By James Tehrani
Apr. 21, 2016
Prince photo by jimieye courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
“Prince died? Are you s*itting me?”
That was a response heard in our break room after a co-worker learned that the man best known for iconic songs such as “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry” and “1999” had died at the age of 57 on April 21. The thought crossed my mind as well.
The news was first reported by TMZ.
I remember watching the music video for “1999” play over and over again in the early 1980s and being captivated by the beat, the choreography, the sound — and the teamwork. While I hadn’t seen any Prince footage in a while, I remember being blown away by his performance at the 2007 Super Bowl. Some consider it the best NFL halftime concert ever.
Prince had that intangible star power. He was flamboyant, eccentric — remember when he wanted to be known as the symbol: Ƭ̵̬̊? — aloof, maybe cocky but he backed it up. He was good. Very good.
While “1999” was a Prince tune, even when I was young I thought it was extraordinary that he was willing to share singing verses with members of the Revolution, his band at the time, namely Dez Dickerson, Lisa Coleman and Jill Jones. “I was dreaming when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray/but when I woke up this morning coulda sworn it was judgment day.”
Later on I learned that Prince had played almost all of the instruments when recording his first five albums. Without a doubt, he was one of the most talented pop musicians of my lifetime if not all time.
Beyond his talent as a musician and singer, he also had a marvelous ability to discover and develop other talents.
While artists like Sheena Easton, Sheila E., Apollonia Kotero, who starred with Prince in the movie “Purple Rain,” and the late Vanity may not be names many millennials are familiar with, they were all popular artists when I was growing up — thanks to Prince. Prince even wrote one of the Bangles’ most popular songs “Manic Monday” under the pseudonym “Christopher.”
Whether these women would have become stars on their own without Prince’s help or if it was because of Prince’s help that they became famous in the first place is debatable, but the fact that he was willing to help jump-start their careers is notable.
He was the star, but he helped others become stars as well.
Late last year I wrote about George Lucas and how companies that have that “rare 0.1 percent person” should give those people their space to create. Well, Prince was that person.
He was a musical prodigy who, with artists like Michael Jackson and Madonna, changed the pop music business forever in the 1980s. He also was highly protective of his art, reportedly “scouring” the Internet for copyright violations. He once famously said “the Internet is over,” although he later clarified to say that artists can’t capitalize on digital musical sales the way the companies that sell the songs do. “What I meant was that the Internet was over for anyone who wants to get paid, and I was right about that,” he was quoted as saying.
Don McLean once sang about the “day the music died” in the song “American Pie” referring to the tragic deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson who all died in an airplane crash in 1959. Sadly, 2016 is turning into the year the music died with the deaths of notable artists such as David Bowie, the Eagles’ Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake and Palmer fame, Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, country legend Merle Haggard and now Prince.
But of all those great artists, I think I’ll remember the purple reign most of all.
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