“My view of the world, you can debate that forever. But I’m a musician. That’s what I do. And I also am music. Come to the show for that”
Once again we find ourselves in the difficult situation of having to attempt to sum up the life of someone who simply cannot be reduced to words on a page. The heartbreaking coincidence that two of modern cultures most influential artists have shuffled off this mortal coil within a four month span is a hard concept to grasp, especially when taken at an age which is simply too young. No artist has quite envisaged the music industry as Prince Rogers Nelson, being a source of inspiration for a plethora of genres and other cultural icons, he is simply one of a kind. There have, and never will be, no others like him since.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 7, 1958, to a musical, albeit broken, family, Prince composed his first song at the age of 7. It would be 12 years later that he would release his debut album ‘For You’ in 1978, after recording some unsuccessful demos. Immediately transcending all genres, ‘For You’ wasn’t an instant hit, with it garnering average reviews, but it was on his second release that everything changed. ‘Prince’, his self-titled second release, was completely recorded and produced by the man himself, save a small addition of vocal harmony from a close friend. It was this album that introduced the world to this incredible talent, one who was a master of any instrument he touched and could manipulate sound however he wished. Over his career he would share the stage with countless artists, and with such perfection and ease he would easily steal the spotlight, be it purposefully or just through natural exuberance.
Of course, the most synonymous album released was ‘Purple Rain’. A record that needs no introduction, written by an artist who was so provocative in his work that the Parental Advisory sticker was created for the album, specifically due to the lyrical content on ‘Darling Nikki’. It would take a number of articles to go into depth about the cultural significance that each release by Prince impacted upon the world, never afraid to approach subjects that would otherwise be branded untouchable by lesser artists, for example ‘Sign O’ The Times’ refers to the AIDS and violence epidemic in America during the 80’s.
Prince’s output was so vast that he simply couldn’t release all the music himself. He’s co-written numerous hits, and hit is an understatement, for various other artists, in particular Sinead O’Connor ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ and The Bangles ‘Manic Monday’. His vaults are a legendary grail of unreleased material, a place that music aficionados and fans alike all vie to even get a mere glimpse of.
Alongside his output, his personality was another area of great interest. Potentially being the most reclusive extrovert to have walked the earth, journalists who interviewed him were unable to record said interviews through fear of leaking bootlegs. Though his persona came across as abrasive, he was in fact an introvert who valued privacy over anything else.
If anything, we should use the career of Prince, and even the late David Bowie, as examples of how to live our lives, be they directly involved in the industry or even in the everyday world. In an issue of the LA Times in 1982 Prince was quoted as saying “The most important thing is to be true to yourself, but I also like danger. That’s what’s missing from pop music today. There’s no excitement or mystery.” With such a large hole now left in the personality of the music industry, will we ever see the likes of Prince again? The mourning should not only be for this great man and musician but the industry he was so gallant at playing at their own game.
There are a plethora of quotes that could be chosen to close an obituary for one of the single most influential artists of our time. Up until his final performance last Thursday, Prince ensured to live by these lyrics from ‘1999’;
“Yeah, everybody’s got a bomb, we could all die any day. But before I’ll let that happen, I’ll dance my life away.”
We should celebrate this year as much as condemn it. It’s made us realise truly how unique and talented the individuals we’ve lost this year are and how we should cherish those that are with us still. We should also strive to keep them alive in spirit by living however the fuck we want to. After all that’s what they did and they did alright for themselves didn’t they?
This Prince article was written by Steven Loftin, a GIGsoup contributor