Principally, 2016 has been a hard year for fans of music, comedy and film. Not only did we ring in the New Year with the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, but since then we have also lost greats, such as Ronnie Corbett and Victoria Wood. Someone must ask the question whether this is a karmic response to some crime we may all have committed. However, with the passing of Prince this has taken on a new low. Prince, to sum up such an artist – nay an artiste – in the space of a few hundred-word article, would be tantamount to sacrilege. Yet, this humble writer shall endeavour to do what he can. A figure whose superb discography was festooned with hit after hit on classic albums, such as Hit and 1999, was a man of unreachable heights. Take his Superbowl appearance in 2007 during a tropical thunderstorm of ‘Purple Rain’ to see how his blend of insouciant cool and calm bearing acts as the eye of any musical storm. Indeed, look only to ‘Purple Rain’, which was the epochal album of the 1980’s, to see a true musical genius at work.
Many will compare him with the late Bowie but to do so would be both an honour and a pointless task. Prince cannot and should not be defined in comparison with other Artists, he simply has no equal. An auteur, a man whose music seamlessly blended white rock, funk, soul and folk. Take the song ‘Kiss’, with an underlying hook that would put Nile Rodgers to shame and is still to this day, one of the greatest demonstrations of vocal strength in recent memory or even ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, the song which defined the urban-funk landscape of the period. Nonetheless, like Bowie, everyone has a favourite Prince song; a song which despite the maddeningly inconsistency of Prince’s discography survives because of his eclectic mastery of a wealth of diverse musical influences. Upon hearing via several close friends of the death of Prince, I was unable to fathom how. How could such a figure who had produced perhaps some of the most textured and musically symbiotic ‘Sign ‘O’ the Times’ to ‘Lovesexy’ be dead? The song however which drew me into Prince’s anthemic brilliance was ‘Raspberry Beret’, a song which every single person regardless of age, creed or musical background can appreciate as an unabridged masterpiece of funk, soul and vocal mastery.
To this writer, Prince represented more than a musician, he represented the constant process of imagination and reinvention, an apotheosis of talent and heart. Prince was noted of being extraordinarily gracious and kind yet infuriatingly diverse with his works. Even his Magnum Opus, ‘Emancipation’, a three-disc bastion of work had devoted followers reeling in shock. His 90’s transition to the Artist Formerly Known as Prince and to then become Ankh is a move which like Bowie had many die hard fans scratching their heads. Yet Prince, like Bowie constantly shifted his artistic oeuvre, becoming a chameleon who adapted himself not to our environment but to the zeitgeist of his mind and musical fancy. Moreover, Prince and the New Power Generation, Prince and Third Eye Girl, Prince and the Revolution, these reinventions, this creation of FUNKNROLL has made an indelible mark on our collective psyche, on my musical ear and on the sign of the times.
There will never be another one like you. Thank you for the good times, dearly beloved Prince has left the building.