On Thursday April 21, 2016: the world not only lost Prince, we lost the greatest musical visionary of the last 35 years – we lost a true king. When this story first appeared on my newsfeed, my heart sank straight into the ground. The world felt the enormity of his passing and paused for a moment to properly recognize Prince’s revolutionary career.
I have to admit – I was born in 1990 and I was not around for Prince’s heyday yet I certainly grew up influenced by his eclectic brilliance. In fact, both my mom and aunt were Prince fanatics, he was The Beatles, James Brown, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley of their high school years. “Little Red Corvette,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” and “1999” were always played around the house. “1999” especially during 1999, which was an important year in my life since my sister was born and that song symbolizes an incredible moment.
While Prince’s hit songs were encoded into my DNA at a very young age, Prince’s impact on my life arose from the Batman ’89 soundtrack. If you know me well, I am a die-hard Batman fanatic. From the moment I first watched Batman ’89 on my VCR, the soundtrack captured my attention as much as the narrative.
Prince’s Batman soundtrack is a forgotten treasure that has rightfully been rediscovered by the Batman community. One cannot underestimate how this soundtrack attracted millions of Dark Knight fans towards his material. I watched this film nonstop throughout the 90s just to hear “Partyman” and “Trust.”
In my opinion, the scene where Jack Nicholson unleashes lethal chemicals into a museum with “Partyman” blasting out of the boombox is one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history. Think about it – Prince’s material turned moments of mass murder into some of the most enjoyable sequences in Batman. As sick as this proclamation sounds, tracks like “Partyman” and “Trust” were infectious funk ridden numbers and the joyfulness within their musical undertones could not be denied.
Years later after Dave Chappelle’s iconic sketch, Prince’s ultimate introduction for my generation occurred during his performance at Super Bowl XLI. For the longest time, I have argued with my friends that Prince played the greatest show in the history of the Super Bowl. Most years, I am highly critical of the half-time show as it often plagued by lip synching and over-the-top publicity stunts (Madonna, Katy Perry, etc.). It’s eye candy for the average viewer yet Prince shoved this stereotype aside and stole the spotlight from the game itself by focusing on the LIVE concert.
At 16 years old, I wanted to stand up and applaud Prince since he delivered such an unforgettable performance even in awful weather conditions. Nobody could have predicted what would happen next. He commandeered every square inch of the stage and effortlessly took the crowd into the palm of his hands. His piercing shrieks and trailblazing guitar solos were foreign to the average listener; they witnessed authenticity at its finest during a corporately funded program. His stage presence threw viewers into a craze, especially as he summoned “Let’s Go Crazy” and Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” with such graceful elegance and blissful aggression. Think about it, he possessed so many hits and covered Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Foo Fighters for the fun of it. He never provided an explanation for his decision nor did he ever need to explain his reasoning.
Looking back, Prince’s performance reawakened my desire to enjoy (older) pop music again. Around this time, I was completely detached from any genre outside of heavy metal. And this wasn’t out of stubbornness; I just discovered all of these incredible bands within the metal genre. Truth be told, I grew up listening to icons like Prince and Michael Jackson; their music shaped me into the man I am today just like Metallica and Iron Maiden.
When Prince passed away, it was a painful loss to swallow since his virtuosity turned me into a better music listener, writer, and musician. The image of him shredding across the fretboard during “Purple Rain” while it poured in Miami; that moment was life changing. In 2007, I played guitar about 4-5 hours a day and Prince’s confidence in himself taught me so much about showmanship. In front of 90 million viewers, he blocked out the entire world and intuitively connected with his instrument. I have watched his Super Bowl performance many times over the years – it’s mesmerizing to comprehend his skill level as a guitarist. He dedicated a great deal of his Super Bowl timeslot towards his guitar solos and those moments screamed for virtuosity. He never displayed any sense of fear and the adrenaline that poured through his veins translated into his note selection, which was emotionally riveting.
What Prince’s death symbolizes in my eyes – it is the passing of a true outlaw in a music industry that represents the Wild Wild West. Today’s music landscape is plagued by technology and overproduction – and this epidemic affects all genres, not just pop. This issue existed in the 80s as well but millions of listener’s worship modern artists that have ghost writers churning out their biggest hits. Prince composed all of his own material and played every instrument on MULTIPLE albums – both in the beginning and latter half of his career. We celebrate Prince’s legacy because this man wasn’t just another pop star; he was a once-in-a-lifetime maestro along the lines of Mozart, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. That was the main topic of discussion on April 21, 2016 – his talent above anything else. He was a household name and sold millions of records for all of the right reasons; he even distanced himself from celebrity culture and stuck to his Minneapolis roots.
Prince changed the world by simply being himself; he shunned aside the notion of conformity and what was considered fashionable, sexual, and masculine. He merged styles ranging from funk, R&B, pop, rock and broke musical boundaries – an accomplishment that will never be replicated. You heard elements of James Brown, Earth, Wind, & Fire, and Led Zeppelin in his music yet he pushed those influences into uncharted territory of accessibility. The conservative thinker would never associate nor combine those styles; the music industry deliberately keeps these genres segregated nowadays.
If anything, the world needs Prince more than ever. Somebody that shuns aside conventional thinking and captures our imagination for their graceful originality. Perhaps his passing will change the mainstream mindset and push average listeners and industry insiders to clamor for exceptionally talented performers of his ilk.
Personally speaking, I will forever grieve his loss. Back in the mid 2000s, I changed my Myspace name to “The Kid,” which was heavily inspired by his character in Purple Rain. Whether I study or workout, my retrieve from heavier music usually involves Prince since his material is so guitar driven. I have wanted to purchase a Fender Telecaster for a few years now, which is totally influenced by Prince’s fondness for the Telecaster. I still aspire to explore his guitar tone through my own musical lenses.
Back in January 2011, Prince performed a three show stint at Madison Square Garden and I was living in Orlando at the time. I remember thinking to myself, “If there were ever a time to fly back and visit New Jersey.” Take the time to glance through those setlists; each show was stacked with his best material. I have covered and seen hundreds of shows over the years; it is extremely depressing that I will never see Prince perform live. There are generations of fans that were robbed the opportunity to experience his artistry in person and the world will never be the same. Regardless, I will continue to show my appreciation and honor his legacy until the dove’s cry. 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign “☮” the Times will be discovered by future generations and his catalog will live on forever. And on behalf of the music world, thank you Prince for changing our lives for the better!