My poster for local record store Green Light Music for this year’s Record Store Day event. Decided to emulate the 1950’s sci-fi movie poster vibe with a modified hi-fi robot menace. Signed limited edition art prints of this poster will be available to the frist 50 lucky souls through the door.
Prince was built for me.
Not just for me, but I got to see him assembled, got to see him become a genius, got to see him become smart, famous, weird, sexy, talented, unspeakable, driving, relentless, a musical power like no other I had been able to see from start to finish.
Prince was the copy of Playboy hidden in my room, something that I was petrified that my parents would discover, yet driven to have and try to understand. I didnt know exactly what it was that drew me to him, and I was confused because some of the things he did seemed counter to what I was taught, off, not what I should think. He was forbidden fruit, but really really good forbidden fruit that attracted me and confused the hell out of me. He was nothing like me, and yet he connected something, gave voice to something I could not identify. That made him all the more interesting. So was it just teenage hormones that connected me? No; there were plenty of other musical connections for the angst of a teen growing up in the 80s, plenty of Van Halen and AC/DC to supply the cock rock angle, but that didnt interest me. That was too easy. Prince was a puzzle, up front and hidden all at the same time.
Looking at Prince now, seeing what I thought would continue forever be changed in front of my eyes, I tried to identify what really was his connection to me, back then and now. Why could he still pass the test of true genius, how was he able to still be interesting and engaging, past the superstar rock star status that always surrounded him? How could I still justify my connection to him amidst periods of him being brilliant and batshit crazy at the same time? One thing came to mind:
Prince left nothing off the table.
His musical genius lay in the fact that he was nourished by arguably the greatest generation of rock, funk and R&B, and emerged the child of all of those parents, equal parts Marvin Gaye, Jimmie Page, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. Given that, in making his own music, he never left any genre off the table in making a song. He was also born into a time that expanded rock, electronic music and the video age, and jumped into all of those genres with equal gusto. Nothing was off limits, and he found ways to reconcile seemingly un-combinable musical elements and made them his own. Finding a way to have a Hendrix riff mesh with an acid house beat was the act of a fearless creative, and it sounded like nothing else.
He was fearless, either driven by ego or genius or both, he was not afraid to embody the sacred and the profane, to embrace his heart or his libido, and know that both had something worth saying. But he was also a craftsman, someone who knew the work that had to go into being better, to getting to more interesting places. He knew that boredom was death, and he did amazing and stupid and unbelievable and shocking things to keep his life free from boredom. But he was also enough of an entertainer to know that part of being a professional was making sure that people knew what you were doing. He was a savvy businessman, albeit an eccentric one, but damn he knew how to deliver. At the end of the day, Prince could deliver his product, and it was always top grade and the best in the world.
So from a creative perspective, I got to see a genius build himself, try on new outfits, stumble around, fail in grand fashion, and find a way to use those failures to become better and better. He was not perfect, but thats what made him great; he knew what perfection looked like, but he also knew how great trying something new and not knowing if it would work could be. He could look to God, but also knew how to make people shake their asses on the dance floor, and knew that both were equally important.
So we have no more direct exposure to him as a growing and evolving artist, and that is sad. But we also had 57 years of seeing him become something that we had never seen in this combination before, nourished by the greatest, and generating things that still inspire today. I will play Erotic City and Kiss and 1999 every time I can for a crowd, and hope that someone feels something weird and wonderful when I do.
Thanks Prince, I owe you. We all do.