By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
Earlier this month on June 7, Prince Rogers Nelson, known to the world as Prince would have been 61 years old had he lived.
Although the Minneapolis native has ascended from this physical plane, his spirit and his music is transcendent, incomparable and endures through generations. In fact, there are those who believe Prince was actually an ascended being, an angel if you will, who lived among us. And when you think about the sheer genius and the sheer volume of his creative body of work, the ethereal characterization of the man known as “his royal badness,” is actually hard to refute.
On his debut album, “For You” released April 7, 1978, Prince produced, wrote, arranged, composed and played all 27 instruments, except for on “Soft and Wet,” the album’s biggest Billboard hit, which Prince co-produced with Chris Moon. The only other mainstream Pop musician/singer/producer of his generation as prodigious as Prince arguably is the legendary Stevie Wonder, who was his very dear friend. The two multi-dimensional creative icons occupy perhaps the most rarified air in the history of Pop music.
After his debut, Prince returned the next year in 1979 with “Prince,” which included the R&B hits “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and the album went platinum. He didn’t miss a beat the next year in 1980 when he produced the album Dirty Mind, perhaps his most sexually incendiary recording of them all. It included the album title track, “Uptown,” and “Head,” and was certified gold. The group he assembled for his second album “Prince,” which included Dez Dickerson on guitar, Andre Cymone (Prince’s childhood friend) on bass, Lisa Coleman and Dr. Fink on keyboards and Bobby Z on drums, was one of the most formidable young bands in Pop music. But, over the years, Prince would also emerge as one of the most talented guitarists in the world.
After the “Dirty Mind,” album Prince’s creative genius seemingly exploded. He created the band The Time, led by Morris Day, although Prince wrote most of the music, as well as the all-girl group Vanity Six. Two more critically acclaimed albums followed after “Dirty Mind,” including: “Controversy” (1981) and the double album “1999” (1982). By the early 1980’s Prince was being mentioned in the same breath with the biggest music star on earth, Michael Jackson and a rivalry between the two titans began.
Prince’s next album “Purple Rain” solidified his position at the top of the Pop music pantheon. “Purple Rain,” the soundtrack for the wildly successful movie (based loosely on Prince’s life) of the same name, sold more than 13 million copies in the U.S. alone. The album is ranked 72 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all-time. The movie made Prince a legit movie star and earned him an Academy Award for “Best Original Song Score,” and grossed more than $68 million in the U.S.
Prince churned out dozens more albums over the years after “Purple Rain,” as well as two more motion pictures: “Under the Cherry Moon” and “Graffiti Bridge.” He alsoc scored the music for the movie “Batman.”
In 1993, after a dispute with Warner Bros., the company that originally signed him when he was 17, he was technically known only as an unpronounceable symbol and was called, “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” which was ultimately shortened to, “The Artist.” By 2000, he was back to being called Prince. But, he never stopped writing and performing his other worldly music, a blend of Funk, Rock, R&B, Punk, Pop and whatever else he felt like creating.
Until his tragic death in 2016 from an accidental overdose of fentanyl, Prince created music (he often said he had a “song a day” in him) for himself and others, including Sheena Easton, Sheila E and the Bangles, among others. He garnered and perfected the power of his most notable legendary influences, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown, into being perhaps the most unique and formidable singer/musician/songwriter of his generation.