Purple Tears – The Death of an Artist
Undoubtedly countless people have or will be writing about Prince and the impact that he has had on the music industry and/or to them personally. Having grown up as an 80s kid, Prince was part of the soundtrack of my youth. I “inherited” his self-titled album from my mother. His handsome face framed by long billowy hair on the cover and then him riding nude on a winged white horse on the back. That record was definitely a “grown folks” record. I used to listen to “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and my 4 year old ears had no idea what that meant but it just felt so naughty regardless.
For the most part, the growing overt sexuality of Prince’s act pushed him away from me being a big fan given that I was being raised in a religious household. Of course during his Purple Rain years, his music was all over the radio and MTV, so his music was unavoidable. For me, it was a reassurance that you could be a wildly successful Black musician, but not limit yourself artistically and musically in order to fit into a predetermined mold.
When I listen to the new musicians of today, for sure you can find plenty of songs that are done well and are likeable. But it is very obvious that true artistry is rare. It is uncommon that you have a singer that writes their own music…or produces their album…or even rarer, plays the instrumental portions of their album. It is almost unheard of that they get to a point where they can call out the music industry and mold their career in the way that they see fit.
In 2008 I had picked up the The Very Best of Prince CD. It was a year after my car accident and my life seemed to be in a freefall. But I had the comfort of family…and the comfort of music. Like a slow moving distant echo of days past, the refrain of “Little Red Corvette” struck a reassuring chord:
Little red Corvette
Baby you’re much too fast;
Little red Corvette
You need to find a love that’s gonna last
And with that, on the doorstep on my 30s, it was just the encouragement I needed to forge my own path…and to not lose sight of what is really important in life. Your integrity, and those that you love. 🙂
I was quite a bit older when I began to appreciate Prince not only as an entertainer…but as a person; or perhaps a representative icon of my formative years. When I started back up collecting vinyl, I added in a few more Prince albums to join the self-titled one I grew up on: 1999, Controversy, and of course, the soundtrack of Purple Rain. Time spent on YouTube is where I discovered some of his fascinating interviews…offering a bit more insight into the brilliant mind cloaked in a quiet, humble demeanor and a perplexing personal style.
It’s clear to see that Prince marched to the beat of a different drummer. But he did so without being an obnoxious ass about it. And his quirkiness was not due to the fact that he was an attention whore. Quite the opposite. He was an incredible fan and supporter of not only fellow musicians…but of his community in general. And that’s not the easiest thing to do when you are one of the most popular entertainers on the planet. His Paisley Park recording studio was open to fellow megastars and local musicians without a record deal all the same.
Somehow, this little unassuming man successfully became an entertainment superstar, but remained humble enough to stay in touch with fellow artists from all walks of life. Prince’s lifestyle was an incredible lesson on how to pursue success without losing your soul in the process. It is a lesson that I wish more artists from this generation would take to heart.
So goodbye for now Prince Rogers Nelson. You are missed and thank you so much for sharing your gifts with all of us. 🙁