Prince Rogers Nelson – Tribute – A strong spirit transcends rules
By Bob Mabena
Musicians we have lost this year.
Koyo Bala, Phife Dawg, Frank Sinatra Jnr, Ernestine Anderson, Keith Emerson, George Martin, Denise Mathews AKA Vanity, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Otis Clay, Nick Caldwell,
The angel of death seems to be very swift and unyielding in the month of April – think Chris Hani, Percy Sledge, last year and now the man we know as Prince, whose real name is Rogers Nelson and at some stage, while in protest at the prostitution of his art, he changed his name a few times – from “the artists formerly known as” to just Symbol.
There are many reasons why Kaya FM, home of the Afropolitan would spend so much time on Prince. Allow me to start with a very brief History of Rock music; which officially dates back to the 50s – a fusion of electric Blues, Country and Gospel. All these genres dominate today’s R&B and popular black Urban music. While the genre grew steadily throughout the 50s, 60’s and 70’s, it was in earnest, the advent of MTV that exposed the world to what we know as “Rock Stars” and this is where I want to make my point. While the biggest Rock stars were previously guitar maestros who electrified the stage, Prince owned and innovated Rock music in ways that legends like Jimmy Hendricks, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin couldn’t. This era had bands like U2, The Rolling Stones, ACDC, Pink Floyd etc, but Prince was not only a guitar wielding Rock Star – he played more than ten musical instruments and also wrote, produced, arranged and engineered his own music. His stage presence was jaw dropping and he used his creativity, dance moves and dress code in such a way that no one could imitate him and he churned out hits that crossed over form Rock to Pop to even gospel. His influence was never just limited to Rock music and let me prove it to you.
Lets start with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; The pair was fired by Prince from a tour after a blizzard left them unable to rejoin during a short break to produce music for The SOS Band. However, one of the tracks they were producing, “Just Be Good to Me“, became a hit and sealed the duo’s reputation, as well as that of the SOS Band.
“I Feel for You” is a song written by Prince that originally appeared on his 1979 self-titled album, one of two songs on that album (along with “I Wanna Be Your Lover“) written as demos for Patrice Rushen, though neither appeared on any Rushen album. The most successful and well known version was recorded by female R&B singer Chaka Khan, appearing on her 1984 album, I Feel for You. Prince, as songwriter, won the 1985 Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.
With his band The Revolution, Prince went on to create the album Purple Rain (1984), which was also made into a film by the same name, grossing over $80 million at the U.S. box office. The film garnered an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. The title track “Purple Rain” hit no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, while the hits “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” both reached no. 1.
In 1986 Prince released his eighth studio album Parade, which included his no. 1 hit single “Kiss.” Parade served as the soundtrack for the artist’s second film Under the Cherry Moon, which he directed and starred in.
After the disbanding of the Revolution, Prince was able to consolidate various shelved projects into what ultimately became the double album, Sign “O” the Times (1987). The album was Prince’s most critically acclaimed album to date, yet its sales lagged in the U.S., finding more success in Europe, where the artist launched a successful tour.
The Early ’90s: The New Power Generation
The early 1990s marked the launch of the New Power Generation, Prince’s new band. With their artistic contribution, Prince found success with his album Diamonds in Pearls (1991), which rose to no. 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and included hits like “Cream” and “Diamonds and Pearls.”
That year, he wrote and performed “Song of the Heart” for the animated film Happy Feet, and won a Golden Globe (Best Original Song) for the composition. In 2007 he performed for the Super Bowl XLI halftime show on a massive stage shaped as his famous symbol amid pouring rain. The event was watched by 140 million fans.
What we know about his death so far
Authorities were called to a medical emergency at his estate yesterday at around 09:43 but did not immediately identify that the body was that of the 57-year-old singer.
His publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, confirmed the news to The Associated Press. The shocking news comes after the singer was rushed to hospital on 15 April with a severe bout of flu, after taking a turn for the worse on his private jet after several weeks fighting the virus. But the following day, Prince wanted to give fans “living proof” he was OK and made an appearance at a $10 dance party.
He didn’t sing, but he did tell the crowd: “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.”
He also recently cancelled two shows due to illness. Last week, he shared a photo on Instagram of a blank white space, prompting fans to flood his page with get well messages.
The Purple Rain hitmaker announced the news of his book at a concert at the club Avenue in New York last month.
He told the crowd: “The good people of Random House have made me an offer I can’t refuse!
“It’s going to be called The Beautiful Ones. I literally just got off the plane. I’m going to go home and change and put some dancing clothes on. Props to my brother Harry Belafonte.”
The book was expected to be released by publishers Random House next year. The 57-year-old singer had enlisted the help of critic Dan Piepenbring who writes for the Paris Review to help pen the tell-all piece. After he’d made the big reveal, he told the club full of people he was off home to get into his dancing clothes and he’d return ready to dance with everyone.