Friday, April 22, 2016

AN APPRECIATION: Prince (1958-2016)
The Artist Who Electrifed And Celebrate Life And Love

 Rolling Stone

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, April 22, 2016

He celebrated.  He innovated.  He influenced.  He evolved. 

Prince Rogers Nelson, aka Prince, was well ahead of his time and everyone else's.  To call him a legend does him less than justice.  He was on another planet, one that he and he alone ruled.

I view Prince as one of the five greatest musicians who ever walked God's green Earth.  Mozart.  Beethoven.  Hendrix.  Miles.  Prince.  That list isn't in any order.  These five had an excellent musical ear, acuity and staggering creativity -- and the ability to influence, evolve and revolutionize music -- especially those last three names.  Unlike almost all on that shortlist of all-time maestros Prince got better as he got older.  There was never a real weak link in his pedigree. 

What Prince doesn't belong to however, is the end of a life.  It is stupefying and inexplicable to think that he has passed on.  I will someday awake thinking that this is a rotten, ghoulish joke coming three weeks late in the month of April.  Yesterday's untimely passing of a wise, 57-year-old man humbler than all except perhaps Pope Francis and Michael Jackson was an emotional earthquake of heartbreaking proportions. 

The value, endeavor and impact of Prince as an artist and person simply cannot be measured.  He has never received the true credit his prodigious and prolific musical brilliance merited.  He played almost every instrument you can name and sometimes almost at the same time.  He danced, sang, strutted, did the splits, slithered, swiveled, rocked and funked hard.  James Brown and Jimi Hendrix were among his influences, but Prince in turn influenced so many musicians and excited millions of people in distinct and myriad ways.

What I will remember most, and most importantly, about Prince is his good heart and individualism, an individualism which was selfless and inclusive, not isolating or showy.  Prince's qualities -- his deep humility, generousity (often privately done) -- were unmistakable staples of his kind soul.  This shy, unassuming man embraced people with his music, helping and inspiring many artists along the way.

On the stage Prince was pure, resplendent and sexy electricity -- he razzled and dazzled with an incredible, relentless energy, galvanizing and turning audiences on in profound ways.  He sang about women, explicit sex, sexual reverie and wordplay, desire, love, craving, lust, relationships and partying.  He enraptured, tickled and possessed you, all way from the stage to the nosebleeds.  He had you.  You were gripped in a kind of strange fuck you felt but either couldn't see or describe beacuse you were so caught up in it. 

Fuck?  Well that's the only way I can put it.  Prince did this "concert sex" in different ways I'd say, and people who saw him in concert (myself included) felt that "fuck" differently.  I felt Prince's energy and was galvanized by it.  Women who saw Prince live will have to tell you what they felt. 

What Prince said on stage during concerts -- or what his body language said -- was, "I want you, I'm going to do you, and when I'm done I'm going leave you lying there begging me for more.  And if I do you some more I might not stop." 

It was that power, disregard and fearlessness that excited millions, particularly millions of women.  At the same time Prince was remarkably vulnerable on some of his records, pleading, despairing, imploring and begging women in ways both desperate and urgent.  Emergency rang through the soul of his voice in "Adore", "Insatiable", "Scandalous" and a ton of other records about love, sex and relationships.

What struck me about Prince was that for all the hundreds of records about women, partying, love, sex and fantasy, he was a serious non-comformist, a countercultural figure who led and set trends and styles while taking on corporate profiteers and record companies.  Prince admirably and publicly challenged (and lacerated) Warner Brothers for trying to force him to fulfill an onerous contract -- he stepped out of it by changing his name to a hieroglyph to avoid legal action. 

The Artist -- as he also called himself during that rocky 1990s period -- continued to to stay true to himself as a musician and a person, never compromising his unique vision and visionary self, as he wrote songs at an amazing pace.  Prince was an extremely hard-working musician.  He released work on his Paisley Park label and practically disowned records that Warners had released, including "best hits" album of his signature songs.  Prince has hundreds and hundreds of unreleased material in his Paisley studios in Minnesota.

Prince wanted to eliminate the middleman in music and the business of music.  He disliked the Ticketmasters of the world.  He made no secret of this, including a mildly disdainful mention of Ticketmaster on George Lopez's late-night TV talk show "Lopez Tonight" in 2011.  Prince sometimes sold concert tickets exclusively on his website.  He bypassed record companies and CD store outlets at times by using a great marketing device: concert ticket buyers would receive a copy of his latest CD when they entered the venue.

It is independence and business acumen from Prince that I respected and admired.  This adeptness, keen appreciation and protection of his fans and music kept Prince ahead of the exploitation game, and his global fans ahead of the traps that online merchants often set.  He cared about his fans, and priced some of his concerts, including his most recent and sadly final concert tour, "Piano And A Microphone", as low as $25.

Prince cared about music: how it was received, processed, heard and disseminated.  He had tight controls on his work, even as record companies and artists sometimes stole and exploited from him.  When he wrote SLAVE on his face in the 1990s he was describing the relationship he said Warner Brothers had enslaved him in.  His 1996 triple-album "Emancipation" was a direct reaction.  On it, at least one song "Slave" describes or alludes to Prince's feelings and state of mind post-Warners.  Prior to the Warner mess Prince recorded "The Black Album", which included "Erotic City", an infectious tune.  He displayed political awareness in some songs too ("1999", "Sign O' The Times", "Money Don't Matter 2 Night", "2045 Radical Man", "Baltimore".)

Prince acted on the big screen too: very well in "Purple Rain" while not so impressively in "Under The Cherry Moon", which he directed, and "Graffiti Bridge", which he didn't.  Those latter two films were hardly stellar but Prince was undeterred.  Years later he appeared in the TV series "New Girl" in 2014, to cheeky and amusing effect, and was a natural. 

All of this prologue is to abruptly repeat this incredible news: Prince has passed away.

Prince isn't here.  Yet his music always will be.  This impeccably clean-living man.

Prince's passing is seismic and had the global effect you'd expect.  Prince's departure is on the order of John Lennon's.  And Jimi Hendrix.  And Elvis Presley.  And Janis Joplin.  And Michael Jackson.  Prince's impact still can't be quantified.  His longevity and influence?  Immeasurable.

As sad as I am I happily celebrate Prince and what he brought to this cruel and often unloving world.  He stayed the same and changed throughout it all.  He celebrated the pleasure, love and life we sometimes overlook or take for granted.  I think Prince is celebrating right now -- but he's probably celebrating us, life and love itself, wherever his Purple Afterworld is.

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