Prince: My Revolution

– by Wendy Morley, Publisher – 

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And now, for the second time in 2016, one of modern music’s most important influencers and certainly one of mine, the iconic Prince, is gone.

Of course I was terribly sad when David Bowie died earlier this year. Even now it’s hard to imagine the world no longer has him in it. This is unlikely, but I feel like I recognized his genius even as a small child. For as long as I can remember, Bowie’s music has been more than just music to me. But it has been there all my life, and that made his influence on me different from Prince’s. There was no “discovery” of Bowie. He was on the radio. My older sisters, their friends and my friends’ older siblings all owned his records. When I was growing up in the 1970s, he was everywhere.

Prince2

Prince was different. He was mine. For me, Prince’s former band’s name at the time was appropriate. He was a revolution. He was me breaking free of the small-town hard rock childhood and opening my welcoming arms to a more eclectic, cosmopolitan, urban life. His music was sexy and unclassifiable. He was rock, he was disco, he was R&B, he was soul, he was jazz, he was funk. Prince was also a master musician, famously playing 27 instruments. He was a producer and arranger. He was an incredible songwriter, writing not only the masterpieces he performed but many more made famous by other performers. He would occasionally perform the songs of others he respected, but always making them his own.

Prince live: Purple Rain

I was lucky enough to have seen Prince live on two occasions. Once as a teen in the 1980s (it was a sold-out concert but I managed to buy a ticket from a crooked cop who used to take tickets from scalpers in exchange for not arresting them) and then just last year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9CPeUkkst4

The first time I saw him was miraculous. He was an incredible live performer, and I loved how he had women in powerful positions in his band. This was such an unexpected surprise at the time, and he continued to make a point of this through the years. He wore purple, of course. A purple suit with an open white shirt, and somehow he made his skinny little pre-pubescent-appearing frame seem to ooze sexuality. His guitar playing was both a sight and sound to behold. He made the most of the stage, but one stage was not enough for this monster talent. A bridge was also built to go over the stage, and watching him stride and then perform up there was joyous.

Prince Live: Hit ‘n’ Run

Last year he held a surprise performance in a smaller venue, as he periodically did. This was a tour of smaller surprise performances, if I recall correctly, called the “Hit ‘n’ Run Tour.” I think it was announced one day before the event or something like that, and I was pretty stoked that I managed to pick up a couple of tickets. I now hear these tours were a ruse, giving him a reason to be in cities where he’d quietly carry out works of charity, but if this was true I certainly didn’t know it at the time.

I admit the show wasn’t as revolutionary as the first had been for me. I was hoping to hear some of the more experimental, jazzier sounds he’d been creating in recent years, but he stuck pretty closely to his big hits. This was unquestionably what the crowd wanted to hear, however, and as always he was a hugely energetic and engaging performer. The reviewers were as smitten as the audience, (“It’s his world,” said music critic Ben Raynor. “We just live in it when he chooses.”) and I was thrilled to see his backing band of powerful women, 3rdEyeGirl, including hometown guitarist Donna Grantis. Prince played far longer than his scheduled time, and I suspect if he’d played all night and the following day – and he probably could have, with his uber-funky energy – the crowd would have danced right along with him.

In retrospect, that show feels like it was a goodbye. At the time I felt I would probably never see him perform live again, but I had no idea the opportunity would soon be taken away forever.

Goodnight, sweet Prince. How we all wish it weren’t true. Sleep well.

Wendy has been both a writer and a music lover pretty much since leaving the womb.

Follow Wendy on twitter @WendyQAve and follow Q-Avenue @QuincyAvenue