For people my age, Prince was always there. 1999 and Little Red Corvette were radio staples when we started to listen to the radio. Sure it was not until college when I realized that Little Red Corvette was not actually about cars, but anyway. Then came Purple Rain. Since it was R rated and I was still in my single digits, I was not allowed to watch it, but after a lot of begging my parents did rend it, watched it one night, marked the music parts and I could watch them, turn it off, then flash forward to the next performance. Presumably Darling Nikki was the one performance from the film I could not watch as it has the distinction as being the song that prompted Tipper Gore to start her crusade to slap Parental Advisory stickers on albums. It was not until recent years when the film got played ad nausea by VH1 Classic did I finally get to see the non-music bits, and okay, maybe my parents did me a favor because that movie (along with pretty much every movie from that decade) does not really hold up aside from when Prince told Apollonia she needed to purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.
Sure it was hard to be a Prince fan at times, his Symbol era was marred by a flood of mediocre albums as a way as the Artist Formally Known as Prince to get out of his record contract. And I cannot count how many times I went to YouTube to watch Batdance only to remember, oh yeah, Prince hates the internet. But both MTV and VH1 started playing Prince music videos again Thursday and I actually got to see Batdance in its entirety for the first time in maybe twenty-five year and it was glorious. His VMA performance also got heavy play and it is just as shocking today that it got play as it did back then. And watching these video blocks and it is just shocking just how much great Prince music there is. The Morning Papers came on and I completely forgot about, that is just how many great Prince songs there is. The Morning Papers is a great song but I am not sure if it is even one of his fifty best songs.
Like I mentioned above, Prince hates the internet so it is hard to find any of his video, and if you do, they are probably gone by the time you go back. Thankfully he does not own the rights to While My Guitar Gently Weeps which he performed with Tom Petty Jeff Lynn, Steve Winwood (Traffic was inducted that year) and Dhani Harrison (his father George was also inducted as a solo artist) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame put on their YouTube channel from the year he was inducted. Prince is barely seen almost completely off stage, but then he comes front and center and gives one of the most epic guitar solos ever. Seriously, you do not even need all the fingers on one hand to count the number of people who could do the Eric Clapton solo justice and Prince did it. And then when he was done he threw the guitar over his head and struts off the stage. Forget dropping the mic, that is how you end a performance.
Prince could have gone down as the greatest guitarist if he wanted to. He could have been the King of Pop if he wanted to. He was Hendrix, James Brown, and Michael Jackson rolled into one and I would argue better than all of them. Instead of one genre he just did everything great: rock, pop, RnB, funk, gospel, jazz, dance, Purple Rain was number two on my 100 Greatest Power Ballads of all time. The guy even ghostwrote a song for Kenny Rogers. He even created genres, seriously, how do you even classify When Doves Cry? Sign O’ the Times?
As I mentioned, being a Prince fan could be rough, particularly the Symbol years featured a lot of mediocre music, but once he got out of his Warner Brothers contract and returned to being known as just Prince, no silly symbols needed (wait, did Prince invent the emoticon?) the music was good again starting with Musicology and he kept popping up on my end year lists all the way to to 2013’s Breakfast Can Wait (I never got to listen to his most recent album because it was a Tidal exclusive and I have no desire to mess with Tidal; hopefully the Prince estate is a bit more relaxed on the internet). Sure nothing was Purple Rain great again, but it did not have to be, good Prince was still better than most acts in the past decade. Plus this was the guy that gave us the greatest soundtrack of all time (which featured the greatest album closing track of all time), the greatest Super Bowl Half Time show of all time, the greatest Chappelle’s Show skit of all time, and was the best part of the greatest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame all-star jam of all time. As he told us, there is something else after this, a world of never-ending happiness, and I am sure will be putting on massive concerts every night. I would say rest in peace, but Prince seemed happiest when entertaining people, so rock on Prince and thank you for some of the greatest music ever made.