I woke up this morning with the news of yet another musical icon has passed away this year. Prince, a musician whose music I have listened to and respected for most of my life, passed away Thursday at the age of 57.
Prince, like David Bowie, was an artist I never really thought would die. Not that I thought he was immortal, it is just he seemed so otherworldly that the thought of a world without him never crossed my mind.
I’m not a Prince expert. Over the years, I have listened and enjoyed many of his albums. I really started getting into the Purple One’s music in my early 20s, when I first bought “Purple Rain.” Everything about that album is killer. It is hands down one of my favorite albums of all time. But I wasn’t a fan who owned everything he made.
Prince was an amazing musician. The way he mixed funk, soul, R&B, rock — just about any genre he damn well wanted to head into — blew my mind. He was like a hybrid of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Sly Stone and James Brown all rolled into one.
During my years working in record stores, I would come across many other albums by Prince that floored me. “Graffiti Bridge,” “Around The World In A Day,” “Musicology” and so many others made an impression on me. His catalog is large and insanely eclectic; he was a true artist who didn’t give a damn if the records sold, he made what he wanted to make.
I remember one night in the early 2000s, a buddy and I were exchanging notes on music we had just gotten into. I got him into Television’s “Marquee Moon” and he played me a bunch of B-Sides from “The Hits/B-Sides” triple disc collection. The mere fact Prince’s B-Sides were more impressive than a lot of the music I have heard over the years at that point really showed just how talented this guy was. I was sold on venturing further into Prince’s work.
During my ventures into his music, I was shocked when I realized just how amazing a guitar player he was. I knew he was good, but when I saw him perform the solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” my jaw dropped.
As I got older, I would go back to Prince’s music from time to time. In 2014, I saw his insane 8-minute performance on “Saturday Night Live.” It got me back into listening to his music, and I really enjoyed the two albums he released the following year. I wish I could share the video of that, but Prince was pretty particular about his music online. The link above has an embedded video of it. I would urge anyone who loves music to check it out. It was one of the coolest performances I have ever seen.
Prince is also part of a group of legendary Minnesota musicians who made a giant stamp on music and pop culture. He is up there with Bob Dylan and Paul Westerberg (of The Replacements) as a Minnesota artist who made a huge impact on the music scene. Prince’s influence is still heard to this day in many modern artists’ work. He changed the game multiple times, did things on his terms and blew minds in the process.