So, I come across this video embedded in a blog post by awesome blogger Jake Wilson. I click play on the video because I see Prince listed in the title. The first three plus minutes of the video don’t do much for me. I can see Prince but he’s in the shadows, identifiable by the red hat but not much more. Well, I’m just about ready to click stop when at the 3.21 mark, Prince takes center stage and proceeds to righteously kick that song’s ass.
I first heard about Prince when I was in my pre-teens. My sister, being almost eight years older than me was my window into the forbidden so to speak. She got to do and see things well before I was deemed “old enough”. I don’t remember the exact circumstances that introduced her to Prince – I seem to recall she’d gone to a concert and he was the opening act. The good folks of Denver weren’t quite ready for him and thus attempted to boo him off the stage. Fortunately, he played long enough to catch my sister’s attention, thus prompting her to play a tune or two around the homestead. Shortly there after, a single or two from his debut album hit the radio airwaves and I officially declared my fan status. Since then, I have seen him in concert six or seven times (been in the first three rows three of those), own every CD he released commercially and at least three that he did not. I have acquired, through various channels, a number of songs NEVER released to the general public. The mention of his name on another artist’s album would have me shelling out the dollars necessary to add it to my collection. Well, except for the Bangles. Never did buy the whole album…(Prince wrote this in case you didn’t know)
(He wrote two songs for Patti LaBelle’s album, Be Yourself. Needless to say, it has a prominent position in my CD collection)
I’ve got a hand me down New Power Generation hockey jersey (that I bet the guy who gave it to me regrets forking over, lol. Ahem) and a gold replica of the symbol he changed his name to while feuding with Warner Bros. records. I got to party with him (and few thousand fans) at Paisley Park in the early 2000’s. Four days that included a listening party for The Rainbow Children cd that hadn’t been released yet, two concerts in the big sound stage where he introduced us to a brand new performer by the name of Alicia Keys (!!!!!!!!!!!!), and then fifth row, stage right seats at the big concert in Minneapolis. Did I mention we got to go to the sound check as well? Anyway, it was a BLAST.
What’s sadly missing from my collection are the Madhouse and The Family albums. Madhouse was Prince’s jazz band. Yes, JAZZ. If you get a chance Google it. The Family, was the more obscure Prince off-shoot band, who, unlike The Time and Apollonia (Vanity) Six groups, they never seemed to get much air play or recognition. At least not anywhere I lived and partied. Sigh.
You can’t talk Prince without a brief mention on where you stand in the Prince versus Michael Jackson debate. What? You didn’t know there was such a debate? LOL – yeah, at some point there was some brouhaha over which of the two was the better musician. Someone, somewhere had said Michael Jackson was a musical genius. Prince fans went ballistic and the fires flared from there. Personally, I think it falls like this – Michael Jackson was the undisputed king of the concert stage. He was the consummate performer. His videos and concerts were amazing feats of theatricality. And he could sing too. Well, until his voice changed AGAIN and he suddenly sounded, well…to me anyway, he just didn’t sound like a human being. That was also around the time his appearance took on what I came to equate with a look resembling characters from Japanese anime. I grew up with Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. I had one of their albums memorized, word for word. They were the first group I ever saw in concert, but by the time Michael reached his height of fame, all I had for him was sympathy as it seemed he’d lost an essential part of his soul.
But back to the debate – Michael would always be the more visually entertaining of the two, but when it came to musical genius status, that was Prince all day long. Prince wrote his own music, played numerous instruments and played them WELL, he produced song after song, after song, to the point where I believe he could be considered somewhat of a manic personality. Rumors abounded about how little he slept, how driven he’d be to get songs written then recorded only to be hoarded in the vault. I don’t think he wasn’t any less “off” than Michael was to be honest, it’s just that when it came to the MUSIC, Prince was a one man production company – he was involved from start to finish, writing, playing, arranging, recording, producing, distributing, filming the videos, and performing the music live. He did that not only for himself, but for a myriad of groups throughout the years. Both are due their props, but if I had to choose, I’m Team Prince all day :-).
With that being said, there’s one thing that continues to boggle my brain when it comes to Prince. Why is it that so many artists who played with or for him over the years seemed to have vanished from music once they stop playing with / for him? Apollonia, Vanity, Wendy & Lisa, the members of The Family, Candi Dulfer, Najee, Sheena Easton, Sheila E. (who occasionally is heard beating the hell out of some drums with her famous father Pete Escobedo and her brother, but hasn’t really been front and center for YEARS)
Whether “god” or “demon”, I am a Prince fan. I’m past the days of trying to make it to every concert, every venue, or where it makes sense to spend a portion of my rent money snapping up his latest single…oh wait, I did just download his most recent release, but it was less than $15 so it didn’t break any banks. You know what I’m saying, my level of fandom has mellowed over the years as have several aspects of my personality, but truth be told, if I ever get the chance to see him perform in London, my rent (and whatever else I have to pay for) will just have to wait. ;-).