Tribute: Rest in Peace Prince 1

Tribute: Rest in Peace Prince

Following news of Prince‘s passing at the age of just 57 in his Paisley Park estate yesterday, GIITTV scribes have given their first reactions to his untimely death.

“To call Minnesotan superstar Prince a one off would be a crass understatement; he was a unique, original artist with virtuoso musical talent as a singer, dancer, and multi instrumentalist. You could trace the lineage of James Brown, Hendrix and Sly Stone within Prince’s playful imaginative brand of kaleidoscopic pop music but these comparisons are useless when trying to describe such a total one off. In the 1980s his colourful brand of filthy funk, slinky RnB, soul and rock redefined a new kind of amorphous genre-less pop music. His run of albums in the 1980s is perhaps only comparable with Stevie Wonder’s genius run of long players in the 1970s, chewing up and reworking his own image and sound at every turn from the sexually daring funk of ‘Dirty Mind’, the psych soul-pop excursions of Parade to his masterpiece of skewed social commentary Sign ‘O’ The Times he constantly evolved and pushed forward even into the early 90s when he formed the New Power Generation whose slinky soul and funk pop proved another shift in his sonic palette.

Let’s not forget he produced one of the greatest pop songs of all time in the shape of ‘When Doves Cry’, as well as hits for Sinead O’Connor, Chaka Khan and The Bangles. A black artist who broke down barriers by becoming universal and indefinable by race he was simply Prince: with a nubile, androgynous otherworldly Bambi look, imperious ruffles, sleek skin-tight outfits and curls he was a magnet of sexuality to both sexes and a purveyor of party rhythms seeping from every pour. At one point he was one of the most famous people on the planet. Yet he was at the same time a mysterious, enigma. I don’t remember seeing many interviews with the Purple one but when you did you were left with the feeling that he didn’t like giving them and you felt like you had learned very little about Prince the person. that is the juxtaposition at the heart of Prince’s artistry.   A veracious live performer he was playing shows right up to his untimely death aged just 57 yesterday evening. That he was such a private person little is known of his private life and even the circumstances surrounding his death are shrouded in mystery.

Prince redefined the rules for a major label artist, freeing himself from his major label contract with Warners when they wouldn’t keep up with via his frenetic bursts of creativity producing, changing his name to a symbol and painting slave on his cheek. He would also play exhaustive surprise gigs that kept his audience guessing where he would perform next as witnessed by his run in London a few years back where he danced through Electric Ballroom, Shepherds Bush and Ronnie Scotts. He was a forerunner for successful artists who wanted control of their own work. Latter years have seen him keep up his ridiculous levels of creativity, producing nearly an album a year. Whilst these albums have not scaled the imperious heights of his 1980s and early 90s peak, listening back to them made you realise you were still in the presence of a flickering greatness.  Prince was royalty of the highest order proof positive that artistic genius could soar, like David Bowie who also passed away at the start of this year he was a beacon for difference, he helped people embrace their individuality. The world is a little less colourful for the passing of the Purple one, the musical genius that was Prince Rogers Nelson.”

Bill Cummings

“I started going to record fairs in the late 90s when I was about 16. One of the first things I ever bought was Purple Rain for a pound. I picked it up it as I’d always had a soft spot for the title track. I had no idea the impact that decision would have on my music taste over the next 15 years or so. I kept picking up Prince’s records, finding more reasons to fall in love with his music. The raw new wave disco inspired ‘Dirty Mind’, the sprawling ambition of Sign ‘O’ The Times and the colourful psychedelia of Parade were my personal favourites, along with pure pop of Purple Rain which the expression, “every song sounds like a hit” surely must have been invented. These albums could not be classed as just one genre, they were more than that and even more impressively, he made it all sound so effortless. 

His records since the 80s have only sometimes come close to the quality of his earlier work. That has never taken away from the incredible achievement of that first decade of music or his natural gift as a performer. Hearing his music as a teenager opened up a whole new world to me. It showed me how thrilling and full of ideas music could be. I still have that same feeling when I listen to his music now and probably always will.”

Jonathan Wright

“People will say Prince being such a massive pop star with such obvious eccentricities is what gave them the freedom to be themselves – that they were empowered by his refusal to conform to norms. But that’s not really the Prince story: his music and his star quality were about bringing people together, a mission statement consisting of the pursuit of pleasure through the joy of sound and the joy of sex, regardless of gender or colour. I was four years old when Prince had his sole UK number one single and in recent years his hit-making power has diminished but his songs have always stayed in pop orbit. I think about people whistling ‘1999’ in the run-up to the millennium, a university lecturer with distinctive headwear who my friends called ‘Raspberry Beret’, seeing an audience sing along to ‘Purple Rain’ when my home town had its Xmas lights turned on. Mostly I think about dancing with my partner to ‘Controversy’ when we first met, singing along together to ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ on a BBC documentary, unpacking boxes in our home together listening to Ultimate Prince. I imagine it would have made him happy to know that.”

Scott Ramage

“Easily my favourite Prince tune is probably one of his most positive and interesting compositions. It’s simple at its steady core but the flourishes are vibrant and luscious. When the first time ‘Take Me With U’ entered my ears, I was transported and transfixed with delight.

There are still a few pop artists who can do this for me, especially bands like Alpine, but Prince is a monument to truth that great pop is an art form and as worthy as all the praise we heap on so much rock music. Pop isn’t all bubblegum and hitting the industry’s demographic, but often a serious exposition on pleasure. This is my exhibit A on the subject.

Since most of the best original Prince tracks have been wiped from the webs, I’ll settle for this version. Sue me if I play too long.

I’m really just accepting the facts on this one. He’s gone. It’s awful. I find his music more than consoling. It’s as though you were watch news coverage of his passing and suddenly the anchor takes you to a press conference where Prince is being interviewed on his own passing. After hearing sufficient Princisms, the interviewer realises the absurdity of it and exclaims, ‘How are you doing this? You’re supposed to be dead!’

Prince calmly flips his hair back and without blinking says, ‘I’m Prince, bitches; I can do whatever I want.’

Peter Dysart Erickson

“Everyone remembers the first time they heard Prince – except for me. I was born into Prince. My mother is a Prince fanatic of such dedication that she would be reprimanded by old ladies when she’d listen to ‘Purple Rain’ on a continuous loop during resting time when she was in hospital. Our first house looked like it had been decorated by Marie Schrader – even the bathtub was purple. Mum called me with the news before it even hit the news – it was like a family member had died.

As soon as I put the phone down, I didn’t let shock take hold. I picked up my iPad and guitar, and recorded a cover of ‘Sign ‘O’ the Times’. I needed to, as a token of my eternal gratitude. Prince showed me that I could be entirely self-taught on every instrument I felt like playing. I could compose music as elaborate as I desired, despite being unable to read or write music, as long as I could communicate my mind’s creations to my bandmates. Above all else, I could – SHOULD – take no notice of convention, trend, or expectation; I should be me, and never rein in my ambition or musicianship – I wish I’d realised that sooner than I did.

Rest in purple, you beautiful soul.”

Aidan James Stevens

Here’s You The Living’s cover of “Sign ‘O’ the Times”:

“Prince was everything. From ‘Controversy’ – the first album I heard way back when – to now, he was everything. Even the meanderings into the field marked, “Cut that out, Mr Rogers Nelson”, were always at least interesting. And at his best he was incomparable. No point listing tracks, he just had it. And more, and more…and more. Utterly, magically, extravagantly, unique. Wonderful music from a wonderful creator. Gutted”

Vosne Pro

“I first saw Prince in 1995. Strictly speaking it wasn’t him, though. We knew that because the ticket told us that the person who would be appearing that night at Sheffield Arena was really called The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. TAFKAP if you will.  The fact that it wouldn’t be Prince was cruelly reinforced by a video that was screened immediately before the night’s performance. A mash-up of footage of previous hit records by TAFKAP, they were all there – ‘1999’, ‘Little Red Corvette’, ‘Delirious’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘I Would Die 4 U’. And he did. Die for us. Right before our eyes on the big screen he was killed off. The Prince is dead. Long live the unpronounceable symbol, those familiar emblems for male and female. In a strange way it was a perfect binary union of an individual who transcended gender.

The tour was billed as The Ultimate Live Experience. And that is precisely what it was. Promoting his forthcoming album The Gold Experience, the little man from Minnesota proved what is in a name when you positively ooze talent. He could sing, he could dance, and he could play that guitar like nobody else. He could do just about everything he damn well pleased. For hours that night he had us in his complete and utter thrall as he jitterbugged back and forth across a huge lavish stage designed to resemble a human’s endorphin gland. The setting was nearly as fantastic as he was.

The first tour in history to promote an unreleased album, it made absolutely no never mind to us that we did not know any of the songs. OK, there was the never-before performed B-side “I Love U in Me” in there and the set proper ended with ‘7’ from the so called Love Symbol Album but they were the only direct connections to the purple genius we would always know as Prince. And now twenty one years down the line and even more improbably he really is dead. Long live the King.”

Simon Godley

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.