I was all about rock and roll as a young kid, so I remember distinctly when my sister asked me, “Do you know what makes Pop music good?”
Michael Jackson’s Bad was on the television set.
“I don’t know,” I answered.
“It’s because it blends all types of music together – even Jazz.”
She said that as the little jazzy break in the song cued on, and Michael and company did a few pirouettes in the subway . It’s still my favourite part of the song and video. From then on I started to pay more attention to the merits of pop music. I saw that it could be just as intricate and sonically challenging as any rock band I dug from back then. And then came Prince …
With Prince the game changed. It wasn’t music that was trying to have the same merits of rock for me now. It was music that was on the same level or better. I began to follow him carefully, especially after the Batdance video.
The artist had no rules, no gender, no style, no limits. Sound for him was clay, and he molded it any way he saw fit. There was something dangerous about him. My mother would let me watch Michael videos, but she warned me against Prince, despite her loving the song “Diamonds and Pearls” to death. And she was probably right.
At 10 or 11, I didn’t have enough courage to tell the world how much I loved a guy who showed his ass cheeks on stage during an MTV Music Awards performance, but I watched and wished I could be that brave. and audacious. Everything he did, I wanted to do. Everything he was, I wanted to be. He became as punk to me as The Ramones and The Exploited – and before I even knew who David Bowie was, he became my musical chameleon. I always hated labels, and he was proving that not having one was just fine.
When his pop career waned a little, I still followed him. Now I look back and appreciate that period of music even more. It becomes clear that it wasn’t the pop scene that left him, but quite the opposite. He was more interested in making his art than having another million selling album. Prince was the real deal – one of the last bridges we had between the hard core old school and new school of musicians that could actually play and perform with virtuosity, and weren’t a studio creation. There is a big gaping musical hole left where he stood.
I will miss his style, his music, and his otherworldly (and at times frustratingly so) status.
The great thing about people like Prince, though, is that one can never miss their spirit. It was powerful while he was on earth, and will become even more transformative and powerful in his passing. Where ever he may be now, he is as present as ever.
Here is the best tribute I can pay to the man. A cover of my favourite song of his.
R.I.P. Purple One
P. Ray 2016
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