Remembering Prince (1958-2016)
The news of Prince’s passing struck many as an impossibility. As an artist who transcended just about every human category – from race and gender to genre and naming conventions – mortality seemed to be one more inevitability that Prince might just defy. But as Twitter erupted into denial consistent with fans’ perceptions that The Purple One would be theirs forever, news outlets confirmed the inevitable. Prince died at his iconic Minnesota home, Paisley Park, of yet unknown causes. He was fifty-seven years old.
Earlier this month he postponed two shows due to the flu fueling rumors about his declining health. He bounced back to play a much-lauded set last Friday, though made an emergency hospital stop afterwards. The following day he was well enough to host a gathering, temporarily assuaging concerns about his declining health.
The Soundtrack of the 1980s
Prince worked his way into pop culture’s collective consciousness in the 1980s with a stream of chart-toppers: “Raspberry Beret,” “1999,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Little Red Corvette,” among many. Prince set himself apart from his highly produced peers with classical talent. He played literally dozens of instruments – twenty-seven alone on his debut album. When asked how many instruments he actually played – a number that was never accurately tallied – he once claimed “thousands.”
Although known as a guitar virtuoso early in his career, his final show featured only a piano. At his last public appearance he demurred at the idea of playing a new custom guitar – in purple, of course – explaining, “I can’t play the guitar at all these days.” Although Prince is known as a musical prodigy, with credits as a composer, instrumentalist, and vocalist, he was also a prolific and generous lyricist. Some of the most iconic female vocalists of the 80’s and 90’s made names for themselves singing songs he penned; among them are Sinéad O’Connor, The Bangles, Stevie Nicks, and Cyndi Lauper.
While Prince’s life is being celebrated at spontaneous memorials from Los Angeles to London tonight, no official statement has been made about about funeral plans.