It is likely one of those moments I’ll always remember when someone would ever ask me: “where were you when you heard the news?” I was at home and hadn’t gone to my regular hot yoga class and I got a message from my dear friend Rick and fellow Funk Fanatic from Lowlands country. ‘Sweetie, Prince is dead’. No! I said aloud. I immediately checked social media and it seemed to be true. First sentiment was disbelief. He can’t be dead. People of that level of genius, of such exception, they don’t die. They live on forever. And that might sound naff, that doesn’t make it untrue.
This legend of miniature stature started out in the late 70s when his genius was immediately evident. He released his first album, when he was 19, which he had written, composed, arranged and recorded entirely by himself (with the exception of one song). It was a collection of funky synth- disco-pop with here and there a jazzy influence. In 1984 he released the album Purple Rain as the soundtrack to the film with the same name loosely based on his life starring Prince himself. That album would cement his place in music and rock history and made him a super star. Back then I liked the music, but I didn’t understand the man as a phenomenon with his flamboyant and quite feminine clothes and what I considered pervy behaviour. A couple of albums later Prince released the double album Sign o’ Times to which I connected a lot better, but it was the next album, LoveSexy, – not the Black Album- that truly drew me in. The odd thing is that an artist’s passing seems to increase interest in his or her work and after I heard of his death LoveSexy, was the first album I played. I had forgotten how upbeat and positive the album is and it is a wonderful album to start a tribute to the legend that is Prince.
Prince was a innovative and very prolific musician. To me the basis of Prince’s music is funk, yet his music is so much more than that. Prince is also considered a rock artist and has incorporated disco, hip hop, orchestral music and other musical genres in his work. Legend has it that on average he wrote, composed, arranged and recorded one song per day. Due to his incredible productivity he wanted to release a lot more material then he was allowed to by his record company and he started a campaign against Warner brothers in the early 90s. He changed his name to a symbol, which is known as the Love Symbol, to deny his record company the ownership of his name and his work. When Prince’s contract with his slave owner expired, he started releasing music under his birth name again and via his own internet subscription service. He initially rejected the internet as a music distribution service, but embraced it later on as a way to have ownership of his work. He successfully challenged services like Youtube and E-bay and it has been difficult to find his work outside channels that are not approved or controlled by him ever since.
Besides his own studio albums Prince made several live albums and plenty of music for other artists. It is said he has a vault stocked to brim with material for at least another 40 albums. He seldom gave interviews and was seen as a bit of an enigma. I think this was an image he actively promoted, although many have said he was a down to earth and very funny character. The themes of sex and religion are quite prominent, especially in his early music and later on in life he became a Jehovah’s Witness.
Exact causes to is recent death are rather unclear. It might be the ‘denial phase’, but it feels it was by no means his time to go. Something or someone robbed Prince of a life on this plane and us of his genius. He formed the soundtrack to my youth. He taught me that flamboyant weirdness can be cool. He showed the sexiness of being consumed by your art and showmanship. He gave an example of art in action; art as doing, because one must. He learnt from Sly Stone and created his own groove, or several for that matter. Mr. Prince Roger Nelson, you’re a true Legend, a Star, a Genius, a Healer and I wish to thank you so very much for all the Funky Deliciousness you have given to this world. I am sure you are keeping it up with Michael, James, Amy and all the others up in the Summer Land.