Prince — A Light Too Bright To Behold.
Once in a great, great while an artist comes along who completely reinvigorates their chosen medium. This happens in many corners of the creative universe — movie-making, fashion, painting, sculpture and most certainly….music. These artists have a unique vision — a light, as it were, that enables them to see things from new perspectives, sculpt new angles, take new approaches, infuse new ingredients and to create beautiful, never-before-seen works in a way so brilliant that the medium never really returns to what it was before they came. Prince was one such light! Today, on what would have been his 60th birthday, we celebrate his light and the brilliant musical gifts that he left us.
For me and many other musicians and artists that grew up listening to him, there was one distinct moment when you knew that your life would never be the same. This was the moment you heard Prince for the first time! I was relatively late to the party. I remember a little cousin of mine came over to my house visiting one weekend and asking her “Who is your favorite artist?” I must have been 9 or 10 years old at the time. She said “Prince.” My face crinkled straight up with the most confused expression. I must have looked like someone knocked over my drink. “Prince?,” I said with great attitude, “Who is that? Sounds like a name for a dog or something.” She just shook her head like, boy you just don’t even know. LOL. She was right.
Fast forward to several years later, I’m driving down Broadway in my mother’s Monte Carlo (remember them?) and the most unbelievable track comes on the radio. My eyes went full deer-in-the-headlights, all things around me on this very busy street disappeared. A nude woman could have walked right in front of the car, I would not have seen her. It was like someone plugged a power cord in my gut and pressed the “on” button. The kick was throbbing so fiercely. The bass guitar was locked like bank vaults at midnight and the synth lines were oozing out of the tiny speakers like candy and chocolates - so sweet and so colorful…just a magical array of sound and texture that I had never heard. And this alone would have been enough to hold my attention for hours. But then, right in the middle of all of this magic, he starts singing. I could not believe what I was hearing, I didn’t even know music could do this — could be this. The vocal was absolutely divine. High-pitched, sexy but so musical with so much finesse and flavor. The background vocals were weaving in and out around the lead effortlessly, and everything was so clear. It was like discovering a whole new language and then realizing that you could speak it and understand it instantly. The radio announcer said “And that was Prince.” I suddenly remembered my little cousin from several years back. My life was changed from that moment on. The song? Controversy!
I remember digging up everything that I could find on this cat named Prince. Who was this dude — this musical magician? What was he about? The first thing that impressed me was that he was playing his own instruments!! I had been playing myself for quite a while by the time I came across Prince, so the musician piece of him spoke volumes to me. I remember going home one day shortly after this and literally ripping all of my Michael Jackson posters off the wall. All of them. There was a new king in town….a Prince.
From these early years I began studying and listening to everything he put out. I would spend summers with my dad in New York City and there was a spot in the Village called Bleecker Bob’s, right on Bleecker Street. I found all sorts of bootleg releases on Vinyl from Europe and Japan. I was addicted, but what a drug! For me, and other aspiring artists of the time, Prince was “IT!” He represented everything that an artist could be — writing, playing all the instruments, producing, dancing, acting — he was just the whole package.
Today, as I reflect on these early years — now a professional artist and musician myself- I have to say “Thank You!” Thank you for letting your light shine so brilliantly and so completely that it lit the way for so many artists of my generation. You have inspired us, taught us to believe in ourselves and our sound — even when the label or the industry is trying to tell us how we are supposed to sound or be. Thank you for shedding meaningless labels, unnecessary restrictions to creative freedom. Yours was truly, a light too bright to behold! We love you Prince, Happy Birthday brother! #D.O.V.E.S