When David Bowie died I wrote that there are some artists and events that can’t be ignored whether they fall into the realm of what you’re supposed to write about, it has happened again with the death of Prince at the age of 57. The power of music transcends all borders, politics, race (arguably rock and roll was a factor in civil rights), national borders, ethnicity, and just about any other label we can give ourselves to limit and segregate our world view. Rock and roll has always been about sex and sexual innuendo. The phrase rock and roll itself was originally a euphemism in the blues for sex, and Prince pushed all our buttons and courted controversy artistically, culturally, and sexually.
Classic rockers like Ray Manzarek, Bowie, Glenn Frey, and the others who have died recently are the classic rockers who were the generation before Prince. They are aging and their deaths, while sad, are not totally unexpected. But Prince was a rock star of my generation which makes his death all the more shocking because you realize your generation can pass away so easily. Death is a young man’s game, but mortality is the realization and coming face to face with the actuality of that mortality through someone of Prince’s stature and age brings that realization clearly into focus for those of us who came of age in the 80’s.
In 1969 there was a public outcry after Jim Morrison’s performance in Miami in which he only allegedly exposed himself creating decency rallies, and The Doors became persona non-grata both in concert and on the radio. A little over a decade later Prince would appear onstage wearing only a black thong or low cut black underwear and there was no howling about morality, no outcry, no decency rallies. As a matter of fact, it worked in Prince’s favor gaining him early adherents such as Bill Graham. In a review of Prince’s 1980 album “Dirty Mind” the rock critic Robert Christagau was moved to write that Prince is “the first commercially viable artist in a decade to claim the visionary high ground of Lennon and Dylan and Hendrix (and Jim Morrison), whose rebel turf has been ceded to such marginal heroes-by-fiat as Patti Smith and John Rotten-Lydon. Brashly lubricious where the typical love man plays the lead in ‘He’s So Shy,’ he specializes here in full-fledged f—book fantasies … Mick Jagger should fold up his penis and go home.”
In putting together this article I was trying to think of a song that really represents Prince’s talent or sums up his career but there are so many songs to choose from “Purple Rain”, “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, “Darling Nikki”, “Nothing Compares 2 U“, “Let’s Go Crazy”, or “When Doves Cry” no one song has the summation that brings Prince into focus instead it is the sum of all those works that define Prince. Prince wrote songs for and influenced many other artists some of those he influenced inlcude Sinead O’Connor, Sheila E., Madonna, Stevie Nicks, Morris Day and The Time, Sean Ono Lennon. Prince was one of those artists who created the soundtrack of our lives. This is the sound when doves cry, the purple reign has ended…or has its legend begun?