Prince: A remembrance
Prince — the singer, songwriter, actor, and all-around artist — has died at his Paisley Park residence near Minneapolis. He was 57.
How do you begin to memorialize Prince? It would be ludicrous to try to summarize his life and career, because so much of his life and career was spent consciously defying easy categorization. He was a 5-foot-2-inch man whose inherent charisma made him one of the biggest and most enduring sex symbols in the music business. He sold millions of records, and released hit single after hit single, at a time when the music industry was still setting up institutional barriers for any nonwhite person trying to reach the top of the charts.
In short: Prince never stopped innovating or changing, and he always trusted his fans to keep up — perhaps most infamously when he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol as an act of protest against his record label. And the reason he was protesting against his label? They had asked him to stop producing so much music. His creative output was so overwhelming that the label was worried he was flooding the market with more songs than they'd be able to promote.
That story is a microcosm of the qualities that made Prince such a towering figure in the entertainment industry: the ever-gushing torrent of creative brilliance, the unfathomable work ethic, and the refusal to compromise on any aspect of his creative vision. You never knew what his next passion project would be. Why, for example, did Prince break a decades-long hiatus from acting to show up in a 2014 episode of the sitcom New Girl? Because he was a big enough fan of the show that he wanted to appear in it. "I want to be involved in the show in a real way and I want to help Nick and Jess with their relationship," he told New Girl executive producer Dave Finkel. And that's exactly what happened.
And, yes, Prince's dogged commitment to his personal standards for his art could also be frustrating. When he granted a rare interview, he imposed strict constraints on journalists who interviewed him: no video or audio recording, and no photography, though "discreet note-taking" was permitted. And he firmly opposed any efforts to share his music on the internet — not just rips of songs from his studio albums on YouTube, but brief snippets from his concerts, including those taken by fans and shared over social media. When challenged on the subject by fans over Twitter, he railed against YouTube's refusal to pay "equitable licensing fees."
Fortunately for grieving fans without easy or immediate access to Prince's albums, The Current — a Minnesota-based radio station — has devoted its afternoon to an all-Prince lineup, which you can stream here. It's the first of many tributes that will crop up in his home state, where fans are already beginning to leave flowers around First Avenue, the legendary Minneapolis music venue that hosted so many of Prince's shows. The Minnesota Twins have decked out Target Field in purple:
Fitting that it's raining in Minneapolis today. pic.twitter.com/s5KFurDhHi
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 21, 2016
Growing up around the Twin Cities, as I did, guaranteed that you were immersed in all things Prince from the moment you were born. Of all the celebrities Minnesota has produced, Prince was perhaps the most beloved — both because he never left the state and because he remained so kind to it. He routinely opened up his Paisley Park home for parties, and anyone was invited to attend. He announced one last week, just hours after TMZ reported that his plane had landed in Illinois for emergency medical treatment:
2 GIVE THANX 4 THE GOOD WEATHER AND 4 ALL THE LOVE AND SUPPORT... pic.twitter.com/PEcHzLnYvc
— Prince (@prince) April 16, 2016
We still don't know the circumstances of Prince's death — but it's worth noting that he didn't just throw a party one day after he left the hospital; he invited all his fans to join him. That's the kind of artist Prince was: generous, relentless, and always looking forward to what was next.