RIP: Prince, from 'Purple Rain' (1984)
In the immediate aftermath of Prince‘s death, it was only natural for some to compare him to another rock star who passed away too soon, David Bowie. But the circumstances are dramatically different. While 69 is still a relatively young age, Bowie’s health concerns had been documented. His final album, Blackstar, as grim as a Scott Walker record, felt like a final statement, released just weeks before his untimely death.
Prince’s death was much more shocking, not just because of his age — 57 — but because he seemed to be someone who had conquered the aging process. Always fit, a well-documented teetotaler and performing well into the start of this calendar year (after having released two albums in 2015), Princes showed no signs of ill health or slowing down, not, at least, until news broke a few weeks ago about his plane being forced to land because of a medical emergency. But these things happen frequently to aging rockstars, and, unless you were TMZ, the incident faded from mind.
Prince’s passing was shocking not only because it was sudden, but because he was a rock star we expected to live well into his seventies or eighties. After all, he had done so much and seemed as unflappable as ever at the Grammys only a year ago.
His loss is felt deeply because he changed the landscape of pop music forever, from his use of explicit content to a daring blackness that felt important during an age (the dawn of cable television) in which MTV shied away from showcasing black artists (even a star as huge as Michael Jackson). He made what many consider the best music movie of all time (Purple Rain), and changed the way albums are distributed — he instituted online distribution of his music long before that was an actual thing (the iTunes store didn’t launch until 2003); now, the frequent surprise digital album releases from performers like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar are common.
Prince was as gifted a live musician as anyone, frequently cited as one of the greatest guitarists ever, and a performer so enthralling he made a Super Bowl halftime show feel important. But I’m just a fan from Houston, far away from Minneapolis. Rather than waste more bandwidth speaking about how I appreciated Prince, I’m going to share some links and videos that illustrate why his influence was far-ranging and meaningful.
Prince’s music is not on Spotify or Apple Music, only Tidal, a subscription service. If you have Tidal, you can listen below, but if not, head down to a record store and pick up something tangible.
Minneapolis Remembers Prince: Noisey
A stirring essay from the heart of First Avenue.
13 Great Stories About Prince: The Fader
Thirteen anecdotes that run the gamut from hilarious to emotionally gutting.
Frank Ocean’s Heartfelt Remembrance of Prince
One of the best artists working today crafting a thoughtful, heartbreaking ode to his favorite artist.
How Prince Changed Minneapolis: Pitchfork
A thought-provoking essay about the world’s most elusive, legendary pop musician and his relationship with a town often taken for granted as another white, midwestern, snow-covered city. A fascinating dynamic.
Prince, who was so controlling of his image that he would briskly remove all traces of himself and live performances from the internet, has nonetheless managed to appear on YouTube in mostly sanctioned videos. But after his passing, people the world over have begun to upload incredible rare live footage, TV appearances, award show performances, etc., onto the internet. Please do yourself a favor and watch some of these before they are taken down.
Here, Prince blows everyone else off the stage at George Harrison‘s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction, 2004:
Prince covers Radiohead‘s “Creep” for eight minutes at Coachella, 2008:
Michael Jackson, James Brown, and Prince share a stage: