The Purple One
It is hard to believe that one of the greatest musicians of the last 40 years who died on April 21, 2016, has been gone from this earth for 13 almost 14 days now. No one really imagined a world without him. He seemed immortal. On that faithful day, we realized he wasn't! I am sure lots of you remember where you were when you heard the news. I know I do. I was in a hotel room working on a story and of all people my dad told me. That says a lot. My dad is a retired 66-year-old man who happen to know that Prince died!
My first reaction was shock and I checked on sites like TMZ and Twitter and I knew it was true….the most innovative musician of a generation has departed. Questions begin to fill the news cycles about where, how, why and what he did up to his last days. Millions of tributes poured in and massive tears were cried. One thing that took me back to basics was his music. I thought of how Insatiable made me feel sexy or how The Most Beautiful girl made me question if I could be. Not only was Prince a genius with the 20 plus instruments he could bring music to life with, but he was also as prolific with the words he wrote.
The beautiful thing about music is how it makes you remember certain periods of time. Prince was innovative and so different than other artists in that he could write, produce, play, his own music then perform it like a one-man show. If you went to a Prince concert or even watch a Prince concert you could not help but be captivated by his aura. He may have been 5'4 in frame but his aura was out of this world and arguably, bigger than life. We could talk about the way he oozed sex appeal, the way he selectively cascaded decadent falsettos, or the way he wielded the strings of an electronic guitar, but he was so much more than that. He made and lived by his own rules. He create his own persona and dared people who question who he was. He was a master of commanding a stage and an audience but a master at the art of mystery and mystique, which made you want to know more. As much as he demanded attention on stage he craved his privacy offstage. The most fascinating thing about him was that you couldn't put him bottle him in one category and I think he wanted it that way.
He evolved over his forty year career. Learning to play 20 plus instruments by the age of 17, Prince was known as a seemingly quiet and shy soul to those who grew up with him. He didn't have the most quaint of beginnings coming from a broken home. Prince actually played basketball, but his height hindered him from getting fair playtime, although his coach said he was pretty good. Prince grew up in Minnesota and stayed true to his roots by maintaining a home there until the day he died. Prince always gravitated towards music. He could write, produce, sing, and most impressively play his own instruments. He was the definition of a "true artist." Some say he often knew he would make it he just didn't know how being from Minnesota. The state wasn't known for discovering someone as talented as Prince. Once Prince got a manager, his demo was sent to several record labels and several expressed interested. He and his manager met with Warner Brothers and Prince's manager said after the meeting, Prince told him no one was producing his album but him. Warner Brothers gave him the go ahead and he produced his first album, For You. He wrote, produced, song, performed, arranged, and composed all the tunes on the album. It was heavily critically received but the effort had lackluster success. Prince would go on to released the albums, Dirty Mind, Controversy, and 1999. Each having more and more success which prepared him for the album and would be movie of the same name that would becoming a cult classic.
Purple Rain was the song and movie that solidified Prince as a superstar. After that Prince became a household name and began to be compared to the likes of Michael Jackson, Jemi Hendrix, and James Brown. In the 1990's, Prince became embroiled in what would be a decades long contract war with Warner Brothers. In 1994, Prince changed his named to an unpronounceable symbol, often known as the Love Symbol because Warner Brothers had trademarked his name. He began to put out records at a faster pace to be relived of his contractual obligation to the record company. He began to be referred to as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince." He a plethora of music during this time. Once his contract expired, he began to use his name Prince again.
From 2000 up until 2016, Prince began to experiment with various ways of distributing his music. He didn't fully embrace the internet and was vigilant in taking down any unauthorized music or performances of himself online, especially Youtube. He was fully aware of being in control and being paid for any of his publishing and musical efforts. He was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. In 2007, he performed one of the most memorable performances at the Super Bowl. In the later years, he began to slowly embrace the internet distribution allowing certain places distribute his music digitally.
Of course, if you have been keeping up you have heard of the way he died, which reports are seemingly pointing to a "secret opiate addiction." From the fight over possibly 1 billion dollars plus fortune and those obsessed with up to the minute coverage of how he died, this article isn't really meant for you. This is a short homage being paid to a person who was more than just an entertainer, but a fixture that will live on forever. His body of work, the charitable things he did anonymously, and the way he transfixed a generation will be talked about for years to come. Prince was once asked by Prince what he would want to be remembered for and in a monotone voice and just as mysterious and fascinating as he was he replied in one word, "Music." That is what we choose to remember him by. The music!!!!!