Prince, mysterious, inventive chameleon of music, dies at 57

If you are a regular here, you know that I am often critical of the Washington Post for their wishy washy stances on important issues, their seeming drift to the right editorially, lack of cojones in the face of constant right wing attacks, but this morning Matt Schudel and Emily Langer wrote an excellent piece about Prince.  With all the tributes we've seen since the announcement of Prince's death yesterday, somehow this one seems to hit it right,  the mystery that is Prince and his music, his sexual ambivalence, fierce independence, iconoclastic persona and musical genius that he was.  

The Washington Post
By Matt Schudel and Emily Langer April 21

A musical chameleon and flamboyant showman who never stopped evolving, Prince was one of the music world’s most enigmatic superstars. He celebrated unabashed hedonism, sang of broken hearts and spiritual longing and had a mysterious personal identity that defied easy definition.
In such hit songs as “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain,” Prince produced a musical legacy and a provocative stage presence that set him apart from most other entertainers of the 1980s and ’90s.
He won seven Grammy Awards and an Academy Award, and was named in 2004 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He remained a creative force in recent years and had performed earlier this month but canceled an April 7 appearance in Atlanta because of what a representative called the flu.
His death April 21 at his home in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, Minn., was a devastating shock to the entertainment world and beyond. He was 57.
His publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, confirmed his death, but the cause was not immediately known.
Prince was a songwriter, musician, producer, choreographer and performer, seemingly in equal measure. He crossed musical genres, from classic rhythm-and-blues to hard rock, funk and jazz, seeking a vision of originality with each incarnation. His primary canvas was, in effect, the studio, where he produced his music with a meticulous eye toward pop perfection.
“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent,” President Obama said in a statement. “As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer.”
Onstage, he projected both an urgent masculinity and an androgynous vulnerability, as falsetto squeals yielded to deep baritone growls. He stood only 5-foot-2, but few had a more commanding presence. He wore leather and lace, sometimes at the same time. He strutted the stage in a long coat like a Regency dandy, only to throw it open and reveal scanty briefs underneath.
In the early years, his theatrical concerts featured cars, backup singers and dancers, elaborate lighting and sometimes raunchy, frankly sensual dramatizations. He linked sexual obsession with a sense of spiritual yearning, drawing comparisons with one of his early musical models, Marvin Gaye. As he played his guitar with a frenzied intensity, a geyser of liquid would spew forth from the guitar’s neck.
“Do you want to take a bath with me?” he said, as he tore off his shirt in concerts in the mid-1980s. He then stepped into a bathtub under a spotlight and let the audience’s imagination roam.
Prince’s music was full of bounce and drive, with memorable musical and verbal hooks. “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999,” he sang in his 1982 hit “1999,” coining a phrase that would survive long past its expiration date into the new millennium.

In 2007, Prince gave what was widely regarded as one of the greatest Super Bowl halftime performances ever, singing “Purple Rain” and other songs in a downpour in Miami. As a songwriter, he penned songs recorded by Chaka Khan (“I Feel for You”), the Bangles (“Manic Monday”) and Sinead O’Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 U”), among other performers.
In 1988, Village Voice critic Robert Christgau declared that Prince’s varied talents made him “the greatest rock-and-roll ­musician of the era — as singer-guitarist-hooksmith-beatmaster, he has no peer.”

When “Little Red Corvette” became a major hit in 1982, it was one of the first songs by a black artist to be in regular rotation on MTV. It was one of the grand party songs of its era, celebrating youthful libido. His crowd-pleasing 1984 song “Let’s Go Crazy” began with a call to prayer — “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life” — before becoming a hard-driving dance tune.

His 1984 album “Purple Rain” sold more than 13 million copies in the United States and won two Grammy Awards. He also won an Academy Award for best ­original song score for the semi­autobiographical film of the same name — in which Prince was the central character.

Six of Prince’s songs rank in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top 500 songs in rock history, including “When Doves Cry” from the album and film “Purple Rain.” The soulful “When Doves Cry” was simultaneously No. 1 on the pop, dance, and soul charts in 1984.

THE ENTIRE EXCELLENT ARTICLE – well worth a read – is here:

Perhaps none of us knew the real Prince, the mystery, the enigma, the androgyny, the shyness, but what we knew about him we knew through his music.  And that we know to be blazingly real, achingly heartfelt and unshakably everlasting.  

Thank you Prince.  


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