A few years ago I favourited a tweet by B.J. Novak that I never forgot.
I don't want to have to wait till Prince dies for everyone to talk about Prince more
— B.J. Novak (@bjnovak) September 8, 2012
I never forgot this tweet because I knew that it was a prophecy. For some reason, we act like entertainers are immortal, usually because they create media that we have the ability to preserve, well… forever. Our perceived humanity of such people is taken away until they die. Oh.
This seems to be especially true for underrated artists–the ones that are perceived to be too different and unwilling to undermine their artistic integrity for sales. Despite how well-respected he was in his industry, I will forever claim that Prince is one of the most underrated artists to ever live.
Today marks the one year anniversary of Prince’s passing and, to be honest, I still do not feel like he is gone. Maybe because, like the rest of the general public, I dehumanized him. I never thought that he would die, especially so young, but here we are, one year later.
Anyone who knows me and my music preferences knows that, regardless of genre, I have a thing for eccentric artists, prolific songwriters, and artists who are religiously loyal to their music. Prince was the total package.
Prince changed and moulded mine and and millions of other peoples perceptions of what music is. He cherished it. He wanted to protect it. He made sure that every song he wrote, whether for him or another artist, had meaning. For this reason, Prince has one of the most dedicated fanbases to exist. Fans like Questlove and Maya Rudolph devote whole parts of their lives to the late artist, while others like D’Angelo and Miguel simply wouldn’t exist without the Purple One. Prince fans are intense. I rarely listen to the song Purple Rain because I feel like its too precious of a song to “just listen to.” It needs to be experienced. Yes, call me extra, or call me a music snob, but its all because of Prince.
Speaking of being extra… it is of course easy to live an exaggerated life when you’re a multimillionaire rock star, but there are few artists who are extra the way Prince was. We’re talking about a man who changed his name to a symbol.
A man who made it very clear that he loved women, but who was challenging gender norms back when no one dared to (although he become more conservative later in his career). In his 1980 song “Uptown,” he sings the following lyrics:
Baby didn’t say too much,
She said “Are you gay?”
Kinda took me by surprise, didn’t know what to do.
I just looked her in her eyes, and said, “No, are you?”
A man who was completely unapologetic about his love of sex.
And a man who, of course, hated the music industry. Talk about irony.
The most intriguing aspect about Prince was his ongoing battle with the industry that made him famous. There was a time when finding videos of Prince on Youtube was like finding a unicorn. Only in the year preceding his death did he begin to tolerate Jay-Z’s streaming service, TIDAL. So is it right that Prince’s music is now widely available on almost all streaming services?
Here’s one thing that I learned from Prince’s life: you can spend your entire existence dedicating your efforts to controlling, cherishing, and protecting your art, but your life’s work can be undone the minute your mortality catches up to you. When you get down to basics, Prince was a spoiled, privileged, and pretentious rockstar, and there is an infinite number of stories out there to corroborate this claim. The music industry entertained his way of life and sense of entitlement because, frankly, considering his work effort, his strange behaviour and inflated ego was not unwarranted. So although it seemed to some like he was making a difference during his life–perhaps HE even believed he was–it was all just a fantasy that would die away with the man.
Prince was right about the music industry, that was never a question. So it’s a shame that so few artists shared his passion and tried to help him fight it.
R.I.P to a legend who should not only be remembered for his music, but for his loyalty, confidence, and integrity. Here is a video of Prince’s first television appearance. At barely 21 years old and with no one knowing his name, he already made it clear that he was not here to be taken advantage of by the music industry.