Thursday, April 21, 2016

Obituary: Prince

It was quite a shock to hear that famed singer-musician-songwriter Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, known simply by his first name, died suddenly today. He had been suffering from the flu in recent weeks but seemed to be doing better. However, at his home in Minnesota, he suddenly died. He was found unresponsive in an elevator at the residence.

Prince was a prolific artist, but his peak years were in the 1980s and practically synonymous with that decade. He also pulled one of the most outrageous publicity stunts of all time, when he changed his name into some unpronouncible symbol thanks to a dispute with his record label. It was hilarious to read an article from Rolling Stone magazine, where it actually printed the "love symbol" in place of his name, complete with apostrophes. Most publications didn't go that far, however. They simply referred to him as "the Artist Formerly Known as 'Prince'" in their articles and on television.

Here was that symbol, for the record:

After a time he changed his name back, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

New York Times:

Prince recorded the great majority of his music entirely on his own, playing every instrument and singing every vocal line. Then, performing those songs onstage, he worked as a bandleader in the polished, athletic, ecstatic tradition of James Brown, at once spontaneous and utterly precise, riveting enough to open a Grammy Awards telecast and play the Super Bowl halftime show. Often, Prince would follow a full-tilt arena concert with a late-night club show, pouring out even more music.

In Prince’s biggest hits, he sang passionately, affectionately and playfully about sex and seduction. With deep bedroom eyes and a sly, knowing smile, he was one of pop’s ultimate flirts. But elsewhere in his catalog were songs that addressed social issues and delved into mysticism and science fiction. He made himself a unifier of dualities — racial, sexual, musical, cultural — teasing at them in songs like “Controversy” and transcending them in his career.

He had plenty of eccentricities: his fondness for the color purple, using “U” for “you” and a drawn eye for “I” long before textspeak, his vigilant policing of his music online, his penchant for releasing huge troves of music at once, his intensely private persona. Yet among musicians and listeners of multiple generations, he was admired well-nigh universally.

Was the death drug related?

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