The sad news today that Prince Rogers Nelson has passed came out of nowhere for his fans. Growing up in the 1980's, Prince was always one of my favorite musicians. Realistically, he hasn't made much quality music for the past twenty years, but from the early 80's to the mid-90's he was amazing.
As soon as I heard the news that Prince was gone, it made me think of the early death of Michael Jackson. Jacko died at the tender age of 50, but since he had a long bout with addiction, that news was not nearly as surprising. It's hard to believe that Prince, who passed at the age of 57, was slightly older than Jackson. Both were born in 1958, Michael in August and Prince a couple of months earlier in June.
For those who were not around when Prince was coming onto the music scene, it's hard to quantify his impact on popular music. MTV was newly minted and in those days the programming was entirely music videos. For the first time people could see artists performing their popular songs on television with regularity.
The above video from the 1991 MTV Music Awards was possibly the peak of Prince's stardom. His performance was hyped up, the butt-less chaps were a trademark, but it's also easy to forget that he wrote and performed pretty much every instrument on every one of his songs, and produced his own work as well. While some people may not have appreciated his music, it is hard to deny that he had talent.
A comedian that I enjoy made a good point about Prince and a lot of people like myself, who would call themselves Prince fans. He asked his wife, a Prince fan, 'If you like Prince so much, why don't I ever hear you playing his music.' That is a good point. While he still had a following, playing concerts up to this past week, many of his fans from the 1980's were more nostalgic about his music than into it presently. To a certain extent, you could say that the music itself has not held the test of time like some other once-popular performers.
Even still, his impact on the music world for the better part of two decades remains. He made the short-lived career of Sinead O'Connor when she recorded his song Nothing Compares 2 U. With Rosie Gaines, Prince recorded a live version of the song that is one of my favorites from his collection. He had many spin-off artists or associated groups, such as The Time, Sheila E., Apollonia 6, to name a few.
Dave Chappelle brought Prince back into the forefront of popular culture when his show ran this skit that was written by Charlie Murphy. It was a perfect tribute to his childhood idol, both funny and also written in a manner that played the joke on Murphy and his crew.
For many Prince fans, the music is not currently in the regular rotation, but the nostalgia will always remain. If you came of age in the 1980's, you probably wished or pretended that you were Prince at one time or another. It's a sad day for many people who are ages 35-50.
So for those who will remember the music and performances of the little 5'2" dynamo with adoration, what are your favorite songs or moments in Prince's career? I'd have to say that the 1991 MTV Music Awards performance was the top moment for me. I was 17 at the time, he was so darn cool.