By Hans Ebert
It’s almost sacrilegious to say one musical icon’s passing has a more profound effect on one’s self than another, but, at least for myself, the last goodbye of Prince is still going through an internalizing period. And every day, there’s something new one learns about a very private person who, like Bowie, lived out, or created various personas, and broke down taboos and barriers whilst all the time producing music in all its many forms. It was never ever about being a one dimensional commercial commodity.
Like Bowie’s elektra glide in blue Eno period that produced records like “Low” and “Berlin”, Prince had his experimental phases plus that uncanny ability to write a number one hit for either himself or others to keep the customers and music companies happy. Was he playing with them? And us? Probably. And because he could.
Writing these hits almost seemed too easy. It’s that something in the most truest form of the creative community, where it’s all about pushing the envelope that holds a million surprises and is the most satisfying. This seemed to be where Prince was the most comfortable- in his studio and recording track after track by himself and with and for all those women who entered and left his life after a spin around his Little Red Corvette on any given Manic Monday.
There’s nothing wrong about trying to write a song with Ed Sheeran or have Taylor Swift or, hello, Adele or OneDirection record one of your songs. But now kinda understanding how Prince approached the business of making music, the thought of writing a “pop song” is on the back burner. It’s a mortality thing where you get to a moment in time where you can’t go from a major to a minor anymore and regurgitate what’s come before. Listening to the sheer creativity and bravado of “When Doves Cry” is proof positive that the world is more than capable of accepting music not produced to be accepted by the lowest common denominator.
Again, it’s about where you are in life, what you’ve achieved to date, and that urgency to create something so personal that everyone understands where you’re coming from. It’s about making a personal musical Strawberry Beret statement that’s caught out in the Purple Rain as opposed to wanting to be loved and accepted and owning that house on the hill. If all this good stuff can happen without working to formulas, fine. Prince never ever worked to formulas- except when perhaps producing an homage to his musical heroes and the different musical eras before his time.
Some of his biggest commercial hits now seem like spoofs, or tongue-in-cheek in-jokes. And with, apparently, thousands of unreleased material, one has to wonder what other Diamonds And Pearls are out there- and, like Hendrix sang, more Purple Haze to make one want to reach out and kiss the sky. Hendrix, Bowie and Prince. Man, what a record these three musical chameleons could have made together.
This thought alone makes any musician owe it to themselves to at least try and create and produce art that’s a million light years away from television karaoke competitions and join-the-dots formulaic You-left-me-and-I-can’t-live-anymore ditties that are turgid and discardable at best.