Just when I thought the high-profile rock star deaths of 2016 were slowing down, Prince died. He was only 57 years old and apparently died due to complications relating to the flu. I’d heard that he’d taken ill following a recent concert and had been rushed to the hospital, but I never imagined that the Purple One would die. I only recently (the last 2 years or so) got into Prince. I can’t exactly recall what spurred my interest in him, but my wife and I really dug into his second-to-last album, the bizarre rock opera ART OFFICIAL AGE, which came out in 2014. Both of us falling in love with a record top-to-bottom is an extremely rare event in my household, which should tell you something about Prince and his appeal.
Kids today probably don’t know very much about Prince, and I blame that on him. In recent years, Prince’s militancy regarding the online presence of music essentially resulted in wiping him from history for most young music fans. Hell, I grew up in the early 1980s and prior to 2014 I really only thought of him when watching re-runs of Chappelle Show. Scrubbing his music from the web resulted in him being half-remembered as a joke and as the guy who single-handedly ruined Tim Burton’s 1989 BATMAN film. I guess this strategy made him some money, because ART OFFICIAL AGE was the last album I purchased in an actual record store last year after Prince removed all of his music from Spotify.
I’m sad that Prince is gone and that his legacy is kinda screwed up, because Prince was simply amazing. Like a weird fusion of Hendrix and Michael Jackson, Prince was a genuine guitar hero. I think that’s the biggest thing young people today don’t know about Prince: he was a legitimate shredder. There is an outstanding song on ART OFFICIAL AGE called “Clouds” where at the very end Prince does this amazing guitar solo. It’s a brief burst of virtuosity that’s probably the most sublime (yet tasteful) bit of music I’ve heard in the last ten years. There’s something really rad about a guy that talented being so restrained. If I could play guitar like Prince, I’d have a double-album of nothing but obnoxious solos.
The best artists evolve and shift over time and boy did Prince do that…and then some. From his early days a downright dirty talking pop star to a quasi-religious (or not?) fanatic who shunned his early success. He spent much of his later years holed up in his house studio recording whole albums that he never bothered to release (that’s if filmmaker Kevin Smith is to be believed). If there’s anything positive to come from his untimely passing, I hope that it’s we get access to some of that music. I’ll bet that much of it is fucking amazing and all of it is super weird.
Rest In Power, dear sweet Prince.
Really good piece. Prince came up at the same time I was hitting high school; I finished my college thesis with my Sign O’ The Times cassette on endless repeat; I sewed costumes for a summer stock company with LoveSexy blaring in the background. He expanded a lot of people’s world view with his songs, his musicianship and, frankly, his being black on MTV. I’m not his death all that well; the memories of my youth have taken a blow.