Glenn here with some words about today's very sad news about the death of iconic musician and sometime actor/director, Prince Rogers Nelson. “Purple Rain” wasn’t the first time I ever heard Prince. Hell, I wasn’t even alive when the all things purple took over the zeitgeist in the summer of 1984. No, the first time I think I was consciously aware of who I was listening to was in 1991 when I laid eyes upon a video for the single “Diamonds and Pearls” on early morning music television. I was young, but already obsessed with music; making sure I watched the top forty countdown on Rage and recording my favourite videos from Video Hits onto an over-growing pile of VHS. I had been clocked into Madonna for a year or so by this stage, and Michael Jackson was regular fixture of my music listening habits with “Black & White” becoming a pop culture phenomenon at roughly the same time Prince came into my world. He was so different to anybody I'd seen before - his small frame and wild hair so at odds with the image of maleness that, especially growing up in suburban Australia, was preoccupied with overwhelmingly over-the-top masculinity.
If you ever need proof of some sort of other-worldly intervention in play in this life, then consider those three musicians were all born within just a couple months of each other. (More after the jump)
It was around this time that Prince went quiet among the world of chart music that tends to dominate a young listener’s scope barring the occasional "Most Beautiful Girl in the World". So it wasn’t until years later when in my teen years that I finally discovered the back catalogue of music that I could very well equate to archeologists discovering Tutankhamun’s tomb for the first time. How does one not hear “1999” or “Kiss” or “Raspberry Beret” or “Little Red Corvette” and not sit up and take notice? I would discover Purple Rain around the age of 15. It was instantly my favourite album ever and remains as such to this day. I purchased a brand new vinyl copy before vinyl had returned to the cultural sphere. I had it framed and it currently sits directly opposite my bed. It’s typically the first thing I see in the morning. I can see it right now as I type this.
I won’t go much further into Prince’s music career as it’s far too wide to cover with any authority in a piece such as this – and that’s before getting into the Prince songs recorded by others; Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl”, Chaka Kahn’s “I Feel For You”, Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”, Martika’s “Love… Thy Will Be Done”, Sheila E’s “The Glamorous Life” and so on. I did, however, want to briefly discuss Purple Rain. The 1984 film that Prince starred in and gave birth to his Oscar-winning soundtrack is a personal favourite of mine. As a drama it doesn’t always work, sure (there’s really no way anybody could watch the lake strip scene and not be confronted by the misogyny), but as a musical in works in many of the same ways most classic musicals do. The songs truly do help tell a story, even if they appear to be merely be performed pop songs. The musical sequences themselves are stunning, too, often bathed in deep neon blues and reds, choreographed spectacularly through a haze of eroticism and danger, and performed with gusto by a genius in his prime. Watching this movie was eye-opening – and I don’t even mean because of “Darling Nikki” – and I have continued to love it unconditionally ever since.
Unlike David Bowie, who built an entire second career around film not only as an actor but as an inspiration for filmmakers across decades (which I wrote about after his death in January), Prince’s music doesn’t appear in films often. Having said that, he will forever be the man behind the music of Batman and Showgirls so let's stop and think about that for a moment. And certainly not many musicians can lay claim to having had Sandra Bernhard perform one of their songs in nothing but pasties and an American Flag-themed thong. Prince’s other cinematic efforts, Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge, inspire less passion, but maybe one day they too will get Nigerian remakes like Purple Rain had with Christopher Kirkley’s Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red in It.
Oh, Prince. You haven’t caused us any sorrow. You gave us so much that we are unworthy.