My earliest memory of Prince was flipping channels on TV with my dad when I was about nine and the movie Purple Rain was playing on some channel – The scene with a shirtless and tortured Prince grabbing the mic and screaming at the end of ‘Computer Blue’. He seemed like a warped Michael Jackson. It was really strange and I was just too young to get it.
As I became more interested in music a few years later, I found his name mentioned in just about every music magazine or encyclopaedia that I had, and was thrilled to discover that my dad had a copy of Sign O’ The Times. But being only 13 at the time, I still didn’t get it.
Ten years later, however, I heard the album Purple Rain. I liked it more than what I’d heard previously, but I still didn’t think it was worth all the hype. One fine day, however, I decided to hear it again, and before I knew it, it was all I listened to. I’d even watch the music sequences from the movie pretty much every day and be stunned by his dancing.
It’s easily my favourite album ever. I then decided to listen to the album 1999. That too became an obsession. And then it was Dirty Mind. And then, it was Parade. And before I knew it, I’d heard twenty albums by him. I’d even try to play my guitar along to whole albums of his. Of course, I’d never be able to play the guitar parts exactly, cause he was just that great a guitar player.
There’s no aspect of music that he didn’t master. He had one of the most distinctive singing voices in music, and was skilled enough to play virtually all the major instruments better than most people who make a living playing them individually. His songs had some of the best lyrics and some of the catchiest grooves imaginable. And, while some of his productions might sound quite dated now, particularly on 1999, he pretty much defined the sound of the eighties. He was relentlessly inventive; how many people can get away with a #1 hit with no bass line (When Doves Cry)?
Let’s not forget what an incredible live performer he was. He was Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Sly Stone and James Brown combined, with the compositional genius of Stevie Wonder, or maybe even Duke Ellington. Being a parttime music teacher, I’ve shown kids videos of some of his live performances (the appropriate ones), and it never fails to amaze them.
Usually, whenever I idolise someone, it’s because I believe, on some level, that we’re all capable of equalling their achievements. Prince was one of the very few people whose achievements are so vast that it’s virtually impossible to imagine any of us ever catching up. His was the kind of talent that shows up once in a generation, if at all. And I feel honoured to have been on the same planet as him....