One year without Prince
In March 2016, I wrote an article entitled Can’t nobody do it like Prince do, part of a series I had been publishing in medium, about Prince and his music. I could have never imagined it would be the last published while Prince was alive.
Since April 21st 2016, I have often felt the need to write something about his death, and what it meant for the many hardcore fans around the world. But very soon I realised it was very sensitive material to me: the superstar, the music genius living in an ivory tower for decades… was actually someone I felt very, very close to me. And his disappearance had left an empty space that was literally impossible to fill. Prince was -excuse me for the cliché, but in this case is fully justified- truly a class in himself, and it became absolutely evident to us, as to anyone else, in the usual way: you only appreciate what you have, when you lose it.
The initial weeks we were just smashed after the sad news; but once we recovered a bit and started listening to Prince music again, it was only to weep, and not only with his classic ballads. His music was part of our daily diet, and if you avoided it to alleviate the pain, still it was painfully obvious it was missing.
I have read the comments from many other fans, and soon it was clear we shared a similar feeling of loss. Further, we were many surprised by how profoundly Prince, and his passing, had affected us. In my case, I was trying initially to take it with some calm, but it proved pointless: the feelings were too strong to control, and his music provoked reactions I could never figure out. Sometimes, in the most improbable and less appropriate places, I would be moved to tears by a bit of a melody, or just by some fond memories of Prince and his music.
I was certainly not ready for him, much less for his loss.
The huge wave of respect and mourning that came after April 21 served only to expose to the whole wide world what we knew already: Prince had made a truly priceless contribution to modern music, and the diversity and depth of his talents was unprecedented. That message had been used by many critics or record labels when dealing with Prince, but from April 21, it was no longer marketing. It was the plain truth. We had lost a music genius with no peers in our generation, and it is very improbable we will find someone like him.
Beyond the colossal impact of his loss, there are many things I have learned in the last 12 months:
I thought I knew loads of things about Prince. I had written a few times that I knew way too many things about Prince for my own good. But I was wrong.
I knew close to nothing about Prince, the human being. That tiny motherfucker with the high voice was extremely reserved, and he managed to keep his privacy to unbelievable levels. Some examples were the clearest evidence:
One, his many contributions to charities of all kinds, which he kept intendedly undisclosed. This is rare enough in anyone, let alone in music superstars who often want to wave about their charities in all media. But what’s more: there were many hints that Prince was very concerned about money, especially after the crisis of the mid 90s. But still he was able to maintain a very expensive lifestyle, seemingly compatible with giving very significant amounts of money to organizations or individuals he thought deserved it.
Two, according to the available information, it seems Prince had been suffering strong pain, probably derived from his neverending acrobatics onstage at his peak; this led to the consumption of painkillers, then opioids. And at some point, this escaped his control. It was the beginning of the end. But this had been ongoing, most probably, for decades, and it seems pretty much nobody was fully aware of the magnitude of the issue (or at least, very few people admitted to be in the know). Certainly we fans were absolutely torn apart when we learned about the official cause of his death.
Three, one year has passed and the official news remain: he left no will. This makes no sense to me, coming from one of the most overcontrolling figures ever in the world of music. That someone like Prince truly left not a single word on how he wanted his opus to be treated, it made me speechless. This has clear implications, and not in a good way, for a legacy as big and as important as Prince’s. Hopefully the involved people will find a way to combine the economic profit with the huge respect deserved by The Vault.
These are just three examples of my personal ignorance on the real Prince, the man of mysteries, the musician of inextinguishable talent, the performer enabled to blow away everyone else onstage.
But I want to end this article back to the basics.
In the last years, I have been clamouring for a mature Prince to emerge: the person approaching the 60s. He was still playing the horny teenager quite often, but at the same time he had released several songs where he was showing, quite openly, what was truly happening under the hood.
I had big hopes Prince would eventually act his age and let the music express those feelings of maturity. Unfortunately, time -which is not a trick, contrary to Prince’s statement- came too quickly for him, and we have been prevented from enjoying the late career of a genius gone way, way, way too soon.
By now we have a huge vault of music to enjoy, and the expectations that the estate will open the flood without boundaries, so that connoisseurs, music scholars and plain music lovers will have complete access to a truly massive treasure of music.
There are very, very, very few musicians -if any at all- of Prince’s stature. His labour of love, for several decades, has been a permanent source of enjoyment for us hardcore fans. Let’s hope we will see a long series of releases treated with full respect, to honor the memory of the one and only: Prince. And let’s hope his inscrutable figure will provide inspiration for many generations to come.