Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hail To The Prince

Prince R. Nelson      1958-2016

I was crushed when I got the news Thursday that Prince had passed away. Not the Prince of Wales. Our Prince. That sexy, songwriting powerhouse, the musical glue of my generation. He recorded songs that everyone….cowboys, jocks, punks, athletes and cheerleaders pretty much all had to agree were amazing and commanded to be danced to. He wrote songs that made you feel like a true sexual being, that made you want to grab someone and grind. And he wrote the anthem of all anthems, the song that filled the dance floor for every wedding reception, every prom and every New Year's Eve party until…well, until 1999. OK, even after. Prince was just soooo good. Better than I think most of us really realize.

For those of you who are just finding out now, Prince wasn't feeling well for a couple of weeks, and thought he was battling the flu. He postponed a couple of Georgia appearances on his current tour, then his jet made an emergency landing at an airport in Illinois for medical assistance a week ago. Thursday, he was found unresponsive in the elevator of his Minneapolis mansion (I'm assuming it's a mansion. I mean, it's got an elevator), but EMTs were unable to revive him with CPR. He was 57 years old. Far too young in this day and age to be losing someone as talented and sexy as Prince.

He was someone who made a lot of us feel sexier than they probably were (I know that's the effect he had on me). A friend of mine from my Alaska days confessed that his fondest, sexiest memory of Prince was the night he was supposed to be painting the empty public indoor swimming pool with his girlfriend, and instead they ended up dancing naked to Prince in the pool until they were caught in the most compromising of situations by the building's caretaker. I bet we all have a story like that about Prince up our sleeve (and I absolutely want to hear them)!
There are so many great, little known facts about Prince. Here's a few that I regaled my stepson with today (and he told me with a completely straight face that he thought they were interesting):

  • Prince is his real name. He was born Prince Rogers Nelson. He was named after his father, a jazz musician, who used the name Prince Rogers as his stage name.
  • He was only 5' 2". But somehow he packed 8 feet of personality and talent into that tiny little frame!
  • Although he loved glitter, high heels and makeup, he also loved women. He was married (and eventually divorced) twice, and some of his celebrity hook-ups included Madonna, Susannah Hoffs, Kim Basinger, Carmen Elektra and Shiela E.
  • He was a Jehovah's Witness. He was introduced to the religion in 2001, and occasionally went door to door, you know, the way they do. So if you got a door knock at some point in the past 15 years and thought to yourself, hey, you look like…well, you might've had Prince on your doorstep.
  • You know how some people joke about him being "The artist formerly known as Prince?" Well he actually did legally change his name to Prince logo.svg in 1993. It wasn't for the reason you think. It was because he was frustrated with his record label, Warner Bros, who trademarked his name. He was so upset about being 'merely a pawn' for making money for the company, that he changed his name to a symbol with no pronunciation. Eventually he changed his name back to Prince again after his association with the label ended. Or "The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince."
  • He had a son, Gregory, with his first wife in 2006. Unfortunately, the baby boy passed away from a condition known as Pfeiffer Syndrome a week later.
  • He's written more hit songs than you might realize. For example:
  1. Manic Monday by The Bangles (probably during his romantic link to Susannah Hoffs)
  2. Love Story by Madonna (probably also during his romantic link to Madonna)
  3. The Glamorous Life & A Love Bizarre by Shiela E. (same deal)
  4. Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O'Connor (No. No romance there. In fact, he kicked her out of his house, and it might've been the first time they'd met, after they got into a screaming match. But Sinead doesn't get along with many people.)
  5. I Feel For You by Chaka Khan (When she recorded it, it was a cover! He released it in 1979, she made it a hit in 1984, and it was this version that won Prince a Grammy in 1985.)
  6. Jungle Love and The Bird by The Time (Prince & Morris Day were good friends, and he wrote several of their hits, including these.)
  7. Round and Round by Tevin Campbell (Tevin was a really talented young kid. I thought he was going to be the next Michael Jackson. Or the next Prince. Prince wrote him a  song, produced it, I think he even played all the instruments on it. I loved that song.)
  8. How Come You Don't Call Me by Alicia Keys (She changed the word U to You and released this song in 2002. Prince originally released it two decades earlier, in 1982, as the B side to the single 1999. You know, back when we still had 45s.)
  9. Sugar Walls by Sheena Easton (He used the wildly original pen name of Alexander Nevermind to write this one, but it still smelled like the heady musk of Prince. Tipper Gore and Jimmy Swaggart both condemned the song, which was supposedly - to be delicate - about the interior lining of a woman's genitalia.)
One more really important thing to know about Prince. He was very particular about copyrights, trademarks, and wanted very much to be in control of his music, his performances, even performances  of other songwriter's songs. There are numerous lawsuits that Prince filed (and dropped) over the years regarding unauthorized photographs, recordings and films of his music on YouTube and other websites. It's why you won't hear Prince performing any of his major hits like Little Red Corvette, Purple Rain or 1999 on today's Prince Has Passed Playlist. He demanded that most of his music be removed from websites like Spotify, and they obliged him. But he hasn't done the same for all the hits he wrote for other people, so you can enjoy those, plus a few other lesser known Prince songs and his unique cover of one of his idol Jimi Hendrix's songs. I've also included a couple of the best Prince covers I've found, Basso van Stiphaut's version of Gett Off, and Patti Smith's take on When Doves Cry. And it all starts off with a Prince song that proudly denounces the recording industry and consumerism in America that he gladly allowed to be shared on the world wide web because it like a giant middle finger to the industry he grew to detest litigiously. 

Hail to the Purple Prince. We loved you. Every inch of you. Even if we can't listen to any of the good songs on the internet.

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