“Dearly beloved, We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Electric word life. It means forever and that’s a mighty long time.” – Prince, Let’s Go Crazy
As the world already knows and has been grappling with, Prince died suddenly on April 21, 2016 leaving another great big hole in the fabric of the planet so soon after that other irreplaceable alien king, Bowie. We haven’t been able to write about this quite yet, instead joining the regular outpourings on social media that allow fans everywhere to grieve and celebrate In This Thing Called Life. A rather beloved, highly gif-able meme-star in recent years (we can probably all just agree that The Purple One basically invented the best look in history, the “side-eye”) Prince’s star (via his own evolving self-creation and the ways in which it was read by the public) shows no sign of waning as the internet has already been working for years in this “ride or die” form of modern fandom: not just his music, producing skills, singing, iconic and original style but also his incredible, and incredibly singular sparkling personality is being shared daily around the world, echoing back to the music and the deep memories we have with an artist that touched us deeply, even if lightly, for an entire generation. And we were all reminded or discovered this marvel anew, the whole globe, when Prince destroyed the 2007 Superbowl XLI Halftime show, never to be bettered. Stomping in a downpour for 12 stunning minutes, risking electrocution with 3 guitars, effortlessly stealing Foo Fighters “Best of You”, looking as confident as if it was a walk in the park, the master finally throws his headscarf with a flourish that is the closest we will ever get to James Brown or Elvis in their prime.
“It’s like the world is missing a note.” – Chuck D., on The Source.com
Prince never left the rotation, even if we did lean too heavily on his earlier material which rooted so deep into our poruous little heads way back when. He’s stayed at our side through sexy times and their inevitable opposite, weddings and parties; he helped us grow up, he made Kim Basinger in her prime act like a giddy schoolgirl on major awards shows, he created pop culture stars, mentored musicians and wrote hits as gifts for other artists, and he made grown men weep and become proud fanboys well into their own adulthood. His secret shows (as recently as late March 2016 in Toronto) were the stuff of cool, easygoing legend. His exacting need for control meant he owned his masters and his publishing in his later years, a unicorn-rare feat worthy of applause that makes his general litigiousness and shifts of mood about his image and sexy legacy all the more righteous. He didn’t let the internet world faze him, even as it tried to remake him as one of its pets. His Madison Square Garden run was an instant sell out, with hard core fans returning for multiple nights if they could swing it.
All through these decades, Prince swept the debate of macho masculinity and girl/boy colour and fashion rules right off the table (and into the fire) making it moot, even in the nasty snark depths of today’s internet. For he long rocked harder than either gender; sang beautifully and free-form in a Curtis Mayfield falsetto and could then grab you with a sudden deep growl; a creature of many colours, seducing and startling everyone. The Artist did it on his own terms, and he did it in heels. He leaves us so much, and though he went far too young his art will live on and on and on without a single doubt, untarnished, never a hair out of place.
We can finally find the words. We’ve been to church: at a warehouse party last night, the DJ mixed in about 10% Prince tracks among solid 80s and 90s Bangers- from “Sign O’ the Times” to the Purple Rain masterpieces. The response was immediate, genuine, and vocally loud. Men danced, in this city of anxious reserve, with freedom, getting freaky in their own dance space without shame. Air guitar was tolerated. Women were the conductors and ringleaders, free to break dance in a cocktail dress or pretend to be one of Prince’s back up singers/ muses de jour or just take it all in. Everyone held their own, strangers enraptured in total trusting glee with the same glint in their eye, making eye contact, our words unnecessary, happy and free for a few hours. This is all music aspires to and is its triumph. This is the world made possible inside Prince’s music.
Questlove’s Weeklong Masterclass on The Gospel of Prince: “Prince is probably the only artist who got to live the dream of constant innovation,” Quest told Touré in an interview for Touré’s new book about Prince, I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon. “He knew the balance between innovation and America’s digestive system. He’s the only artist who was able to, basically, feed babies the most elaborate of foods that you would never give a child and know exactly how to break down the portions so they could digest it. I mean, ‘When Doves Cry’ is probably the most radical song of the first five years of the eighties, because there’s no bass. I heard the version of ‘Doves Cry’ with a bass line—it wouldn’t have grabbed me. Without bass it had a desperate, cold feeling to it. It made you concentrate on his voice. With the bass line, the song was cool. Without it, it was astounding.” (Vulture.com)
“We Should Champion Prince for Championing Female Musicians” (Tracy King, New Statesman)
“Prince Was the Baddest Motherfucker on the Planet” (Andrew Friedman, Factmag)
“Prince’s Personal Party Mix Playlist” (Dangerous Minds)
“Let’s Watch Prince’s Superbowl Halftime Show, The Best We’ve Ever Seen” (Kevin Draper, Deadspin)
Our regular News and Links Round Up returns Friday. Jacqueline Howell