It’s April 21, 2016 and Prince Rogers Nelson has passed away. I gotta say that Prince’s death has hit me as much as David Bowie, Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone. I’m sitting here in my home office watching Prince totally nail his Super Bowl XLI halftime performance in what most artists would consider an utterly unperformable situation. It’s pouring down rain and his Purpleness is still killing one of the best live shows that he’s ever pulled off. He’s a god.
What hurts the most is that Prince is a character I have always just taken for granted. He came on the scene in a time when I was deeply embroiled in the beginnings of my lifelong love of punk music and he fit right in. The second tape I ever owned was Purple Rain (first being the Who’s Tommy) and I wore the damn thing out. My brother texted me this evening reminding me that I was all set to go see the Purple Rain tour and my folks did not allow me to go. In one of my typical acts of defiance, I went to the damn show and I’m a far better person for it.
Unlike my other lost musical heroes, Prince came along “late” in the scene. He was a king of the 80’s, and, in my mind, going to be around forever. I think about myself now at 42 and 57 years of age isn’t that far off. It’s a bit scary considering most of us late Gen-Xers haven’t done squat with ourselves.
Prince introduced masturbation to a lot of us as a casual thing and even motivated devil-whores Phyllis Schlafly and Tipper Gore to meddle in popular culture in the form of the Eagle Forum to “protect” us impressionable youths in the form of the “Tipper Sticker” on albums. Thanks to you, Prince, I knew all of the albums I was going to buy every time I walked into a music store: they all had a “Parental Advisory” sticker on them.
Prince bridged a gap in music like few artists have. He melded rock, soul, punk and funk in a way that few artists have been able to repeat. He was the purple standard for a lot of us building our lives on music. There is an urban legend about an interviewer asking Eric Clapton what it was like being the world’s best guitarist and Clapton allegedly responded “I don’t know, ask Prince.” I believe it. Watching Prince nail out the guitar on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Steve Winwood shows all of that skill and more. Prince was dedicated to his work.
Sure, the Purple Rain film and Under a Cherry Moon are a tad cheesy, but the are more than genuine. Prince stayed true to what he wanted to present as art his entire career. While showy on stage, he was a private man and the media, surprisingly enough, respected that.
I’ll miss him. If nothing else than for his amazing music and random sense of humor. Prince believed that musicians and artists should be recognized for their works and not be treated like entertainment commodities. He did what he loved his entire career and I envy that. The world is a better place for him having been in it and, like with Bowie, it’s going to be hard as hell without him.
I especially want to commend MTV for blocking out their programming today to show Prince videos for hours and hours. He helped build the channel and it was only fitting that they honor him as such.
Rest well, Prince Rogers Nelson. You’ve influenced millions and we all appreciate you greatly for it.