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Prince: The Uncrowned Prince of Pop Who Symbolized a New Wave

Many men fear death, rejection, or loneliness – Prince's greatest fear was being normal. He thrust into the disco-pop-infested '80s Music scene, tottering on the edge of stodgy monotonicity with the new wave, vibration, and finesse, ushering in a long-awaited renaissance. It was not like the era suffered a total decline in artistry – we all adored Bruce Springsteen's poetic proclivity and Stevie Wonder's smooth, progressive blend of jazz, pop, and blues.

But no one expected the young Minneapolis star, who was a little bit of everything and everyone yet, at the core, remained a quintessential individualist, to steer in a new fever which critics were appalled everyone caught.

“Freak,” “weirdo,” “wackadoodle” were among his media-given names, but one thing the haters, for all their brazenness, could never call him was “normal.” As the artist said, he lived in the world but was not of it. He was all about the spunk, all about the funk. And after a four-decade dynamic career, there is no denying that he was the greatest recording artist of all time and the Prince of music.

Prince's Roots

Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

While there's rarely any trace of geographic identity in Prince's multifaceted discography, stars don't fall from the sky, pun intended.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, his mother was a jazz singer, and his father was a pianist and songwriter, and when you heard Prince sing, you just knew music was in his bloodstream. At seven years old, he wrote his first song, “Funk Machine,” on his father's piano – his father would later buy him his first guitar, which, as loving a gesture as one would expect, did not make the father-son relationship any less tumultuous. The singer may not have been a “reminiscer,” but his abusive childhood played a huge role in his becoming.

Prince became a “house-hopper” following his parent's divorce, which came with one silver lining. His father may have gotten him his first guitar, but his step-father, Hayward Baker, took him to see James Brown – who Prince admits largely influenced his style – in concert. The Minneapolis prodigy, ever the maverick, joined the Godfather of Soul on stage and danced with him, too, confident, even then, that he was born for the stage. But his journey to stardom was not without tribulation.

His father, a devout member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, where the singer also has his religious roots, kicked him out into the streets when he caught him in bed with a girl. It is an ordeal he fictionalizes on “Papa” and leaves overtones of on “Sexuality”: “They're all a bunch of double drags who teach their kids that love is bad.”

Homeless, he moved into his neighbors' (the Anderson family) basement. Prince then became friends with the Andersons' son, André Anderson, with whom he formed the Grand Central band alongside his cousin Charles Smith. The basement became widely regarded as the birthplace of the Minneapolis Sound, as far as partisans are concerned.

After his time with Grand Central, he played with the local funk group 94 East. It was not until shortly after high school that he created the solo demo that drew the attention of prestigious record label companies, including Columbia Records and Warner Bros. Records, which he would later sign with.

The Best Everything

Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

Prince released his first album, For You, where he wrote, produced, arranged, composed, and played all 27 instruments on the album. “Soft and Wet,” which the artist calls his first approach to fame and was his first entry into the Billboard Hot 100, was the only exception as Chris Moon co-wrote it.

It was not enough that the artist was prolific; he was expertly prolific, devoting his soul to different components of his craft and ensuring, like Annie Christ, that he was second to none. No one could rock a guitar like Prince; there's “Purple Rain,” The Purple One‘s signature song with the spellbinding, devotional guitar solo to avouch. “Purple Rain” became a staple of his performances, its acclaim climaxing at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show, particularly as rain fell from the sky during Prince's purple-lit performance. In another of his renowned live acts, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the George Harrison tribute, he powers through a charged solo that renders legendary guitarist Eric Clapton's original work obsolete.

He plays the piano, one of the most challenging instruments to master, with a fluency that deluges his rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U” on the “Musicology” tour and sprawls across his posthumously released album Piano and a Microphone 1983. Drums? His 1981 album Controversy, asides from being a socio-political observation with the ever-lingering hint of sexuality, is where he shows off his virtuoso on the drum set. Again, in the chart-topper “When Doves Cry,” Prince proves himself to be the artist who can do it all and make you dance to the beat of his own drum.

Vocally? He was a beast. His voice could reach the depths of an animal-like growl and peak at the fabled Disney-glass-shattering high pitch in the same breath. There was no contender for his shapeshifting sonic techniques, which involved his use of spacing, electronic tones, and near-alien impressions.

In the seven-minute classic soul jam “Do Me, Baby,” he does a little bit of everything – falsettos, belts, screams, squeaks, whimpers, coos, and moans so seductively it forces the listener to their knees in sensual reverence, writhing, and uncovering new sheets to the artist's brilliance. Also, according to John Mayer, “Anybody who ever cooed into a microphone and harmonized it owes it to Prince.”

On the dancefloor, he was busting freestyle moves that would give even the Michael Jackson, one-third of the 80s Pop Trinity Prince was inducted into, a run for his money…in heels!

The artist didn't just know how to play these instruments or to sing and dance. He was the best at them; the best guitar player, pianist, drummer, singer, dancer, fashionista, creative, performer, producer, screamer (hell yeah!) – the best everything. Period.

On Being Inspirational

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Prince despised slavery – in any form. His entire artistry was built on his high sense of individuality. When his relationship with Warner Bros. Records grew contentious, it became apparent to the media, especially when he began performing with the word “SLAVE” written on his cheek, an act to which the record label seemed quite indifferent.

He then changed his name to the unpronounceable Love Symbol, a mash of the female and male gender symbols, alluding to his androgynous nature, only allowing himself to be referred to as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince or The Artist. It decreased his popularity, but The Artist, who once stole the headlines for his 1991 MTV performance in “the illusion” yellow butt cut-out suit, cared less for public reception.

He'd said in an interview with Larry King when asked about his name change: “I really searched deep within to find out the answer to whether fame was most important to me or my spiritual wellbeing, and I chose the latter.”

He did what he wanted and let his music speak loudest for him. Come his 1996 album Emancipation, and he had freed himself “from all undesirable relationships,” becoming an independent artist and inspiring the rise of other indie artists, many of whose careers he elevated. The 2000s marked a new dawn for The Artist, who recrowned himself Prince and released the critically acclaimed Musicology.

With a discography that boasts 39 studio albums, five soundtracks, four live albums, five compilation albums, and most interestingly, music that was locked away in a giant-sized vault in the basement of Prince's Paisley Park estate (which rumor has it could produce albums for another 100 years), Prince did it all.

His music was so wide-ranging and polymorphous that even the most seasoned music connoisseurs could never truly categorize his sound. Was it R&B? Pop? Funk? Soul? Gospel? Rock? It was a little bit of everything – and even, in the latter parts of his career, Hip-Hop, as Hip-Hop became a growing phenomenon. Trust the artist to dabble in it, with the Tony M. features on Diamonds and Pearls, which – bless his valiant efforts – was met with slight derision; he also gate-crashed the genre with tracks like “If Eye Was the Man In Your Life,” and “Incense and Candles.” When the singer himself was asked to classify his music, he rejected the conventional genres and labeled his music “Inspirational.” Who can ever deny that?

Till today, he continues to inspire just by being himself – the eclectic, uncontainable Prince.

Long Live the Prince 4Ever

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Perhaps, being incognizant to the concept of age decelerates the process. Prince may have never counted birthdays and may have worn coats with collars so high they affirmed the widespread belief that he was, in fact, a vampire, but every minute and record was a new age for the purple maverick's reinvention.

From the lesser acclaimed Dirty Minds, a reckless, hypersexual rummage of dirty sensuality, to 1999, a motley of his favorite subjects: sex (well, duh), spirituality, love, nuclear Armageddon, and sex again, to what critics regard his most outstanding work and peak of his career, Sign O' The Times, a socio-political commentary of the late '80s, where he explores the psychedelia, Prince was ever-changing, yet remained deeply rooted to core tenets. The Seventh-Day Adventist turned Jehovah's Witness preserved his spirituality, even with his roguishness, and stayed true to his one true religion: autonomy.

Prince sang, acted, and dressed how he wanted to – who cared if anyone liked him? And millions felt liberated to embrace authenticity each time he sang or played the guitar – who cared what anyone else thought? He was a risk-taker going beyond the limitations of boundaries and tradition, seeking his truth and making music about it. Who else was singing so gutsily about sex, the folly of gender stereotypes, and religion in such a deeply conservative era? Things are different now, and Prince was one artist who set a precedent.

We see his influence like little rain droplets across pop culture; in Janet Jackson's early discography, in Beyoncé's diva-emblazoned performances (oh, that beautiful tear-jerking on-bended-knees performance of “The Beautiful Ones”), and in Harry Styles' devil-may-care fashion eccentricity. Even in Hip-Hop, despite his failed entry, he's often been described as a “kindred spirit” with rap intellect Kendrick Lamar.

Documenting his huge legacy, if possible, would not only encase a panoramic analysis of his skill, but also his longevity, which Aretha Franklin alleged was owed to the fact that he had what was described as “it” in the music industry. His longevity is why one could play a track from any Prince album of any era, and the listener would resonate with it, and why he continues spawning and inspiring artists like Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys, The Weeknd, and Janelle Monáe.

The legendary Queen of Soul, hailed as one of the greatest singers of all time, also said on his passing: “He was definitely an original and a one-of-a-kind. There was truly only one Prince.” We know.

The beautiful ones you always seem to lose, and with the Purple One gone, we definitely know now what it sounds like when doves cry. The uncrowned Prince of music was the greatest artist of all time, and no one would ever hold a candle to him – unless to mourn his absence.

This post first appeared on The Financial Pupil, please read the originial post: here

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Prince: The Uncrowned Prince of Pop Who Symbolized a New Wave


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