Sometimes it snows in April
While still reeling from the devastating loss of David Bowie it was apparent that 2016 would be the grimmest of reaper years for music when the even more shocking death of Prince was announced on April 21st.
The strangest, sketchiest details mentioned his plane having to stop when he was taken ill whilst on a journey suffering with the flu and then returning to Paisley Park where he died.
For those of you who only regarded him as a figure of fun, a slight elfin man remembered for changing his name to a symbol and refusing to talk to the press through years behind a lace veil or via a member of his band. Look again and as with all great artists go to the music.
Not just the Purple Rain anthems and the 1999 dance floor favourites , seek out any and every piece of Prince music you can and go listen to it. For as well as being the downright party boy for the 80s and consistently giving us the very best of music to “get ready to” and “put us in the mood for a night out” as we backcombed our hair and dressed in Peach and Black, he wrote wonderful melodies and great lyrics. Often only appreciated for this when others covered his songs most notably Sinead O’Connor ‘s “Nothing compares to You” with the iconic video showing just how deeply his lyrics moved her . More surprisingly Tom Jones would hurl himself into “Kiss”, loving the song so much as to include it in all his live shows.
Talking of live shows nobody but nobody could do it better than Prince. The energy of a man who could spend for most mortals, an exhausting two hours on stage only to go off to a secret gig straight after and then party through the night was legendary. These after show gigs were not just watered down re-runs but widely acclaimed, still musically tight, early hour events such as the wonderful night after one of his 10 consecutive concerts at the O2 in London when he gave his lucky fans a surprise in the form of one Amy Winehouse who they were lucky enough entertain them.
For he was all about his fans – the real fans and the fans of his music . Refusing to be a “Slave” to the record industry he refused to jump through their hoops and made his stand much in the same way of George Michael at the same time. His favourite colour was purple and at any given Prince concert that was what you would see his devotees wearing along with Cuban heeled boots, button decorated trousers and cropped bolero jackets with hats for those who felt brave enough. It was a glamorous and inclusive style that he put out and a look not just suited to his beautiful dancers but given to all. Remember how great Chaka Chan looked in “I feel for you” Rosie Gaines singing “Diamonds and Pearls” and Scotland’s own Sheena Easton in “You got the look” .
Then what about The Girls – for those who questioned Prince’s masculinity with his feminine style of dressing, ever changing hair styles and use of make- up, remember he was always surrounded by the most stylish. The beautiful Kim Basinger fell for his charms whilst they were involved in the first “Batman” film. Whilst Mayte broke many a fan’s heart when she introduced herself to Prince via a belly dancing video with her party trick swords. Then his predilection for twins – such as Diamond and Pearl gave even more stories to add to the legend.
Yet it is the music and his compulsive overriding love for it for which he should always hold a place in our hearts and our collections. Locking himself away in his Paisley Park Studios he would record every track on drums, keyboards, bass and guitar. As a lead guitar soloist alone drawing from the direct vein of Little Richard and Jimmy Hendrix he carried the purple torch with solos that were never self indulgent or for “guitarists only” but making his instrument sing – almost at times like a human voice while he danced and gyrated. – and don’t even get me started on his dancing !
It’s been hard to find much of Prince’s music on You Tube surely the only good thing to come from this tragedy will be that more is posted. If you need just one example of how truly great he was try to find the episode of TFI Friday where he came out on stage to take the roof off with “Baby Knows” or just cry with the Doves over “Sometimes it snows in April”.