His unique blend of pop, funk, rock and R&B, cut across genres, appealed to a far-reaching audience and still influences the style and direction of music today.
Unlike most of today’s homogenized pop artists, he was a real visionary, in every sense of the word. And, he never felt the need to brag about being one.
Rather, he went the other way. For his entire career, he avoided talking about himself to anyone and everyone who tried to get him to discuss anything other than his music. The man not only had style but, just as important, class.
Plenty of talented musicians have passed away in recent years, but few can say they touched so many of us, through so many different styles of music, as Prince.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a rocker, a rapper, a singer/songwriter, a country artist, or even an already established legend. Odds are, The Purple One’s massively diverse repertoire, at one time or another, had a substantial effect on their work. If not consciously, then definitely subconsciously.
Especially if you were in your teens in the mid-80s and walked out of the movie theater, like I did, singing “Purple Rain” as if it was written just for you.
How many aspiring musicians went home and immediately tried to write a ballad to equal its brilliance? And failed miserably.
Prince was arguably the first artist to successfully merge the worlds of music and movies since Elvis.
His autobiographical film “Purple Rain” won the Oscar for Best Original Song Score. It was the last film to do that. The soundtrack to “Purple Rain” spent six months atop the Billboard Hot 100. At one point, Prince had the No. 1 single, No. 1 album, and No. 1 movie in the country. The last to do that? The Beatles.
It also sold 25 million albums, worldwide, and launched spin-off careers for Morris Day and The Time, Apollonia and Sheila E to name a few. Prince composed all the music for both acts and was a prolific songwriter. He wrote many of his tunes under another name.
Prince’s influence went beyond the dollar signs. His song “Darling Nikki” was so raw and sexual in prompted Tipper Gore and others to form the Parents
Music Resource Center (PRMC) to shield children from music with violent or overtly sexual lyrics.
The song became one of the group’s founding “Filthy Fifteen,” along with other hits by Sheena Easton, Judas Priest, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.
The witch hunt that followed on Capitol Hill forced us as a nation to realize the importance of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
His battle with Warner Brothers over his creative freedom made instant headlines when he adopted a symbol as his name and promptly threw the entire music business into a tizzy over artist/label relations.
So many successful artists turn to covering ballads in the twilight of their careers, but Prince never seemed to get old or lose his touch. He simply kept making records that never lost their edge with age.
David Fagin is a New York writer, producer and musician. His resume boasts an incredibly diverse range of contributions, from top news sites such as Salon, AOL News, Yahoo and The Huffington Post to a wide-range of humorous entities such as The Onion, The Muppets, Comedy Central, Dennis Miller, and Howard Stern. He is fascinated by technology and social media and the seemingly love/hate relationship we have with the changing world. He is also a food snob.
I feel bad for the kids of today. Who’s going to affect and influence like Prince, or Bowie? Justin Bieber? Miley? Kanye? Please.
One difference between today’s artists and the ones who came before, aside from the fact the ones before were preposterously more talented, is that today’s artists seem to think it’s their job to be stupid and immature.
Go back and watch Prince’s first appearance on “American Bandstand.” He didn’t say a word. He let his music do the talking.
If Prince doesn’t measure up to being a creative genius for our time, who does? His respect for his craft, independence of spirit, and lifelong display of humility, puts in him a class with very few peers.
In my opinion, not even the great Michael Jackson can match Prince’s far-reaching influence. Unlike MJ, Prince didn’t acquire a sizeable part of his celebrity from being notorious, exceedingly extravagant and/or bizarrely vain.
For someone to have such a lasting impact on rock, hip hop, R&B, funk, and even metal, and to succeed in keeping such an incredibly low personal profile, especially during the TMZ era, is quite remarkable and the mark of a true artist, through and through.
In time, the legacy of Prince Rogers Nelson will be remembered with nothing but awe and joy. For now, his passing has left millions of us, worldwide, feeling Purple Pain.
Let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest developments in this story.