Monday, April 25, 2016

This is what it sounds like… when you have to say goodbye

Prince 1958 – 2016
Farewell thoughts on the passing of Prince
and why my music will never be the same again.

To whatever readers I have left: Its been 16 months since my last post and truth be told, I have found very little to blog about that hasn't been griping, ranting or making fun of something inane. That changed for me on April 22nd, 2016. 

What’s it like when someone who really touches you with their music passes away unexpectedly? What happens when virtually your favorite performer has their final curtain call? I can tell you, it’s an unpleasant feeling. You feel lost–confused that the death of someone you don’t know personally but feel like you know intimately, is gone. Such was the saddest day in recent memory–April 21st, 2016, the day Prince died.

More than any other artist–musical or otherwise–Prince was a cornerstone of my formative years. An artist I first didn’t understand, even disliked in the beginning, until his musical brilliance shined through like a super nova burning hotter than any other star in the night sky.

I felt Prince spoke from a place I could completely relate to. A place he could sing and entertain simultaneously from with a unique convergence of spirituality, sexuality, humor, insight and near-brutal honesty. I have yet to find that in any other performer. And I suspect I won’t find that again in my lifetime.

Hailing from rural Minneapolis, Prince Rogers Nelson grew up in a home that was both racially mixed and socially divided. Born to a White mother and a Black father, I could relate deeply to Prince, just nine (9) years my senior as my own bi-racial home of a Black Mother and an absentee White Father was unnervingly familiar as portrayed in the track “When doves cry” from the1984 world-bending album–and subsequent indie super-film–Purple Rain.

The conflict between who you are and who you identify with is one many bi-racial kids and adults struggle with. Trying to be part of white society or black culture–yet not fully belonging to either was eloquently shared in that song. This is classic inner turmoil, the conflict that can shred or divide one’s personal identity. Yet an aspect that Prince embraced to blaze a swath of music the world has never seen.

Baddest Mofo in the Land and the Band

Prince had no label musically (and figuratively after going to war with Warner Brothers over music rights ownership) and was one of music’s true savants. He wrote and sang all his own material, was rumored to be proficient at over a dozen instruments including Bass, Piano, Electric and acoustic guitar, drums, keyboard(s) and number of wind and percussion instruments. He would often record his own track for each instrument, then thread them together, then lay down vocals.

Prince was a down-the-line musical virtuoso whose guitar talents rivaled, and often even dwarfed rock’s greatest talents. Compared often to Jimi Hendrix, Prince could shred with the best of them and still command a presence all his own, to the delight and amazement of music’s most iconic titans.

Legendary rock icon Eric Clapton was once asked how it felt to be the world’s best rock guitarist. Clapton simply replied, “I don’t know. Ask Prince.”

Recently, Saturday Night Live (SNL) held a special full episode tribute to prince hosted by Jimmy Fallon. At the after party of SNL’s 40th anniversary celebration, entertainment’s elite showed up en masse; Pail McCartney, Maya Rudoph, Jay Z & Beyoncé, Bill Murray, Chris Rock, Cuba Gooding Jr and… well, you get the idea. When it was discovered Prince was in the audience, everyone stepped aside and let the Purple Prince of Passion take the stage.

In true Prince fashion, he crushed it, playing a live bone-chilling riff of “Let’s go Crazy” to which the audience sing-a-long and participation brought a tear to this member of purple nation.

Baby, I’m (always gonna’ be) a Star!

As the world reminisces on the fond memories and music Prince has brought into our lives, I’m reminded of the depths of his contributions, to the world, to the industry and to myself personally.

For every important life event I can remember in my life, I feel Prince has had a song for each one. When I needed to get through some serious high school angst, “Let’s go crazy” was there for me. When I struggled through some dark days in college, tracks from “Sign ‘O’ The Times” (his 9th studio album from 1987) was how I powered through. When the world looked great after college and I started my career in advertising, of course “Sexy MF” (you can guess what that’s short for) was my anthem. And when I was laid up in an Atlanta hospital bed, looking at morbid possibility of the amputation of my left leg, Prince’s Emmancipation album (1996) might have been what saved me from the brink–or at least helped save my leg–with tracks like “Somebody’s Somebody” and “In this Bed I Scream”.

No matter where your music taste ran, Prince was your guy; Pop, Rock, Heavy Metal, indie, R&B, Funk, Acapella, Electronic Dance, Hip Hop, Soul–he had contributions beyond imagining. For those who are unaware, here are just a handful of hits Prince wrote for others over the years:

·     Stevie Nicks "Stand Back" (1983)
·     Chaka Khan "I Feel For You" (1984)
·     Sheila E. "The Glamorous life" (1984)
·     The Time "The Bird" (1984)
·     The Time "Jungle love" (1985)
·     Sheena Easton "Sugar walls" (1985)
·     Sheila E. "The Belle Of St Mark" (1985)
·     Bangles "Manic Monday" (1986)
·     Sheila E. "A Love Bizarre" (1986)
·     Art Of Noise featuring Tom Jones "Kiss"
·     Sinead O'Connor "Nothing Compares 2 U"
·     Kid Creole & The Coconuts "The Sex Of It" (1990)
·     MC Hammer "Pray" (1990)
·     The Time "Jerk Out" (1991)
·     Tevin Campbell "Round and Round" (1991)
·     Martika "Love... Thy Will Be Done" (1991)
·     Martika "Martika's Kitchen " (1991)
·     Monie Love "Born 2 B.R.E.E.D." (1993)
·     Monie Love "In A Word Or 2 / The Power" (1993)
·     New Power Generation "Get Wild" (1995)
·     MoKenStef "He's Mine" (1995)
·     New Power Generation "The Good" (1995)
·     New Power Generation "Get Wild" (1997)
·     Ginuwine "When Doves Cry " (1997)
·     Alicia Keys "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore" (2002)
·     Jay-Z featuring Beyoncé Knowles "03 Bonnie & Clyde" (2003)

Good Night, Daddy Pop

Compiling a stunning 39 albums in his incredible 35 year career, seven (7) films (yes, including the $300 seldom seen concert film) and near countless videos, thousands of performances for rooms containing as little as 40 people to his unforgettable performance at the 2007 super bowl, Prince was a people’s entertainer. He was my entertainer.

The sobering fact is that in the course of researching facts for this post, I discovered some tracks, albums and videos I will be enjoying for years to come.

This past weekend, I I went to see Purple Rain with one of my sons, during a special tributary engagement. The audience, cheered, sang along and raised lighters and smartphone lights during the film’s concert finale. I won’t lie, it bought a teary-eyed smile to my face.

On the day he died, I went to a local park during my lunch break, and played in the sunshine–the title of a favorite track of mine on the Sign ‘O’ The Times album from 1987. Swinging on swings, climbing monkey bars and walking in the grass while listening to the Batman Soundtrack (1989). I dare say, it was quite liberating.

The sobering fact is he’s gone (and Prince if you come back as a Dolphin–we’ll know!). I’ll miss you sir. No words can say goodbye for me in a way that would truly match the emptiness your absence leaves for us all. I guess, this is what it sounds like… when doves cry.

God speed, brother–and thank you.

 “Is it silly, no?

When a rocket blows and, and everybody still wants to fly
Some say man ain't happy truly until a man truly dies

Oh why, oh why?
…Sign o' the times”

– Prince, Sign 'O'The Times, 1987

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