RIP Prince Rogers Nelson - You Are Already Missed
If you missed the tragic news today, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, I could not be sadder to report that Prince Rogers Nelson passed away at the age of 57 (I have not seen the details but he had been suffering from a strain of the flu bad enough to force his plane to make an unscheduled landing a week ago).
I loved Prince so much that I had an "Under The Cherry Moon" poster on my college dorm room wall.
Think about that for a second, I was not just repping Prince, I was repping "Under The Cherry Moon," (and, I can still recite dialog from that movie).
Prince is what I would call one of the ONLY five-tool players in the history of music:
1) He had multi-octave vocal range and an incredible falsetto
2) He wrote all of his own music (and was so prolific that he wrote hit songs for many other artists too)
3) He played multiple instruments well. He was a wonderful guitarist with incredibly clean fingering, there was a cleanness to his sound and a purity, it sounded like it was pouring straight from him through his instrument. He was also a great pianist, but he just got music, he could probably play anything.
4) He could dance and was an electric performer, everyone who has been to a Prince show can attest to his ability to fill anything from an auditorium to an intimate venue with his magnetism and passion. Dude was 5 feet something but he could fill entire arena's with his coy smiles and pure joy in music.
5) He was a mentor, manager, and collaborator with many musicians and many bands (too many to list but The Time comes to mind).
Add to that, his movie career started off so well that he was allowed to continue to make movies that became, and I am being kind because I love the man, increasingly hard to watch.
His music was many times, incredibly beautiful and moving. It could make you laugh, cry, dance, or think.
And maybe more important than any of that, he was very much his own unique person, very unlike anyone else I have ever seen or met, and never apologized or made any excuses for who he was. He never felt a need to explain to the world who he was. He mostly let his music do the talking.
His Own Prince
Prince was wearing his own one-of-a-kind styles, designing his own guitars, saying what he wanted to say, performing what he wanted to perform, and even changing his name to a symbol rather than ever give in to the powers that be (Warner Brothers Records). He is, to my knowledge, the only massive star who refused to go along quietly during the post-Napster reconfiguration (I suspect to his own financial detriment) because he didn't agree with the splits (and I don't mean the literal splits he did on stage that often made me wonder how he still had operative groin muscles).
He also made people feel comfortable about looking different. He always seemed to be comfortable showing a feminine side to himself but never in a way that suggested he was playing a game or engaging in exploitation. As with everything else, he did what he felt. He was who he was.
Hell, I didn't even always understand what the hell he was talking about, but I still searched out every (rare) interview and tried to decipher every seemingly coded word (usually him ranting against the record industry in whatever its current form was).
He often made it nearly impossible to find his music online (or even in stores) throughout the last decade, but I still loved him for it (does anyone remember when you had to order music from Prince's people for a bit). Few people would go to the lengths Prince would go to do things his own way. I never remember one time hearing about him compromising on principle. Prince knew he was going to be okay and that he could afford to do things the way he wanted to, so he did. Always.
Most would categorize Prince as a funk artist, and that is fair. But, Prince was alternative in the truest possible way and in attitude, he was Punk as Punk can be. He told everyone they would only get what he was willing to share and that they either had to accept him as he was or fuck off.
When Charlie Murphy did his "True Hollywood Story" about Prince on Chapelle Show, we all laughed, but for me, the notion that Prince played basketball in heels and ate pancakes after the game just seemed 100% Prince.
Even Charlie Murphy, who started the story with a touch of macho confusion, was forced to just accept that Prince was Prince.
Thank You + RIP Prince
This is the second time in one year a "celebrity" death has really shaken me. I have never visibly been shaken when someone that I did not personally know died until Bowie and Prince.
I have mentioned this before, but I was very unpopular for most of High School. For my sophomore year on, my friend Paul and I found and adopted Prince into our canon. We were both experimenting with how we wanted to present ourselves socially in the world. And, in Oklahoma, we were a bit ahead of the curve with our wearing of punk and (sometimes) gender-role-challenging fashions.
Prince made us feel like you could stand firm and just be who you were. I haven't seen or talked with Paul in decades, but I would be shocked if he wasn't just as saddened by the new today.
Over the years and decades since that first time I heard "I Wanna Be Your Lover" was back around 1984 (it came out in 1979 I just heard it in 1984) I have stayed a true Prince fan. I really never imagined that this could happen, he was a relatively young man with wealth and (I assume) great Doctors. I was a bit worried last week when his plane had to land because he was having complications from the flu, but everything seemed to be okay.
But it wasn't okay, and today we have lost another Giant.
Myself? I will spend the rest of the day listening to my Prince collection on Google Play Music (many moons ago, I actually uploaded all of my CD's as insane as that sounds now). I am definitely going to listen to Dirty Mind, and 1999, and Purple Rain to start off with (Because those were my "jams" back in the day).
I will leave you with this:
"If you wanna buy a Sam Cook album, where would you go?"
Add your own memories with the answer in my comment section or send them on Twitter.
RIP Prince Nelson Rogers, and thanks for all the amazing music and fun! Deep condolences to anyone in Prince's family (and to his friends and band mates over the many years).
I wrote about the Prince album Purple Rain in my All-Time Albums series, you can read those stories about Prince by clicking HERE.
Please feel free to share your memories or thoughts in the comment section, I would love to hear what other people are feeling today (or tomorrow or whenever). If you feel like you need to talk about it, leave a comment!