by Lucy Smith
This is the text I received from Mum this evening. Shock, of course, hardly covers it. I was raised on Prince, with his music permeating every aspect of my childhood, from family parties, to afternoons and evenings dancing with my mum, to car journeys at weekends, and summer holidays. I can remember being madly upset as a 6 or 7 year old child because my parents were going to see Prince play an arena show in Birmingham in the early 90s, and obviously I couldn’t go. Because I was a child who had school in the morning. I begged them to take me with them (or, rather, Take Me With U), sobbed whilst they were out, and ran downstairs as soon as they got home, despite it being the small hours, to question them on how it was. When the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago’s Billboards, an experimental ballet set to the music of Prince, was broadcast on British television for the first (and, I would imagine, only) time, we videoed it as a family, and I watched it again and again. Fortuitously, a run of Billboards at the Royal Festival Hall coincided with my tenth birthday, running from late-August to early-September 1996. So that’s what I did for my tenth birthday. I urge you to watch the dance sequence, if you can find it, from Billboards set to The Beautiful Ones from the Purple Rain album. It will move you to tears, assuming, of course, that the song by itself doesn’t make you cry already.
Prince’s music has been such a massive part of my life. Of course, there will be thousands of articles written remembering his contribution to music, and his mind-bogglingly expansive output (39 studio albums, numerous live and compilation recordings, and rumours of enough unreleased material in the legendary Paisley Park vault to put out a posthumous album every year for the next century), and I make no attempt to do his work justice beyond a brief comment on how much it has meant to me over the years. Prince’s music was a true fusion, in every sense of the word, and the man himself was a paradox. Showman and savant, His Royal Shyness was noted for his lack of ease on camera, yet on stage, in front of the mic or on the guitar, his performances were, to quote Little Red Corvette, “on the verge of being obscene”. Prince effortlessly managed to meld genre-upon-genre of popular music, blur the boundaries between race, gender and sexuality, lead multiple virtuoso bands that were both musically and visually pioneering, collaborate, write hits for others, play dozens of instruments, hit impossible falsettos, rock out a guitar solo, and mix the sacred with the utterly, utterly profane, whilst all the while dancing like a sprightly, funky 5’2” JB.
Perhaps President Barack Obama has said it best so far:
"Today, the world lost a creative icon. Michelle and I join millions of fans from around the world in mourning the sudden death of Prince. Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll.
He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer.
"'A strong spirit transcends rules,' Prince once said, and nobody's spirit was stronger, bolder or more creative. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his band and all who loved him."
The best part of two decades after kicking off as a little child at not being able to see Prince, I was fortunate enough to see him play a solitary UK festival date in 2011 at Hop Farm. It was utterly wonderful, and everything I could have hoped for. I’m so grateful I got that chance to witness the legend.
RIP Prince Rogers Nelson
“Sometimes it Snows in April.”