2016 is a sad year in rock and roll history. Several days before the year turned, we lost the gruff-voiced singer of Motorhead, Lemmy. Then Eagles member Glenn Frey died in Jan. More recently we have lost two gender-bending musically gifted, sexually charged geniuses. These, of course, are David Bowie and Prince. David Bowie left us in Jan., and last week the world cried purple rain when Prince died.
Born Prince Rogers Nelson in 1958 in Minneapolis, he died of as-yet-unknown causes on April 21. He could play over 27 instruments and frequently played all the instruments on his albums. Other artists also attribute many of their songs to him since he wrote hits for Sinead O’Connor, Tom Jones, the Bangles, Alicia Keys, Madonna and more. His lyrics and persona dripped with erotic energy. He was not traditionally masculine, but his sexual aura was in high demand, yet he was not involved in any highly controversial sex scandals.
Vowing to write a song per day, upon his death, hundreds, possibly thousands, of unreleased songs were discovered in the vault of his Minneapolis mansion, so there could be a flood of new songs of his in the future. A fierce advocate of intellectual property, Prince was famous, or infamous, for not allowing his songs on Youtube or any streaming services except for Tidal. From 1993 to 2000, he changed his name from “Prince” to his eponymous symbol, which combines elements of the male and female and symbols, mostly to piss off his record label. Frustrating to journalists, many had to use a floppy disc just to put it into articles. During this time, he was referred to as “Symbol,” “Squiggle” and “The Artist Formerly known as Prince.”
His most famous album, “Purple Rain,” was released with a film of the same name in 1984. In it he plays a semi-autobiographical character named “The Kid,” and his (real life) band, The Revolution. It contained two of his most famous songs, “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry.”
In 2007, in what is considered one of the greatest halftime shows in history, Prince played at Superbowl XLI. He performed “Purple Rain” during a downpour. Despite all of the sexuality that pervaded his public persona and private life, Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2001. He was also a vegan and animal rights advocate. Prince passed on a week ago today in his Minnesota mansion, Paisley Park, after several weeks of flu-like symptoms. Cities across the country paid tribute by lighting buildings and monuments in purple, his signature color.