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Prince: 1958-2016

(Note: This post was written in 2014)

It’s challenging to write about Prince. He has been around for so long and has released a mountain of music in multiple genres, all of which he’s mastered. But has been strangely absent as well. Everyone agrees he is a genius. But he has been a punch line because of his strange persona, which was most clearly illustrated by taking a symbol as his name for a while.

The strangeness always has vied with the talent for top billing. Make no mistake, however: Prince is a serious artist. The first paragraph of Thomas Erlewine’s profile at AllMusic provides a feel for how mistaken anyone is who thinks Prince is nothing but a joke:

Few artists have created a body of work as rich and varied as Prince. During the ’80s, he emerged as one of the most singular talents of the rock & roll era, capable of seamlessly tying together pop, funk, folk, and rock. Not only did he release a series of groundbreaking albums; he toured frequently, produced albums and wrote songs for many other artists, and recorded hundreds of songs that still lie unreleased in his vaults. With each album he released, Prince has shown remarkable stylistic growth and musical diversity, constantly experimenting with different sounds, textures, and genres. Occasionally, his music can be maddeningly inconsistent because of this eclecticism, but his experiments frequently succeed; no other contemporary artist can blend so many diverse styles into a cohesive whole.

Another odd and otherworldly thing about Prince — who was born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis in 1958 — is that he doesn’t seem to be looking much older than in his heyday.

Posting about Prince also brings the problem of the lack of good video. He doesn’t like his material to be on YouTube and has worked to limit it. It’s an interesting story itself. Click on the techdirt link below for details.

Above is “C.O.O.L.” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” I was glad the version of “Purple Rain” below is available, simply because it shows that Prince, along with everything else, is a world class guitarist. The best site dedicated to Prince seems to be Princopedia.

Wikipedia, techdirt and AllMusic were used to write this post. Home page photo: jimieye.

 

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Reading Music

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.