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Friday, April 22, 2016
AN APPRECIATION: Prince (1958-2016)
The Artist Who Electrifed And Celebrate Life And Love
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
He celebrated. He innovated. He influenced. He evolved.
Prince Rogers Nelson, aka Prince, was well ahead of his time and everyone
else's. To call him a legend does him less than justice. He was on
another planet, one that he and he alone ruled.
I view Prince as one of the five greatest musicians who ever walked God's green
Earth. Mozart. Beethoven. Hendrix. Miles. Prince.
That list isn't in any order. These five had an excellent musical ear,
acuity and staggering creativity -- and the ability to influence, evolve and
revolutionize music -- especially those last three names. Unlike almost
all on that shortlist of all-time maestros Prince got better as he got older.
There was never a real weak link in his pedigree.
What Prince doesn't belong to however, is the end of a life. It is
stupefying and inexplicable to think that he has passed on. I will someday
awake thinking that this is a rotten, ghoulish joke coming three weeks late in
the month of April. Yesterday's untimely passing of a wise, 57-year-old
man humbler than all except perhaps Pope Francis and Michael Jackson was an
emotional earthquake of heartbreaking proportions.
The value, endeavor and impact of Prince as an artist and person simply cannot
be measured. He has never received the true credit his prodigious and
prolific musical brilliance merited. He played almost every instrument you
can name and sometimes almost at the same time. He danced, sang, strutted,
did the splits, slithered, swiveled, rocked and funked hard. James Brown
and Jimi Hendrix were among his influences, but Prince in turn influenced so
many musicians and excited millions of people in distinct and myriad ways.
What I will remember most, and most importantly, about Prince is his good heart
and individualism, an individualism which was selfless and inclusive, not
isolating or showy. Prince's qualities -- his deep humility, generousity
(often privately done) -- were unmistakable staples of his kind soul. This
shy, unassuming man embraced people with his music, helping and inspiring many
artists along the way.
On the stage Prince was pure, resplendent and sexy electricity -- he razzled and
dazzled with an incredible, relentless energy, galvanizing and turning audiences
on in profound ways. He sang about women, explicit sex, sexual reverie and
wordplay, desire, love, craving, lust, relationships and partying. He
enraptured, tickled and possessed you, all way from the stage to the nosebleeds.
He had you. You were gripped in a kind of strange fuck you felt
but either couldn't see or describe beacuse you were so caught up in it.
Fuck? Well that's the only way I can put it. Prince did
this "concert sex" in different ways I'd say, and people who saw him in concert
(myself included) felt that "fuck" differently. I felt Prince's energy and
was galvanized by it. Women who saw Prince live will have to tell you what
What Prince said on stage during concerts -- or what his body language said --
was, "I want you, I'm going to do you, and when I'm done I'm going
leave you lying there begging me for more. And if I do you some
more I might not stop."
It was that power, disregard and fearlessness that excited millions,
particularly millions of women. At the same time Prince was remarkably
vulnerable on some of his records, pleading, despairing, imploring and begging
women in ways both desperate and urgent. Emergency rang through the soul
of his voice in "Adore", "Insatiable", "Scandalous" and a ton of other records
about love, sex and relationships.
What struck me about Prince was that for all the hundreds of records about
women, partying, love, sex and fantasy, he was a serious non-comformist, a
countercultural figure who led and set trends and styles while taking on
corporate profiteers and record companies. Prince admirably and publicly
challenged (and lacerated) Warner Brothers for trying to force him to fulfill an
onerous contract -- he stepped out of it by changing his name to a hieroglyph to
avoid legal action.
The Artist -- as he also called himself during that rocky 1990s period --
continued to to stay true to himself as a musician and a person, never
compromising his unique vision and visionary self, as he wrote songs at an
amazing pace. Prince was an extremely hard-working musician. He
released work on his Paisley Park label and practically disowned records that
Warners had released, including "best hits" album of his signature songs.
Prince has hundreds and hundreds of unreleased material in his Paisley studios
Prince wanted to eliminate the middleman in music and the business of music.
He disliked the Ticketmasters of the world. He made no secret of this,
including a mildly disdainful mention of Ticketmaster on George Lopez's
late-night TV talk show "Lopez Tonight" in 2011. Prince sometimes sold
concert tickets exclusively on his website. He bypassed record companies
and CD store outlets at times by using a great marketing device: concert ticket
buyers would receive a copy of his latest CD when they entered the venue.
It is independence and business acumen from Prince that I respected and admired.
This adeptness, keen appreciation and protection of his fans and music kept
Prince ahead of the exploitation game, and his global fans ahead of the traps
that online merchants often set. He cared about his fans, and priced some
of his concerts, including his most recent and sadly final concert tour, "Piano
And A Microphone", as low as $25.
Prince cared about music: how it was received, processed, heard and
disseminated. He had tight controls on his work, even as record companies
and artists sometimes stole and exploited from him. When he wrote SLAVE on
his face in the 1990s he was describing the relationship he said Warner Brothers
had enslaved him in. His 1996 triple-album "Emancipation" was a direct
reaction. On it, at least one song "Slave" describes or alludes to
Prince's feelings and state of mind post-Warners. Prior to the Warner mess
Prince recorded "The Black Album", which included "Erotic City", an infectious
tune. He displayed political awareness in some songs too ("1999", "Sign O'
The Times", "Money Don't Matter 2 Night", "2045 Radical Man", "Baltimore".)
Prince acted on the big screen too: very well in "Purple Rain" while not so
impressively in "Under The Cherry Moon", which he directed, and "Graffiti
Bridge", which he didn't. Those latter two films were hardly stellar but
Prince was undeterred. Years later he appeared in the TV series "New Girl"
in 2014, to cheeky and amusing effect, and was a natural.
All of this prologue is to abruptly repeat this incredible news: Prince has
Prince isn't here. Yet his music always will be. This impeccably
Prince's passing is seismic and had the global effect you'd expect.
Prince's departure is on the order of John Lennon's. And Jimi Hendrix.
And Elvis Presley. And Janis Joplin. And Michael Jackson.
Prince's impact still can't be quantified. His longevity and influence?
As sad as I am I happily celebrate Prince and what he brought to this cruel and
often unloving world. He stayed the same and changed throughout
it all. He celebrated the pleasure, love and life we sometimes overlook or
take for granted. I think Prince is celebrating right now -- but he's
probably celebrating us, life and love itself, wherever his Purple Afterworld
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