By Ira Kantor
Music’s purple majesty is no more.
It pains me to write that, let alone think it. How can a genius comprised of one-third James Brown, one-third Stevie Wonder, and one-third Jimi Hendrix be gone? How can the artist who made mortality sound unspeakably sexy on “I Would Die 4 U” be taken from us well before his time?
And the biggest question, how will music carry on now that Prince Rogers Nelson isn’t here anymore?
After all, this wasn’t just any “showman.” This was a beautiful chameleon who merged the worlds of passion, groove and near-animal magnetism into a concoction some were too timid to touch, and others couldn’t get enough of.
No other artist was the perfect amalgam of male and female, black and white, and human and alien-like being. With poodle hair, eyeliner, cravats, dazzling colors, boots, and that ubiquitous phallic guitar, Prince had the look and then some to back up his talents. Sure, he had groups like the Revolution and the New Power Generation backing him up but every sound, every lyric, every concept came from his brain, which still maintained the capacity to remember how to play two dozen instruments.
It all started with a simple disco-inspired paean – “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” Even as a 21-year-old, Prince knew how to skirt the censors and use double entendre to his full advantage (“I wanna be the only one that makes you come – running!”). From there we received funk-laden anthems that still thrive to this day – “Controvesy,” “Little Red Corvette,” “U Got The Look” (Containing perhaps the greatest lyric ever written in a Top 10 hit song: “Your face is jammin’ / Your body’s hecka slammin’ / If lovin’s good, let’s get to ramming”). In a world of musical superstars, only he could make the apocalypse sound like a party you’d hate to miss (“1999”).
He was the first since Bob Dylan to put Minnesota on the musical map; he helped Sheena Easton get a second dose of pop stardom; and he made matinee idols out of models. He even gave arguably the best song he ever wrote to Sinead O’Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 U”). It would be her only Number One hit.
Millions gravitated to Purple Rain and its double whammy of “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry” but really he was just getting started – six albums into what would be a Hall of Fame career.
He loved to toy with taboos, much to the ire of the PMRC, but you must be brilliant if you can euphemize promiscuity as a flashy automobile with the top down (“Little Red Corvette”). Whether serving as the voice of reason (“Sign O’ The Times”), a sensual pimp (“Cream”), recalling The Beatles (“Raspberry Beret”) or helping a certain caped crusader find his groove (“Batdance”), Prince remained ever-changing whether fans stuck by him or not.
Name changes aside, Prince was true music royalty. And now, sadly, we must all somehow gather together to get through this thing called life without him.