It’s not often these days I indulge myself by writing pieces relating to personal interests aside from theology and politics, but as you’ve all probably heard by now, the legendary musician and artist known as Prince, has passed away. If you know me personally you’ll understand that the news that broke yesterday has completely shaken me and I left reeling and shocked. For those of you who don’t, Prince contributed so much to the person I am today and his passing feels more like a personal bereavement than the mere sadness that another human is no longer alive.
It was 2006 before I bought my first Prince album, 3121. Shameful as, being an avid fan of Michael Jackson, many people had suggested I listen to Prince in order to broaden my musical horizons. I’m eternally grateful that my friend Fred, alerted me to Prince’s new release that day in the PE changing rooms at Rossett School, as had it not been for his simple suggestion, I would not have experienced the whole other world that is created when listening to and watching Prince.
My teens were a difficult time in my life. I was struggling with my identity, with my sexuality and whilst Michael Jackson’s music provided me with an escape, Prince gave me so much more. Prince filled those gaps in my character that I was struggling so hard to complete on my own. Prince taught me that it was okay to be sexually liberated and to constantly question that status quo; he taught me that it was okay to dress how I wanted and to not be fearful of challenging the social boundaries and accepted norms enforced on us from birth. Prince wore high heels; I wore white winkle picker Chelsea boots with a two inch heel. Prince wore tighter-than-tight trousers; I too felt confident enough to wear my “spray-on” skinny jeans. Prince was sexually electric and oozed confidence in his appearance and appeal; I was deluded! No, I jest. Prince gave me confidence in myself and allowed me to accept the person I wanted to be. To this day I still prefer tighter fitting clothes; I still prefer a shoe that provides me with a little extra height; I still feel confident in the person I am…and that’s thanks to Prince.
Then Prince gave me the music. Songs written with such intricacy and thought than each one can be interpreted in a different way every time you listen. Guitar riffs that completely encapsulate you and transport you to world where music is not only an auditory experience, but one that floods every sense with a wave of emotion and feeling. Prince’s musical talent alone – playing every instrument, arranging, composing and writing every song, producing ever album – is something to be marvelled at. A feat that is extremely rare in today’s “musicians”.
His live shows were electric: I was blessed enough to have seen him in concert twice. My first experience was during his record-breaking 21 night residency at London’s O2 arena. The 7th August 2007 was a night I’ll never forget. Prince was a man of small stature (physically), and so sitting at the very top of the dome deemed it near-impossible to see the slender, flawlessly dressed man in the middle of the stage. I didn’t need to see him. The songs, the music and the atmosphere created an experience that I’ll never forget; playing through his back catalogue without taking a moment to pause, hit after hit, solo after solo the man knew how to put on a show. The second and as it happens, final time I saw Prince in concert was only two years ago at the First Direct Arena in Leeds as part of his “HitnRun” tour. I was three rows from the front. I felt like I was at the meeting of a deeply religious and spiritual cult and Prince was the idol everyone in the room was venerating. It was a genuinely divine experience and no words could ever do it justice.
In some ways, Prince’s passing has hit me more than Michael Jackson’s. I always thought one of two things. Either that Prince was immortal, as he never appeared to age between the days of Purple Rain and Art Official Age; or that he would be playing gigs into his eighties and would eventually pass due to old age. His sudden passing is so hard to bear, especially as he was active and doing what he loved to the very end. He’s not just some artist people have a casual fling with. If you want Prince, you go in for the long-haul: for better for worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health…Prince infected you and took a hold of your very essence. Now that he’s gone, he’s taken a little part of millions of people with him.
That’s why his passing is so difficult. That’s why he should be remembered. Remembered as the Purple One, His Royal Badness, The Artist Formally Known as Prince, The Kid, Purple Yoda, O(+> or simply Prince. I think a more fitting way to remember him would be as a king.