Among the many, many things I admired most about the late great Prince was how well chosen his few spoken words always were. I’m going to try to keep this short.
Whenever someone can speak on an instrument as fluently, passionately and adventurously as Charlie Parker or Art Tatum did, we should pay attention. Whenever a musician can create a musical universe as expansive as Stevie Wonder’s or Duke Ellington’s, we should pay attention. On the rare occasion that a bandleader and performer can knock our socks off with a show the way James Brown or Bruce Springsteen or Tina Turner have, we should pay attention. Whenever a prodigious talent turns out an incredible body of work consistently for decades like Picasso or Mozart, we should pay attention. Whenever a musician is able to bring us a fresh, new pop sound whose roots run deep in our country’s musical traditions like Jimi Hendrix or Sly Stone or Aretha Franklin did, we should pay attention. Prince did all of those things and made it look easy.
When Prince took the pop world by storm in the early 80’s, he lead a band called the Revolution. That was the right name for them. Revolutions don’t run for office or vie for influence within the existing ruling class; rather they declare their independence. In Prince’s revolution black and white worked together as one. Women instrumentalists were always the recognized equals of their brothers. Intergenerational shows were common. Sexuality was one of life’s beautiful, sacred joys. No apologies or shame were necessary. Prince was a believer. His beliefs were his business, not yours. He never tried to tell you what you were supposed to believe. In his first TV interview with the Revolution in 1985, Prince said that he prayed every night but never asked for anything. He just said “Thank you”.
I wish I could be a fraction of the musician, composer, arranger, bandleader, record producer, performer and brave artist that Prince was.
Prince is a God of music and art. I won’t ask him for anything. I’ll just say “Thank You”.
P.S. In a recent obit, Prince’s junior high school music teacher said that Prince was always at the band room door at 8am every day, waiting to be let in. I think it’s a good idea to pay attention to the kid who’s waiting outside the band room at 8am every day. I also think it’s important that kids have a band room they can go to in their schools.