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Prince Checks Out

Well, that takes the wind out my funky sails. Prince just died at age 57. The year 2016 continues to be a brutal year for entertainment.

I was a rock and roll fan living in Florida on a visit to Buffalo when I first hear Prince. I was at a party of friends who attended a private school. They were cool. I was not. At some point someone put on Controversy. It was amazing and like nothing I had heard before. "What is this?" I asked. "Prince," was the answer. "It is punk-funk."

Punk-funk? I didn't know either of those terms very well, but I liked it. When I got back to Florida I found the single, and the album. I was hooked.

At college I recall 1999 being released along with The Time and Vanity 6's first albums. This guy Prince was prolific, writing and performing on hit after hit afer hit - for himself and others.

This was soon followed by Purple Rain and the tour.  Seeing Prince live was one of those things that became increasingly difficult to do over the years. I got to see two arena shows and was impressed both times.

Rather than keep doing the same thing after, Prince took a left turn and released Around the World in a Day - an album with no singles. I recall the radio stations freaking out the day it came out, not knowing what song they were "supposed" to play - so they played it all for a while.

How about his Black Album - a completed work pulled at the last minute and substituted with an entirely different album, Lovesexy? It was a popular bootleg that eventually got released. Lovesexy was interesting in that it was a CD with only one track. You could start it and listen all the way through, then play it again.

A new Prince disc, for my generation, was a bit like what it must have been like to hear a new Beatles album come out. You knew it would have good stuff, but also that it might not be like anything else you've ever heard. There were quite a few Prince-release listening parties that were held as new material came out.

Prince rocked hard. He was funky. He did religious songs, and love ballads. 

He was weird. 

Album after album came out. Parade. Sign of the Times. More tours. More changes to the band. Fights with Warner Brothers over who owned the master tapes.

He got married and had a child that died immediately, then got divorced.

More albums. Hating the internet. Hating scalpers.

In the last year he put out at least two and perhaps more albums, started a solo tour around the world, and signed on to pen an autobiography. Then he got the flu. Then he died.

Prince's epic, rumored vault of unreleased material remains. Who knows what might be in there? It could be anything, except for new songs from Prince.

Editor's Note:  If you're near a radio this afternoon, Chris is going to be doing a memorial show on WVEW 107.7 FM starting at 3pm today, April 21, 2016.  You can also stream it at http://wvew.org.


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an early show

Here's the Weekend Concert Series we did a while back featuring Controversy-Era Prince.

I was just remembering that this is actually the second time that I've learned that Prince is dead. The first time was in college, when someone walking by my room popped their head in and told me Prince had just died. Motorcycle accident or something. Then they left.

It was pre-internet and there was really no way to double-check the news except to listen to the radio and wait for a newspaper the next day. Turns out, they were pranking me. 


Crying Doves

He was a musical genius. I'm of an age that went crazy over the Beatles and Rolling Stones but was so appreciative of the music that Prince was making. Beautiful, funky, soothing, crazy, controversial- his music fit into all categories and his fans were diverse and grateful to see and hear someone taking so many risks for his art. So many icons are disappearing and the next generation don't seem to have anyone coming up to compare to them. Sad news, indeed.


Sometimes it snows in April

I couldn't believe it when I heard the news, even though I'd heard of his hospitalization last week and some ominous rumors around it. He was one of the first young artists to be truly incredible and just about my age (Michael Jackson was the other). I was jealous but I was also madly hooked on Prince's music, from its immense danceability to the beauty of his melodies to the gorgeosity of his guitar playing. He was superlative, funky, bad ass, and cooler than anything.

I waited in line for tickets to the Purple Rain tour and dressed up in Edwardian lace and a purple miniskirt for the show which was awesome. I saw Purple Rain in theatres at least three times. We now own the DVD and it's better than you remember! The concert footage is perfect -- you would have done anything to be one of the lucky ones at First Avenue when he was playing there.

Anyway, it's a sad day for me -- a part of my youth is gone. I hadn't expected him to leave us so young.


I hate 2016

This is hard to take. Prince was just a few months older than me. He holds a place in my heart for being my last great musical love before marriage & serious adulthood took me away from music and clubs and mindless fun. What great talent. He represented great aspirations and determination, and not just in his own career. Look what he did for so many others, launching the careers of so many women musicians.

This is a terrible loss to add to the other terrible losses this year. It seems every few days we lose someone great. RIP


some more thoughts

A couple more memories:

- driving to Cleveland to see Prince, The Time and Vanity 6 on the 1999 tour. Got to the old convention center and started looking for anyone with extra tickets. Found a scalper. We needed 3 and he was offering 3, but someone with us noticed that it was just two tickets folded over. We passed. Couldn't find any others, so we ended up going home.

- got tickets and headed off to see him in Cleveland for the Purple Rain tour. Winter driving, small car, truck goes by, and we tailspin into a ditch. Takes a while to get out, and we miss most of the opening acts. I think we got there as Shelia E. was doing her finale. From there on... a good show.

- Mmm... getting a cassette of the Black Album years before it came out on CD...

- My first forays online led my to Prince fans. I got to try out the Prodigy service while working at the children's museum. They had some simple forums, and one was for Prince fans. I found people with bootlegs and rarities. To get a copy, all one had to do was mail them some blank cassettes. It seemed a bit risky, but I ended up with some live shows and unreleased material almost for free, via US mail.

- Lise and I interviewed a band from Minnesota once, so we asked if they had any obligatory Prince stories. Didn't really expect any, but the lead singer said he was once at a friend's house long ago, and Prince came in. He was wearing some sort of cape, walked in, did a few little dance moves, got caught up in the ironing board, and fell over.

And then, the music. I was listening to things yesterday and realizing some of these songs from 40 years ago still seem futuristic - All The Critics Love You In New York, for example, could come out this week and sound fresh.

Prince is one of the musicians that other musicians are often in awe of. People we all look up to... they looked up to him.


The lauded death

I’m always fascinated how the lauded death of someone called “great” becomes almost an art form itself. And, like many artists, one tries to outdo the other.



I agree. There is competition online all the time. To be the most cynical seems the most popular and boringly common bit these days.


Missing out

I'm sorry he didn't get to see the appreciation. International monuments and even Niagara Falls were all bathed in purple light last night, and tributes continue to flow.

What I'm enjoying are the stories people are telling - things they might not have otherwise said (so they could stay invited to shows...) that they feel free to talk about now.


Taken in more than one way

Actually, my comment can be taken in more than one way.

But if I have to be pegged as cynical and boring, then I’ll happily add that the pedestal pushing syndrome of the “great” humans throughout history contributes the disparity between the have and not’s. Generally speaking, who do that shouldn’t complain about the other syndrome of the 1%.


Cultural legacies without the ‘price tag'

Prince’s, Michael Jackson and other celebrity cultural legacies might be priceless, but their actual worth is truly sobering.

Prince – 300 million
Michael Jackson – 600 million

That’s nearly a billion dollars between just two guys.

I’d prefer having the cultural legacies without the ‘price tag.’


All The Critics Love You In New York (Except One)

It appears you are picking one of the most accomplished musicians of our lifetime to suddenly be annoyed at. Say what you will, but real talent was there with Prince. He left an impressive body of work, fought major labels for ownership of master recordings, a celebrated live music with real instruments. In this case, he's worthy of a pedestal. The bass player from Flock of Seagulls, maybe not so much. : )

Sure, he and many others are wealthy. But he wasn't exactly a stock broker making cash off of speculation. That would be a very odd way to sum him (or MJ, or Mick Jagger, or any pop musician) up. "Oh yeah, John Lennon. Mostly known for his wealth, wasn't he?" ($800 million)


From a rainbow of views

You should not assume that I am “picking one of the most accomplished musicians of our lifetime to suddenly be annoyed at.”

This is not an emotional issue for me.

No has enjoyed the current and legacy artists with “real talent” many worthy of a “pedestal” over the past 55 years than I have. Neither was I attempting to “sum up” Prince.

My views, like many writers to this site, come from a rainbow of views, not just one narrow summation or observation.

But as a separate issue of idol worship that celebrities enjoy to the point of accumulating mass wealth, that is a longstanding concern of mine, from Graceland to Abby Road to Neverland.


With any terms other than his own

In 1993, Prince decided that he’d had enough. His longtime struggles with his record label, Warner Bros., had left him wanting to reassert control over his creative life. The company might own his music, he reasoned, but it did not own him. So he changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph, a highly stylized overlay of the symbols for man and woman.

Prince, as was made clear in that moment, existed in a place beyond convention. His glyph was sent out on 3.5-inch floppy disks to media organizations so that they could use it. That way, no one had an excuse to refer to him with any terms other than his own.

Prince, who was found dead on Thursday at 57, understood how technology spread ideas better than almost anyone else in popular music. And so he became something of a hacker, upending the systems that predated him and fighting mightily to pioneer new ones. Sometimes he hated technology; sometimes he loved it. But more than that, at his best Prince was technology, a musician who realized that making music was not his only responsibility, that his innovation had to extend to representation, distribution, transmission and pure system invention.

Many advances in music and technology over the last three decades — particularly in the realm of distribution — were tried early, and often first, by Prince. He released a CD-ROM in 1994, Prince Interactive, which featured unreleased music and a gamelike adventure at his Paisley Park Studios. In 1997, he made the multidisc set “Crystal Ball” available for sale online and through an 800 number (though there were fulfillment issues later). In 2001, he began a monthly online subscription service, the NPG Music Club, that lasted five years.

These experiments were made possible largely because of Prince’s career-long emphasis on ownership: At the time of his death, he reportedly owned the master recordings of all his output. With no major label to serve for most of the second half of his career and no constraints on distribution, he was free to try new modes of connection.

Full Text: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/23/arts/music/prince-music-technology-dis...


If you need a bit...

Perfect Prescription on WVEW is doing 2 hours of Prince from 2-4. Tune in 107.7.

(There was a station in Minneapolis streaming every Prince song, A-Z. It only took them 26 hours to get through official tracks.)


His long term use of "3" high heels...Percocet and other opiods

A curious thing about Prince isn’t the alleged influenza, but his long term use of high heels, often 3” heels. Prolong wear according to this report suggests:

If you frequently wear high heels, you are setting yourself up for long-term issues. "Extended wear of high heels and continually bending your toes into an unnatural position can cause a range of ailments, from ingrown toenails to irreversible damage to leg tendons. Additionally, cramming your toes into a narrow toe box can cause nerve damage and bunions," says Dr. Nevins. "High heels have also been linked to overworked or injured leg muscles, osteoarthritis of the knee, plantar fasciitis and low back pain," she adds.

Also, this report:

Levin said that days before his death, following his last concert in Atlanta last week, Prince suffered a "life-threatening" overdose of the painkiller Percocet aboard the plane carrying him home to Minnesota.


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