By Dennis Hartley
RIP Prince 1958-2016
Do I believe in God, do I believe in me?
Some people want to die so they can be free
I said life is just a game, we’re all just the same
Do you want to play?
2016…the year the music died. Or at least it’s starting to feel that way. It’s all too much.
What can you say about Prince Rogers Nelson? If anyone could be labelled the “American David Bowie”, I’d wager this ever-evolving musical chameleon comes damn close. He was a true iconoclast. He was an amazingly gifted songwriter, vocalist and musician who could effortlessly segue from funk to rock, soul to psychedelia, R&B to jazz, hip-hop to techno…you name it. It’s as if he was created by a mad scientist who wanted to see what happens if you take DNA from Sly Stone, Paul McCartney, James Brown, Todd Rundgren, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder-and toss it all into a super collider.
His foray into cinema was more of a bumpy ride. Still, I have a soft spot for his semi-autobiographical 1984 vehicle, Purple Rain. While it is uneven from a narrative standpoint, the soundtrack is genius, a truly superlative song cycle in Prince’s canon. His 1986 “vanity project” Under the Cherry Moon, however, kind of put the kibosh on his acting career. It challenges Ishtar for title of Most Critically Drubbed Film of All Time. Still, its critics-to-audience score ratio on Rotten Tomatoes tells an interesting story. Only 25% of the critics “liked” it…but the audience score is 69%. As one critic wrote: “Strictly for Prince fans — but then again I am one.” Ditto. Obviously, he struck a chord.
(*sigh*) It’s getting crowded up there. Now George can thank him for this heartfelt solo:
Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince.
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
UPDATE: Wow. On CNN tonight, even Stevie Wonder was at a loss for words:
Stevie Wonder Thursday described Prince as “a great musician, a great producer, great song writer” — and was nearly overcome with emotion when asked to perform something that reminded him of the music icon who died at age 57.
“I think I would probably break down if I do a song right now,” Wonder told Anderson Cooper on CNN in during an interview from his Los Angeles home.
Prince, who was pronounced dead after collapsing in his Minnesota home, once described Wonder, 65, as a role model and an inspiration. “He was incredible,” Wonder told Cooper. “I’m just glad I was able to say to him I love you the last time I saw him.”The performers had appeared together on several occasions, including the BET Awards in 2006 and in Paris four years later.
“The times we did jam together were amazing,” Wonder said.
He described Prince as “someone who allowed himself to be himself and encouraged others to be themselves.
“He was very free — and to do what he did without fear was a wonderful thing because it’s always great. It is always great when we don’t allow fear to put our dreams to sleep — and he didn’t.”
Wonder cited 1984’s “Purple Rain” as his favorite — “the whole album was incredible” — adding that Prince “was able to mix the blessing of life of God and, yet, the marriage of sex and passion.
He had fun doing it,” Wonder said. “It is rare for me that I can feel with every single breath how he just passionately loved music.”