A Musical Tragedy and Royal Memories
“Nothing Compares with You,” written by Prince for Sinead O’Connor (1990) is so beautiful it can make you cry. Prince could make you laugh as easily as he could make you cry. Prince penned hits for other artists, e.g. “Manic Monday” recorded by the Bangles in 1986. There was no end to his creativity.
I remember when Prince was an up and coming obscure artist around 1980. I was in middle school before there was MTV and I would tune into the Kenny Everett Video Show. It was a British import that played all the new wave artists that were breaking at the time. It was where most people first saw the Talking Heads with that plain white background behind the band. Music videos were pretty low tech back then. Blondie, The Boom Town Rats and Duran Duran were currently featured on show. David Bowie was at his height with video’s like “Boys Keep Swinging” featuring Adrian Belew on guitar and sonic support from Brian Eno. Then there was this guy named Prince who nobody knew… yet.
In the early days Prince went for shock value. On Everett’s video show I remember seeing “When Doves Cry” the video, that was filmed in a bathtub. My reaction was that because the video was so over the edge visually it distracted your attention from his music. There was a mention somewhere around the same time that Prince played 26 instruments, which made me one of the first people to realize that he was eccentric.
Kenny Everett was responsible for introducing us to Queen. He was a DJ in the 1970’s and was the first DJ to play Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975 in the UK when no other DJ dared to play it because the track was so long and ‘out there.’ Everett spotted genius before everyone else did and gave these cutting edge artists exposure. Everett featured a number of Prince’s early videos in different episodes of the show.
By 1980 Everett’s video show with it’s wild British humor (Everett was hilarious, he was also a sketch comedian) and go go girls (the Hot Gossip dancers) launched the careers of many new wave groups that were breaking away from dinosaur rock.
Like many people, the day Prince passed I found my copy of Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution and played it all the way through. I acquired the CD when I was living in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. Among the brownstones you almost could always find a cardboard box full of discarded CDs. Boy, that hoity-toity neighborhood sure got rid of some great stuff!
I rediscovered “Darling Nikki,” (hilarious) what a wild song. Was it garage rock? I don’t know, but it seemed that songs like “Darling Nikki” and “Computer Blues” might have influenced Lenny Kravitz’s sound? However, Kratvitz doesn’t have the sense of humor in his music that Prince did. When he wasn’t playing the clown, Prince could sing a sad song wonderfully; “the Beautiful Ones” is a beauty that echoes the old school groups like the Chi-lites and songs like “Have You Seen Her.” And we all can remember where we were the first time we heard “When Doves Cry.”
I also want to mention the recent passing of Vanity, one of Prince’s well known back up singers and artist in her own right. Vanity, also from Minneapolis, Minnesota, worked with Prince from 1980 to 1983 and died of renal failure in February 2016.
Out of all the posts that I saw on social media on the day of Prince’s passing (most were somber expressions about how so many car radios were blaring his music), one post by my visual artist friend Miles Pittman hit the spot. Pittman quotes the Horatio’s eulogy for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This is beautiful: “Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet Prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
An iconic performance…