rock and roll and R&B and funk, but he combined the traditions of protest music with dance music," Joe Levy, contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine and host of "Incoming" on Spotify, told NBC News.

"He is someone whose creativity continued undiminished."

Fellow musicians were in disbelief that the 57-year-old, known for classics such as "Little Red Corvette" and "Purple Rain," had died.

"It's really surreal," Aretha Franklin said on MSNBC. "I was coming out of my hotel and the doorman stopped me and asked me had I heard about Prince and it just blew me away. Unbelievable."

"There truly was only one Prince," she said.

"Numb. Stunned. This can't be real," tweeted Justin Timberlake.

"I can't believe it, I'm in total shock," tweeted Lionel Richie.

A statement from President Barack Obama read in part: "Today, the world lost a creative icon. Michelle and I join millions of fans from around the world in mourning the sudden death of Prince.

"'A strong spirit transcends rules,' Prince once said -- and nobody's spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative."‎

Prince's legacy endured because his work was "groundbreaking," Levy said.

"His live performances were never less than mesmerizing and when he turned up for Grammy or Super Bowl performances, he set the bar that other people had to keep up with," he said. "He was making the music that everyone, no matter what kind of music they made, had to keep up with."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson told the Associated Press that Prince "was a transformer," praising the musician for fighting for the freedom of artists and for himself.

"Prince" quickly rose to one of the top trending topics on Twitter, with devotees quoting his music and mourning the loss of the seven-time Grammy Award winner.

"Tonight we're going to party like it's 2016, THE WORST YEAR EVER," tweeted one.

Musician Nile Rodgers tweeted: "I'll never forget my brother."

Director Spike Lee, who shared a photo of himself and Prince on Instagram and wrote, "I Miss My Brother. Prince Was a Funny Cat. Great Sense of Humor."

The Recording Academy said of the seven-time Grammy Award-winning music icon, "Never one to conform, he redefined and forever changed our musical landscape. Prince was an original who influenced so many, and his legacy will live on forever. We have lost a true innovator."

Celebrities and admirers shared their remembrances on social media:

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