Still reeling over the death of David Bowie just over three months ago, the music world was hit equally hard yesterday with the equally unexpected news of the death of another giant, Prince, at 57.
“GENIUS-Gets bandied about but it REALLY applied here!” tweeted songwriting/performing legend Valerie Simpson, whose pre-Ashford & Simpson self-titled 1972 solo album ended with the two-part title “Genius.”
She added, “Your name PRINCE & your MUSIC are eternal…Glad to live in your lifetime!”
Sandra Bernhard tweeted her version of Prince’s classic “Little Red Corvette.”
“I started performing it in 1987 and ’88 and tied it in with America in all of it’s fragile glory,” she said in an email. “It’s a love song about a car driving through the backroads, the highways and byways. It just seemed to capture the time–FM radio, cassettes, the beauty of a great album. It was so much simpler.”
Bernhard joined the likes of Elvis Costello and Bettye LaVette in a 2013 tribute to the music of Prince at Carnegie Hall.
“He was elusive and I always respected that so much,” she said of him. “He hung back in the corners and observed–that’s why he always had so much to say in his music. He only needed to be the center of attention when he was on the stage, and then he gave everything.”
Music researcher/historian and former Billboard columnist Brian Chin, also via email, singled out Prince’s “example to the young musician.”
“It was so crucial, the concept that you would never regret writing, playing, saying it–and dressing exactly your way, no compromises, ever,” said Chin. “Whatever the size of your talent, be yourself. His career communicated to every musician.”
In a rare personal tweet from Muhammad Ali, The Greatest said, “We’ve lost a true original. Prince was a such a good person and friend–someone who cared for others and used his genius to help many.”
Prince’s Minneapolis music contemporary Peter Himmelman tweeted: “Just when you thought you were getting somewhere, he was there, a thousand miles ahead, showing you how far you needed to go.”
Other notable tweeters included Quincy Jones, who called Prince “a true artist in every sense of the word.” At the Recording Academy, president/CEO Neil Portnow likewise lauded him as “one of the most uniquely gifted artists of all time. Never one to conform, he redefined and forever changed our musical landscape. Prince was an original who influenced so many, and his legacy will live on forever. We have lost a true innovator.”
Even President Barack Obama issued a statement.
“Today, the world lost a creative icon,” he said. “Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock ‘n’ roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer.”
He concluded: “‘A strong spirit transcends rules,’ Prince once said — and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative.”
And just as numerous buildings in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis and elsewhere were lit up in his color purple, NASA tweeted a picture of a purple nebula in his honor.