I had another post set to go today. But before we turn out the lights on this week, we need to talk about Prince.
The same words kept repeating on my Twitter feed.
Icon. Legend. But these words don’t quite do Prince justice. Former Billboard editor Nelson George spoke for many when he called him “one of the most important artists of my generation.”
Warner Bros. Records was filled with hitmakers when I worked there. And then there was Prince.
Even then, he was hard to categorize. He was insanely successful but intensely private. Prince was often flamboyant, but never boisterous. His presence alone commanded attention, as he does in the video below. (His unbelievable guitar solo begins at the 3:33 mark.)
While other musicians refused to set foot in the studio without the best session players backing them up, he insisted on working on initial tracks by himself. Stories would come from A&R about Peggy McCreary powering through yet another session that ended at dawn, engineering every experimental riff. Prince would seamlessly move from piano to drums to guitars to vocals, demanding a rough mix before he left the studio.
In his induction speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Prince indirectly mentioned the thin line he had walked between ambition and obsession:
When I first started out in the music industry, I was most concerned with freedom. Freedom to produce, freedom to play all the instruments on my records, freedom to say anything I wanted to. I embarked on a journey more fascinating than I could ever have imagined.
But a word to the wise. Without real spiritual mentoring, too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay.
And a word to the young artists…a real friend or mentor is not on your payroll. A real friend and mentor cares for your soul as much as they do the other one. This world and its wicked systems becomes harder and harder to deal with without a real friend or mentor. And I wish all of you the best.
Alicia Keys introduced Prince by saying, “Rock and roll is a music of kings. Soul is a music of queens. But there is only one Prince.”
Thank you, Prince, and good night.