What is a legend? What is an icon? What is a game changer? In this lifetime we haven’t seen anyone quite like Prince Rogers Nelson. I’ll be honest I never thought I’d have to write a tribute so young in my life and so middle of the road in his, 57 years young and now we are here faced with another music icon gone. How do you sum up a life that was beyond barriers? How do you pick a favorite song when there are so many classics to consume, breathe, live and replay over and over again? You can try, but you can’t bottle up the magic that was Prince.
I think the thing that bothers me most is that much like MJ, Prince was always HERE and there, even long after doves cried and he would release albums sporadically, his music was always in the back of our minds and Purple Rain became an image ingrained in melody, a time when life made more sense and love and intentions were clearer. Prince was a musician’s musician, a band leader, a phenomenal songwriter in his prime and he could work a stage like no other. Why am I here today writing this tribute? It still makes no sense to me that I have to write about him in the past tense when a week before his death he was on he was performing intimately with only a piano and microphone. Life is sometimes shitty and there is no more proof of that than now.
The one singular thing that sticks out to me is his love for female musicians, he always kept them in tow and let them shine on stage with him from the iconic Wendy & Lisa down to Sheila E. Even when he was parading and dating some of the baddest women on the planet, he never portrayed them as objects although his lyrical content much of the late and early 90s was sexual until he made his transition to a Jehovah’s Witness in the early part of the 2000’s. Up until Prince you hadn’t seen women on the stage behind instruments in unison in a band, til this day it’s still a rarity.
The sound of Minneapolis is Prince. The hard-hitting but clean drums, the rhythmic guitar, the larger than life synths and first class songwriting all contribute to what would become synonymous with Prince- excellence. From this sound Wendy & Lisa, The Time, Alexander O’Neal, Vanity 6, Apollonia, Andre Cymone, The Family, Sheena Easton, Carmen Electra, Janelle Monae, 3rdeyeGirland recently female trio King and Judith Hill. These are the most notable but there are many more but this shows and proves how dedicated he was to music and developing talent.
The main thing I will miss about Prince is his ability to show up and say what matters when it matters, much like his appearance at the Grammy’s during the height of the #BlackLivesMatters movement, or the concert he put on for Freddie Gray during the uproar in Baltimore. The dude was always here, at the right times and evident as last Thursday when the world stopped and abruptly said their final goodbyes.