another music genius lost. what the fuck is happenin? any road, as with Mr Bowie there have been countless articles, think pieces, reports and videos posted in response to Prince’s sudden passing on April 21st so I have collected a few of the more outstanding items that offer some insights and analysis on the works of pop’s prolific pansexual polymath.
On Pitchfork, Music writer Simon Reynolds (Rip It Up and Start Again, Retromania) discusses the artists fascination with gender bending and sexuality, focusing on a track from his 1987 album Sign O’The Times, ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ on which Prince manipulated his singing voice in order to embody ‘Camille’, his feminine self. You can read it here and listen to the original recorded version with Camille’s vocal here.
From 2003, English soul singer and radio presenter Mica Paris produced a superb in-depth four-part documentary for BBC Radio which you can find here.
Over at The Quietus, Simon price eulogizes and celebrates Prince’s proud freak flag and the unique gifts which made the Purple One not quite of this earth.
And finally from the 2015 Fall edition of the Pitchfork Review – the quarterly print version of the site – sourced and hosted on Simone Nega’s dedicated Prince blog which you can access here, is a piece by Michaelangelo Matos on the genesis of Prince’s third album, 1980’s Dirty Mind with a fascinating deconstruction of ‘When You Were Mine’, a catchy new wave style number with sexually ambiguous lyrics, a song that prompted celebrated rock scribe Greil Marcus to declare as ‘the history of rock and roll in one song!’
Without absconding responsibility, perhaps I should offer my own opinion. Growing up as a kid and teen from the early 1980’s until the early 90’s, Prince’s along with of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen was seemingly an omnipresent figure. Their music was always in the air even if I had no interest in seeking it out and listening to it, by osmosis or direct connection through radio, television or on record. They seemed like towering pop fantasy figures broadcast from Planet USA into little grey Irish living rooms. However, it was Prince and more specifically, the image of Prince that disturbed and confused myself and my friends the most.
We simply didn’t know how to take or process this impish, hyper confident trickster with the slick dance moves, dazzling guitar chops, flamboyant dress sense who walked the gender line so confidently. Our perceptions of masculinity from having been brought up in a working class Dublin suburb were so narrowly defined from a young age, whenever a Prince video such as Kiss came on the TV, I can clearly remember a sense of collective panic and embarrassment that would surface and then be channelled through derogatory group comments, anti-gay slurs common amongst insecure adolescent boy.
If there was any hint or suggestion that one of us liked Prince – even in musical form of which there was no denying his brilliance – or thought that his falsetto singing, bellytops, frilly shirts, high heels, make up and generally pervy demeanor was interesting then we would be victimized by the rest of the group. Let the slaggings begin and damn those who don’t like hetero music, hetero clothing and other stuff us boys and men were/are supposed to like. Prince scared the fuck out of us. Hindsight and all that. Perhaps if we or I were 5-10 years older, we would have felt less threatened and have been more receptive to his music and image but then again, maybe not. But we were scared of his open-ness; he transcended sexual, racial and stylistic norms, he fused styles, embraced contradictions.
We were but simple then. narrow little minds. His whole life, Prince sought to escape that line of thought through his music and at this, he succeeded in a most thrilling and beautiful fashion.