I’m sitting here listening to “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and fighting back tears. Real tears for a man I never met but provided so much joy in my life. I “discovered” Prince (as much as anyone could “discover” him in 2006) when I was in junior high. I bought a used CD copy of “Purple Rain,” which eventually got stuck in my mother’s car CD player. Honestly, if there was a real option to keep an album stuck in a car CD player, I would’ve just done that to begin with. That album is the Rosetta Stone for Prince’s music, containing some of the best examples of all that the man was capable of: funk, rock, balladry, grooves and so, so much more. “All that he was capable of.” I can’t believe I’m writing in a past tense.
Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, was declared dead this morning by TMZ and the Associated Press. Prince, one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters of all time. Last week, his flight was grounded in Illinois last week after a reported bout with the flu caused him to cancel two shows. Prince was a professional musician since he was 19 years old. Though he was reported to be in a deteriorated state, he still managed to play a final show one week before his passing. Prince, human after all.
It would be an injustice to the man to try to break down his discography, to try and pinpoint a central album or even a central arc to his career. The only rule that Prince followed for four decades was to follow his own muse to the ends of his own creativity, which of course had no bounds. Controversy. Sign O’ The Times. Come. The Black Album. Around The World In A Day. This is a man responsible for literally hundreds of songs, and possibly hundreds more that we’ve never heard, thanks to an intensely prolific vault.
Prince maintained an air of mystery throughout his career, though especially so in the last decade or so. Though he continually released albums and singles on par with his past discography, a lot Prince’s essence was broken down into headlines that could contextualize him as a weirdo like the rest of us. “Prince declares the Internet ‘over.’” “Prince releases single lampooning a decade-old sketch show version of himself.” And of course, a dear favorite, “Prince reportedly goes door to door as a Jehovah’s Witness.” Only recently did the man join Twitter, allowing him to finally take part in the one revolution he had managed to avoid: the internet.
GUESS WHO’S COMING 2 DANCE? pic.twitter.com/CxOlEAf85i
— Prince (@prince) March 19, 2016
Maybe Prince knew the end was coming. He’d recently embarked on a solo piano tour, something he had never done before, playing hits and covers in an incredibly intimate way. But who knows for sure? In the coming days, we might find out more information regarding Prince’s passing, and maybe we won’t. Maybe, whatever alien civilization that sent him here originally decided that he’d given us enough, so they were OK with taking him back. I’m not sure. The wound is too fresh. All that’s left is the mountain of music that Prince dedicated his life to making. For once that should be enough. So today, watch “Purple Rain” or even “Under The Cherry Moon.” Learn “Purple Rain” or “Kiss” or “Anotherloverholeinmyhead” on a guitar and sing it really loud. Or just tune out all of life’s cruel distractions and experience the music.
Post-script: it’s a testament to Prince that now, even in the afterlife, it is nigh impossible to find his music on un-questionable websites. For that reason, I included two full concerts below. One, at his height in 1982, is an amazing document of a man fully in control of his music and the way he wanted it to sound. The other, from only two months ago, showcases what his solo-piano tour sounded like, proving also that he never really left his peak, just decided to keep it closer to his chest.
What did Prince mean to you? Tell us in the comments.