A Man Ain’t Happy Unless A Man Truly Dies – Sign O’ The Times
Prince formed a fundamental part in the soundtrack of many people’s lives, including my own. His music gave me something different. Unique, yet familiar. Relatable yet from a completely different world.
Born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 7th June 1958 and named after his father’s stage name in the Prince Rogers Trio jazz group, he abbreviated his name simply to Prince upon releasing his first album For You in 1978.
Here was a man that was not going to be limited by anything, his colour, the conservative recording industry of the time, his appreciation for a blend of musical genres or even his height. He innovated and went places with his music that others couldn’t even dream of and that few have been able to get close to since. Here was a straight black man who appeared on television in 1980 dressed in a bikini and thigh-high boots and went on to win the hearts and minds of a generation.
He will be remembered for his ocean of hits including Purple Rain, When Doves Cry, 1999, Little Red Corvette, Raspberry Beret … I could go on, as well as the juxtaposition between glamorous showman and very private and somewhat reclusive individual. He never seemed in it for the fame and limelight. That was simply born out of his sheer talent.
For me, growing up in the 1980s and 1990s when Prince’s output and chart success was at its peak, it was almost impossible to avoid his music. Be it from his own huge hits, his musical contribution to the comic book film that started it all – 1989’s Batman – or his writing made huge by other stars, such as The Bangles’ hit Manic Monday and Sinéad O’Connor’s take on Nothing Compares 2 U, he was a mainstay of the charts across the world and a bona fide superstar. No matter what else you listened to, you also had a Prince tape or record in your collection.
His musical films Purple Rain, Under The Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge were also ground-breaking in their own right and another insight into his creative genius mind.
Prince was never one to just conform to the rules. From that early television appearance to his well-publicised battle with record label Warner Bros. over creative and financial control over his output, he made up his own rules and paved the way for others to not be afraid to challenge the big recording industry machine.
He changed his name to a symbol. He appeared on The Muppets. Even as a prolific songwriter, he recorded cover versions and even covered other artists’ songs during his Super Bowl XLI performance. He rocked up at random venues in London during a freezing cold February in 2014 and played there that night to sold-out audiences for as little at £10 a ticket. As recently as this year, he played solo shows accompanying himself with just a piano rather than his signature guitar.
I was simply stunned and devastated to hear the news that one of the world’s true iconic geniuses had passed. He was a truly unique talent, showman and inspiration to so many. He proved that if you write great music and simply be who you want to be, you can break down the barriers the world puts up and inspire others to do the same.
Prince was far, far too young to go at the age of just 57 and I was looking forward to the next time he would be coming to London to play some shows. This is a guy whose music I grew up listening to and continued to throughout adulthood. He could stun a room, no matter how big or small, with his incredible voice and delicious guitar playing.
But beyond that, he crossed over musical genres and social stereotypes. He fused rock, blues, R&B, pop, funk, disco and the rest. He brought people together, be they black, white, brown, old, young, gay, straight, whatever. And he washed us all clean with his Purple Rain.
I am simply thankful that I existed at the same time as such a great artist and that I was lucky enough to watch him perform his magic.
I’m actually heartbroken today and really wish the world would stop taking away my heroes already.
Thank you Prince, we are all forever in your debt.
Written by Kalpesh Patel.