I was first introduced to the dude through Right On! magazine, and of course I was a hater. That’s what lil’ fellas did back then. We looked through those pages and saw all the dudes that might steal our imaginary girlfriends. Here we saw a new dude. Light-skinned, Afro and he’s a singer. Not just a singer though. At 18 years old he was hailed as a wunderkind that wrote, produced and played all of the instruments on his debut album, “For You.” Prince was his name. A few months later while out shopping with mom at Alexander’s on Third Avenue, I convinced her to part with the $3.99 sale to pick up his self-titled sophomore album. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” was popping enough to make me overlook the album art, which depicted Prince rocking the permed coif on the front and being naked on a white Pegasus on the back. Couldn’t front, the music was different, but dope. I was hooked. I became a Prince fan!
Two albums later, he took a star turn with “1999,” which was the perfect precursor for the landscape-changing sixth album, “Purple Rain.” Twenty-plus million copies sold of a single album is rarified air. For many, that was the entry point to his music, but for his core fans, that was the confirmation as to what was already known. We all know the stats that followed.
Rolling Stone magazine at one point ranked him at number 27 on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Save Michael, Marley, Stevie and Marvin, who else, I’d ask respectfully. Better yet, I’d ask, at least 20 artists are deemed better? Word? An Oscar, seven Grammy Awards, more than 100 million units sold, are indeed esteemed accomplishments, but they don’t begin to measure his impact. We’ll talk about that at another date and time.
As he told us in song, “Sometimes It Snows in April.” True that! Some things happen that are totally unexpected. In the span of a week, Prince Rogers Nelson has passed and was cremated. He’s really gone. Pretty soon the music and tributes are going to wane and we’ll need to accept that fact. Let’s not do his memory the disservice of thinking his songs are his only legacy. The genius of Prince extended far beyond musicianship and lyricism committed to tape, vinyl and digital recordings. When he spoke, which was rare, you could hear the passion, intellect and love that he had for his craft. Music as a transformative and healing agent was the paramount sentiment; commerce, while important, was not primary. The following quotes speak to things that helped shape his view on his art and what it did for him. Sharing these with hopes that they add to your thoughts of the man.
“I am here today because of the golden ages of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s of music. This is when artists played their music, they wrote their own songs and performed next to people like Ike and Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett and James Brown. You had to have your act together.”
“My problem is when the industry covers the music. Covering music means your version doesn’t exist anymore. A lot of times people think I’m doing Sinead O’Connor’s song or Chaka Khan’s song, when in fact I wrote those songs. It’s OK when my friends ask to do it, but there’s this thing in the music industry called the Compulsory Licensing Law which allows artists through the record companies to take your music at will without permission. That doesn’t take place in any other art form. There’s only one ‘Law and Order,’ there’s several versions of ‘Kiss.’”
“I sense a great deal of negativity and entropy in the music. There’s a disintegration going on that we really have to address as a community as to what it’s doing to the culture. People can say all they want to that a kid should listen to music and then go and shoot somebody, but something that’s triggering these buttons.”
“Sexuality is not bad. Very spiritual in nature and is a God-given gift.”
“When I was 20 years old, you’re looking for the ledge. You want to see how far you can push everything and as an artist I went there just to find it.”
“It’s obvious that there’s an agenda against the disenfranchised and the uneducated. To counter that we’re gonna have to talk to one another. One of the ways we used to do that was through our music. I grew up on the The Staple Singers, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye and that voice of the people to voice our concerns in areas is gone now.”
“The ego is one thing. Money is one thing, but reverence of life and service to others is the key to getting off this planet.”
“When people say they love you and they respect you but at the same time take 80 percent of your earnings, then expect you to fix your own communities, that’s the sharp part of the sword and we’re on the wrong end of it right now.”
“Albums matter. Like books and Black lives.”
As a side note the next, and definitely not the last, Prince album “HITNRUN Phase Two” was slated for release April 29.
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.