We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
I keep coming back to it. It's the all-star jam at the end of the 2004 Hall of Fame Induction Cermony. The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is being played and Tom Petty's up there with Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, and others. But, it's Prince who steals it. How do you make a Beatles song not a Beatles song anymore? Give Prince a guitar.
Prince Rogers Nelson owned the stage that night just as he's owned every one he's stepped on. Letting his shredding do the talking, it's one of the most epic guitar solos I've ever seen. I hate the word "epic." Millennials have totally destroyed it, but it's the only one I can use here. Throughout this performance, Prince is looking at his peers on the stage, the crowd, or visibly feeling the music resonating out of his fingers. Oh, and he's smirking. There's a lot of smirking. Focusing on the latter, one got a sense he knew he was in the zone. He knew how good he was. He knew he was the best thing on this stage or any. At one point, I think the man nearly or actually does fall off stage, but continues playing. And, then it's over. As the iconic song draws to a close, he tosses his guitar up, and exits the stage. That's how he left this world today. Leaving us wanting more.
But, let's not be too greedy. Prince left us with a whole lot - though he leaves us at just 57. There are no words really to describe the impact he and his music have had. There are very few artists who manage to appeal to any age, race, creed, color, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. David Bowie, who we also lost this year (what a painful 2016), did and it's quite ironic. Prince was sort of the Bowie of my generation. You never knew what he'd do next, but whatever it was and whenever he did it, it was awesome.
Growing up a child of the 1980s, the tabloids tried to make it a battle between Prince and Michael Jackson. It wasn't such a leap. Both were pop royalty. They were both flamboyant. They both owned the charts. The truth is, however, it wasn't a contest at all for me. You don't choose between artists. They choose you. For me, Jackson was the "King of Pop," while Prince was the King of Everything, blending genres like colors on a canvas. Funk. Soul. Rock. Jazz. R&B. Everything and anything, he used in his innovative, sexually-charged arsenal, and it just slayed us.
Prince was a star already but MTV gave him the platform to just dominate. Back then, you heard new music through new music videos. I heard "Kiss" for the first time on that network, and it floored me. I remember "Raspberry Beret" debuting. I remember being entranced by "When Doves Cry." Yes, I know I'm going out of order with releases here, but I'm a bit incoherent with this news.
Purple Rain was incredible on so many levels. I found the movie alright, but the soundtrack was - well we know what it was. It changed lives. The songs on the album with The Revolution or later tracks with the New Power Generation are as timeless as Mr. Paisley Park will be and always was. Each of his albums have something to showcase. Even the ones I personally don't like.
There's too much to say about him and his artistry. I'm running out of words. I'll say this though - he gave the best Superbowl Half-Time show ever, and his whole "Artist Formerly Known as Prince" period was brilliance. What a forward-thinking, ballsy, PR-move. Career suicide my ass. This man continued to release music while protesting his record contract. What a genius. We don't toss that term out to just anyone. Prince was.
From the days of "Darling Nikki" to the no-doubt long, sweaty, sexy nights of his latest record HITnRUN Phase One, he leaves behind a legacy that will be untouched by any other artist. Forget the 100 million records sold, the seven Grammys, the Golden Globe, the Oscar, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall and that aforementioned performance I spoke of a few paragraphs up.
Prince was meant for bigger screens than your phone or iPad. He was so short in stature but larger than life. That line sucks and is so overused but it's true. Watch the Golden Globes from a few years back when he unannounced presented Best Original Song or watch The Grammy's a bit earlier when he awarded Gotye Song of the Year. The standing "O" was made for this guy. He's one of the greatest entertainers we've ever had. I'm talking top ten here. A huge piece of my childhood went with him today.
What a career. What a tremendous loss. What a gain if there's life up above. And if there is, heaven is about to get a lot more sexier.
About A-Sides with Jon Chattman:
Jon Chattman's music/entertainment series typically features celebrities and artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometime humorous) way. No bells, no whistles -- just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, Jon strives for a refreshing change. Artists featured on the series include Imagine Dragons, Melissa Etheridge, Yoko Ono, Joe Perry, Alice Cooper, fun, Bleachers, Charli XCX, Marina and the Diamonds, and Bastille.