It was on a scorching hot Sunday afternoon way back in 2010 when I first stumbled upon Prince’s musical genius. My introduction to his work was a low-resolution YouTube video of his performance at the Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show that lasted a magnificent 12 minutes. To my 15 year old self, it seemed like fate itself had intervened to show me this brilliant, visionary and often times, eccentric artist. It’s been six years since that fateful summer afternoon, and I’ve gone on to devour anything and everything that had his name on it. So that’s exactly what I’ve done in the hours following the news of his death. Blasting ‘Purple Rain’, ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Little Red Corvette’ and more as loudly as I possibly can. His song ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ remains my anthem till date, a song that I go back to time after time, a song that I never fail to sing along with.
Act your age and not your shoe size. – “Kiss” (1986)
As I sit down to write this tribute to one of the most iconic singers to ever grace this Earth, I still find it hard to accept that he really has passed away. But alas, shaking my head and refusing to this news won’t bring him back or heal the pain any faster.
IMAGE COURTESY – ROBERT M. CLUESMAN
Born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Prince took his last breaths at his Paisley Park home in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The confirmation was given by Anna Meacham, the artist’s UK publicist, in a statement, “It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson, has died at his Paisley Park residence this morning at the age of 57. There are no further details as to the cause of death at this time.”
I never meant to cause you any sorrow / I never meant to cause you any pain / I only wanted to one time to see you laughing / I only wanted to see you / Laughing in the purple rain. – “Purple Rain” (1984)
Throughout his career spanning 4 decades, Prince maintained his originality, eccentricity and sensuality, releasing 39 solo studio albums. All this and more won his numerous accolades over the years. But it was his 1984’s magnum opus ‘Purple Rain’ – the soundtrack album of the movie with the same name in which Prince made his debut – that propelled him to ‘icon’ status. To date, the album has sold over 22 million copies worldwide and won Prince two Grammys and an Oscar for Best Original Song Score in 1985. In 2007, he won the Golden Globe for his song ‘The Song Of The Heart’ from the movie Happy Feet. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, in the very first year of his eligibility.
A musician famous for his wide vocal range, mastery of numerous instruments like guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums and flamboyant wardrobe, Prince was a vision whenever he performed on stage. He was also famous for shunning the media and gave out only a handful of interviews throughout his career, contributing to his mysterious and legendary persona, a beloved rarity in today’s globalized world. In one of rare interviews in 1999, Prince explained to Larry King why he didn’t like publicity, saying, “I wanted my music to speak loudest for me.”
This is what it sounds like / When doves cry – “When Doves Cry” (1984)
Not one to shy away from controversy (I mean the man released a whole album with that name in 1981 for God’s sake!), Prince took on the music industry in the 1990s during a dispute concerning control over his output with Warner Bros., his label at the time. He changed his name to the unpronounceable ‘Love Symbol’ and as a result he was commonly referred to as ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’. He explained his decision at the time, by saying, “The first step I have taken toward the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol.”
IMAGE COURTESY – WIRED
He goes on to add, “Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros. I was born Prince and did not want to adopt another conventional name. The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, which is a representation of me and what my music is about.”
Dearly beloved / We are gathered here today / To get through this thing called life – “Let’s Go Crazy” (1984)
Although lauded as one of the greatest pop singers ever, Prince was acclaimed for merging together music genres like jazz, disco and funk. And yet he despised categorising his own music. He said, “I really I don’t like categories, but the only thing I can think of [to describe my music] is inspirational and I think that music from the heart falls right into that category. Ultimately all music can be inspirational, and that’s why it is so important to let your gift be guided by something more clear. To use your gift in a creative fashion is the best thing you can do.”
IMAGE COURTESY – JONATHAN CAUSTRITA
Even though Prince was almost universally viewed to be a living legend and pioneer of music, he never once got complacent. He strived and pushed himself until the very end and released four full-length albums with his band 3rd Eye Girl since 2014. He even visualized his final Piano & Microphone tour as a means to improve as a performer. Prince told The Guardian last year, “I’m doing it to challenge myself, like tying one hand behind my back, not relying on the craft that I’ve known for 30 years.”
Such was his brilliance that he inspired artists across all genres, from musicians to painters to writers. His work encouraged people to accept their individuality and be unapologetically original. We may have lost a superlative artist but heaven for sure has gained a shining purple star.