Thursday, April 21, 2016
Prince Rogers Nelson aka Prince aka the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. What is there to say about him? The man was a genius. Not just as a songwriter, a producer, a performer, and a musician. He was a lot of things and more. The man was essentially it. In a decade that was defined by superstars and icons, it can be debated on who was the bigger star yet Prince was undoubtedly a man in his own world in terms of his showmanship and the fact that he could play like a motherfucker. Some said he was a bit like James Brown in terms of being a performer. Some said he was like Stevie Wonder for the fact that he could play so many instruments and be so gifted. Some said he was like Little Richard in terms of flamboyance and showmanship. Some said that he was a bit like Jimi Hendrix in terms of his skills as a guitarist. Yet, he’s all of those things but he is Prince.
For anyone born in the 1980s such as myself as there was always one or maybe more that people loved. Though for me as a kid, it depended on who I was into at the time in the age of MTV. Whether it was David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Talking Heads, the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, and the Cars. Prince was also part of that circle as songs like When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy, Little Red Corvette, 1999, and Raspberry Beret were part of that soundtrack of songs I was listening to at age of three to five. Once I would grow up as so many things were happening and I was in elementary school, Prince was still around though the kids were more into hip-hop and hair metal but I still thought Prince was cool. Once I became a teenager and the music I was listening to and would become part of the soundtrack of my life were Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Metallica, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers but Prince was still around as he had songs I liked at the time like 7 and Cream.
I think once I got into my 20s where it was around the time where I had fully immersed myself into the music of Bowie and other older acts like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, New Order/Joy Division, the Clash, and several other acts along with NIN and Radiohead. Prince was someone I was also starting to re-discover but also go into deep into his work as I believe his work from Dirty Mind in 1980 to the original bootleg release of The Black Album in 1987 are his most defining work and a must for any fan of music. Though much of his output after that would have some great moments, they were also moments that were spotty as it’s hard to say if any of the albums he made after that were as good as classics like Dirty Mind, 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign “O” the Times. Albums like Controversy, Around the World in a Day, Parade, and The Black Album had other things to offer as it showed that Prince, like Bowie, wouldn’t be confined to one genre.
While it is obvious that Prince and Bowie are similar and probably were admirers to each other, for anyone that know that a couple of Prince’s songs like Cream and Peach are based on the work of Marc Bolan as it seems like Prince is more of a Bolan fan than of Bowie’s. This is just one of the aspects of Prince that is unique where he can do straight-up 70s glam but also do soul in a song like Money Don’t Matter 2 Night. There was no boundaries in the man while the persona he created was probably more eccentric than Bowie’s from his first appearance on American Bandstand where he didn’t say a word during his interview with Dick Clark to the time he opened for the Rolling Stones during their 1981 U.S. tour where he was wear black underwear, stiletto boots, ass-less chaps, and all sorts of crazy shit during the tour for Dirty Mind where he withstood the boos and catcalls he received.
During that time where I was learning more about him, I realized how way ahead of his time he was while also being very dangerous which is lacking severely in pop music. The line “am I black or white?/Am I straight or gay?” in the title track to Controversy was quite racy for its time while a song as catchy as Little Red Corvette was just as shocking with that line “she’s got a pocket full of Trojans, some of them used”. As a kid, I thought the song was about a car but once I grew up into my 20s and realized what it was about. I was like “Oh!” as I couldn’t believe that got played on the radio and MTV. Once the years went by where Prince’s eccentricities tended to sort of overwhelm the music. I had become a casual admirer of his work while accepting his eccentricities since geniuses are allowed to be eccentric. Still, that didn’t deter me from enjoying his music or his performances such as the one he gave at the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 where he basically gave one of the best guitar solos on the Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps where he performed the song with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne in celebration of George Harrison.
Then in February of 2007, he gave what I think is the definitive Super Bowl halftime show performance as he pretty much took every performer before and since to school. There’s great shows but Prince just goes all out in not just doing the hits but also a medley of covers and did something that can be defined as Godlike. Very few can do that. Freddie Mercury did that in Live Aid back in 1985. Prince did that in February 2007. There will never be the likes of that ever. Plus, for someone as serious as Prince is as it comes to his music. There was a man who also had a sense of humor.
One of my favorite thing that related to Prince is a skit from In Living Color which was an add for Prince’s butt-out jeans where Jamie Foxx is Prince and said some of the funniest shit that I have ever heard. It’s a skit that I constantly watch and it never gets old. Then of course, there’s the legendary Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Story on Prince on the Chappelle Show in which Dave Chappelle played Prince. It is a must-see as it all revolves around a basketball game between Charlie Murphy’s boys vs. Prince and his boys where it was shirts vs. blouses.
There’s a lot of songs of Prince that I’m sure many love aside from the hits. My favorite album is Sign “O” the Times as it is just nuts in terms of what he was able to do musically in different genres where it also had so much to say. It’s an album that belongs in that list of great double-albums such as The White Album, Exile on Main St., Quadrophenia, The Wall, London Calling, and The Fragile. It’s not just the songs on the album that are so special but the way it flows and talks about elements of spirituality, social issues, love, and other things that can be serious as well as humorous. The fact that he no longer exists nor will be doing any shows or make any albums is unthinkable. Especially as it just adds more sadness to a year that isn’t very good at all. I guess the only thing to say to Prince is thank you for the music and the memories.
R.I.P. Prince Rogers Nelson
© thevoid99 2016