Thursday, April 21, 2016
R.I.P. Prince, 1958-2016
It's not often that a cultural icon, beloved by millions around the world, comes around. As a kid, growing up in the 80s, there was a ton of great music to get lost in. Pop music was at it's most diverse, and I think at it's most creative. It was the decade that launched Michael Jackson into super stardom, and gave rise to Whitney Houston, Madonna, and Prince. As of today, only one of those icons is still with us.
Born Prince Rogers Nelson, the artist who would become a one word household name, started off in life with nothing, but has left behind one of the largest and most diverse music legacies of the modern era.
This was an artist who wrote, produced, and performed every hit he ever had. He not only wrote music for himself, but wrote and produced hundreds of hit songs for other artists, including Chaka Khan and Patti Labelle. There wasn't an instrument he couldn't play to perfection, including the guitar, just as Eric Clapton what he thought of his playing.
For myself, I have a love/hate relationship with him. I adore his music from the 80s and early 90s. If he had a hit during that time, I loved it; "Little Red Corvette", "Raspberry Beret", "Kiss", "When Doves Cry", "Get Off", "Batdance", "Erotic City", the list could go on forever. I respected and appreciated the way he bent the norms of masculinity and sexuality, pushing the envelope further with every release. That's the love side of me when it comes to him.
The hate side, or strongly dislike side, is how his views changed later on in life. In 2008, years after he became a Jehovah's Witness, he came out against gay men, using God as a reason. He stopped playing the hits, at least the sexually suggestive ones that catapulted him to stardom, and he re-released songs, with the naughtier lyrics taken out. Those last two points, other than turning his back on his own legacy, don't bother me all to much. It's that first one that's a sticking point to me. It's not so much that he had his own religious views, we are all entitled to them, it's the way he condemned a large section of his fan base, a fan base that helped him become the cultural icon he was. There is no way you can argue that Prince would have risen to the heights he did, without his gay fans. To take our money for years, to use lyrics validating the feelings that many of us grew up feeling, only to slap us in the face all those years later, it's a little jarring.
I'm still a fan, I still appreciate his early music, and I freely acknowledge the impact he had on other artists, and society in general, but I'm a jaded fan now. I mourn his passing, and I think the world has lost one of it's most talented men, but I'm not heartbroken by it. I cried when Whitney and Michael died, I will cry when Madonna dies, but Prince doesn't get a tear from me.