Like most people, I was shocked when I heard the news that Prince had died. Although I haven’t listened to his music much in the past few years, his music remained fresh in my mind. If I heard a song of his, the lyrics would instantly come back as quickly as a click of the finger.
I grew up with his music, listening to U Got the Look or Sign o’ the Times, or dancing as a teenager to the Cream video, wondering how I could become a dancer and wear one of those gorgeous black and white leotards that the women wore.
I remember when he released Sexy MF and the outrage and clutching of pearls it sparked when it premiered on Top of the Pops. Oh, how I laughed when they faded out ‘MF’ with his trademark scream.
Gett Off was absolute filth and I played it at full-blast while listening to lyrics such as ‘There’s a rumour going all around that you ain’t been getting served.’ Being the naive young girl that I was, I wondered exactly what it was that the dancer was not being, ahem, “served”. (Don’t worry, I learned soon enough).
Prince was much mocked and ridiculed by the press and the public while he was alive (particularly during the ‘Slave/Symbol/The Artist Formerly Known as Prince’ era), but you realise that he had the last laugh on them because he lived life exactly the way he wanted: being creative to the fullest, making music he loved and to hell with what anyone else thought.
The way he genuinely did not care what people thought of him was a sight to behold and something to aspire to. He just turned up, made and played music, showed love, threw shade and walked out, leaving everyone wanting more. When he played at the O2 in London a few years ago, the tickets were priced at £21 (as he was playing 21 nights at the arena) and I have never seen so many people get to work early with the sole intention of getting those gold dust tickets.
He gave us food for thought and a lot of downright sexiness, then would metaphorically drop the mic. He was a whirlwind of creativity, none more so than on his debut which he wrote, produced, sang all vocals and played all instruments. He was the epitomé of a one-man band.
He influenced people without them even realising. Flamboyant, sexy, almost other-worldly. It is only now in his untimely passing that I realise how much reminded me of the legendary James Brown. He was one of Prince’s idols but they were very similar: the genius, the brilliance, the perfectionism, the flair and flamboyance and risk-taking, the way in which they both were absolute game-changers in the music industry. Simply phenomenal.
Prince also had a wicked sense of humour. Who can forget Dave Chapelle’s epic impersonation of him in a hilarious sketch for Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories? Prince loved it so much, he used Chapelle’s image of him as a front cover for one of his singles (if you have not seen the sketch, stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. It is a classic).
Prince was a legend in every sense of the word and his reach spread far and wide. It is a shame how, from my perspective, it is only once an artist like him is gone forever that we truly comprehend their legacy. Songs such as Purple Rain, When Doves Cry and Diamonds and Pearls will always be a part of the musical and cultural landscapes.