When a major music star dies suddenly, especially one as youthful and vital as Prince, it comes as more than a shock. Many of us are still reeling from Bowie’s passing in January, and so Prince’s random death from “flu-like symptoms” is confounding and upsetting. Prince was many things, a guitar virtuoso, a musical chameleon, a musical genius really. As a producer, mentor, and song-writer, he put several artists and bands on the map, and he himself produced a staggering thirty-nine studio albums over a 35-year career.
Most of us, even those unfamiliar with most of his creative output, recognize the pinnacle achievements of his career: 1984’s Purple Rain soundtrack album eclipsed the B-film it was composed for, boasting signature songs such as “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy” and the sprawling, magnificent title track. Even the most uninitiated recognize his score for the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film.
The album that made me a Prince fan was his breakthrough, 1982’s 1999. It’s hard to believe that he was just 24 when he wrote, composed, and produced these 11 witty, weird, and sexy songs. Nobody, and I mean nobody, was making dystopian pop records in 1982 – this was the era of mindless glitz and gore a la Thriller. Even before mainstream success, Prince’s records exuded a raw sexuality, he married genres effortlessly, pulling from the best of ’70s funk and rock n’ roll and deftly incorporating the synthesizer, which would become the crutch of pop music later in the ’80s.
Prince, like Bowie, transcended his own time, and perhaps even ours. His genius is hard to fully grasp, even now, as we reconcile with the fact that he’s no longer here. His music will always be here though, so in more ways than one, he always will be.