Prince passed away today. He was 57.
Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is that I didn't believe that it could be true. Every other Prince story I've ever heard I just accepted as Gospel truth. Because he was Prince.
Charlie Murphy's Prince story? Yeah, Prince beat them and then made them pancakes.
Kevin Smith's story? Yeah, Prince definitely has lots of fully produced music videos in a vault somewhere.
Questlove's? Yeah, Prince kicked him out of the booth and replaced him with "Finding Nemo" because Questlove played a Fela Kuti track.
My friend told me about being at one of the Paisley Park secret shows. Allegedly, Prince would throw these shows whenever he was bored and wanted something to do. Because of Prince's religious beliefs, the hardest drink was an orange juice. Imagine, 300 people sober eating snacks and drinking juice listening to Prince jam.
Prince was born Prince Rogers Nelson, which is already an amazing funk name. He started playing guitar when he was seven. He joined Grand Central when he was 14. His first recording contract gave him the autonomy to do whatever he wanted, and he parlayed that autonomy into a string of brilliance rarely equaled.
He could play any instrument he touched, and play as good or better than any professional. Prince's voice went seamlessly from baritone to falsetto. Perhaps this was because he was incapable of not creating. He would stay up for hours after performances to play. I read a quote once that Prince never listened to new music because he could just make up some of his own.
I think everyone has a favorite Prince story. Mine is the one Nick Hornby tells in
Years and years ago, I read a great interview with Jam and Lewis, the R&B producers, in which they described what it was like to be members of Prince's band. They'd sit down, and Prince would tell them what he wanted them to play, and they'd explain that they couldn't--they weren't quick enough, or good enough. And Prince would push them and push them until they mastered it, and then just when they were feeling pleased with themselves for accomplishing something they didn't know they had the capacity for, he'd tell them the dance steps he needed to accompany the music.
That was his genius. He could master any genre of music, and then come up with dance steps on top. He could not be upstaged by anyone. Told that it was going to rain during his Super Bowl show, he inquired if it was possible to make it rain harder.