It’s with an immeasurably heavy heart that we report that one of the most talented, revolutionary musical artists of the century, Prince, died yesterday at his Paisley Park recording complex in Minneapolis.
Prince Rogers Nelson was a formidable multi-instrumentalist, he was credited with playing the following on his 1978 debut album, ‘For You’:
All vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Orr bass, bass synth, singing bass, fuzz bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, Minimoog, Polymoog, ARP String Ensemble, ARP Pro Soloist, Oberheim 4-voice, clavinet, drums, syndrums, water drums, slapsticks, bongos, congas, finger cymbals, wind chimes, orchestral bells, wood blocks, brush trap, tree bell, hand claps and finger snaps.
His first contract with Warner Brothers gave him full artistic control over his music which was an unheard of deal with a new artist prior to this. This autonomous, totally radical approach defined his whole career, always breaking norms and rallying against the status quo whether that was musically, associated with gender, race or sexuality. His ability to transcend genre so effortlessly was down to his own electrifying ability, anything he turned his hand to immediately took on a specific quality that was instantly recognisable – whether that was producing and playing on Kate Bush records or collaborating with Madonna.
His obstinate approach to his own artistic freedom when dealing with record labels was legendary, once walking around with SLAVE daubed on his forehead to protest against the record deal he had at the time – his resolute approach to independence and somewhat ethereal, unknowable persona came to give him a unique presence in the media, along with the fact that he’d very rarely give interviews. He was one of the only artists to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol. Similarly to David Bowie, he was in a perpetual state of change, something which was less of a marketing stunt, more of a necessity for a musician of his caliber to remain interested in what he was doing.
He combined a number of different genres including R&B, soul, funk and disco and moulded them into something he could call his own – his style encompassing artists like Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Rick James, George Clinton and many more. Combined with his virtuosity, heavily sexual lyrics and his overall stage presence, Prince was an artist like no one had seen before – and in all likelihood, won’t be seen again.
Although initially not a huge success, Prince went onto create some of the biggest, most iconic albums of all time during the 1980s – Around The World In A Day, Purple Rain, Parade, Sign O’ The Times and Lovesexy. He made pop hits seem effortless whilst existing in a realm of blissful harmony between commercial success and artistic integrity – possibly one of the most difficult things to pull off as a musician but if one does, the world will follow your every move. In part, this is why so many feel the loss so keenly – he was simultaneously nuanced and gloriously accessible – and ergo danceable.
His live performances were a breathless spectacle – his stage presence was second to none. He said this regarding performing:
“You can’t go out there unless you’ve got the show completely in shape. It can look pretty wild onstage, but everyone knows exactly where they’re supposed to be. That was a lesson I had to learn from when I was starting out. When we first went out behind 1999, The Time, who were opening for us, beat us up every night. They would laugh about it; it was a joke to them. Our show wasn’t together. I had to stop the tour and get things tightened up. Now me and the band have a certain relationship with each other, and every night we make the audience part of that.” To Anthony DeCurtis, the Word, June 2004
He was a master of PR, again similarly to Bowie he inverted the traditional relationship between press and artist – mainly giving the media tit bits whenever he deemed it necessary but generally staying out of the papers when he wanted to.
It’s a loss that the world will feel keenly – because he was an inimitable artist, a unique personality, an activist in his own way and a trailblazer. There aren’t many of these left. So, let’s mourn and celebrate Prince in the only way that seems appropriate: by dancing through the night, jumping on a few tables and being absolutely outrageous.
“Today, the world lost a creative icon. Michelle and I join millions of fans from around the world in mourning the sudden death of Prince. Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer.“A strong spirit transcends rules,” Prince once said — and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his band, and all who loved him.” – Barack Obama, 22/04/2016
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