Memorializing Prince is a near impossible task. He was many things to many people, but he was something to everyone.
He paved the way for contemporary African American popular music, he spearheaded meaningful discussions about gender fluidity and androgyny through his art (much like David Bowie, another great who died this year had). He was freakishly talented – as a singer, guitarist, and producer. He was a musical icon, a master showman, and a true celebrity (at turns freakishly accessible or totally reclusive).
At a time like this it’s easy to get caught up in the persona of Prince and his bizarre life, but that’s not how I want him to be remembered. Rather, like Bowie, I’d like him to be remembered as a musical icon whose genius cannot be measured in earthly terms – his talent was transcendent. There wasn’t a genre of music that Prince couldn’t cannibalise, synthesise, and evolve. It’s why everyone loved him regardless of the genre that you they listened to.
The lusty funk-pop experimentalism of ‘Dirty Mind’ really hit me as a teenager. Upon listening to it I was struck not just by Prince’s skill as a musician, but also his ability to produce an album that defied the rules of genre. His tracks, which included the taboo-busting ‘Sister’, seamlessly transitioned between new wave, rock, and soul – all while maintaining an air of accessibility and authenticity.
Purple Rain was the first album that he released with his backing band, the Revolution, and it helped to cement him as a star. It’s a glorious album, I love every minute of every track on it, and is easily one of the most important records in pop music history. Its title song is the epitome of good pop music – it’s equal parts piercing, desperate, and anthemic, and wholly original, and had a huge hand shaping my musical journey as a teenager. Other stand-out tracks include: “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, and “I Would Die 4 U”.
There are so many other albums that I implore you to listen to, to truly appreciate the extent of Prince’s genius and the impact that he had on popular music: ‘Sign O The Times’, ‘Diamonds and Pearls‘, and even ‘Musicology’. These albums are proof that his work is going to hold up forever, and that’s how I choose to remember him – as a fiery and flamboyant musician, blessed with an inimitable spirit and a desire to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
However you choose to remember Prince is ultimately up to you, as I said earlier I choose to remember his for his music, for the huge part he played in shaping who I am as a fan of music. That’s why, as you may have noticed, I have chosen to feature so many of his tracks in this article. If you’re not a fan of Prince, or haven’t been exposed to his music yet, why not use this as an opportunity to rediscover what made him so special to so many people.
Thanks for blessing us with your music Prince, the world is a little less funky today.