The Magic of the Purple One

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Vanessa Obioha

Words and tears of grief have overwhelmed the social media and Paisley Park, since the shocking demise of one of history’s finest virtuoso musicians, multi-instrumentalist, actor, director, Prince, last Thursday morning. His death came barely a week after his plane made an emergency landing at Illinois to attend to the singer’s health. He was reportedly fighting flu.

Prince, widely known for his feisty and energetic performances still had a mini concert in his home where he urged his fans to wait a little longer so as not to waste their prayers. If only he knew the mind of the Grim Reaper. Prince was found unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park home and studio in Minnesota. After attempts to save him through CPR failed, he was pronounced dead 24 minutes later. The internet was flooded with tributes from celebrities who admired and were inspired by the iconic musician.

The President of the United States of America defined him as a creative icon whose works have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly and touched quite so many people with his talent.

“As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all; Funk, R&B, and Rock and Roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant band-leader, and an electrifying performer. “A strong spirit transcends rules,” Prince once said and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his band, and all who loved him,” he wrote on his Facebook wall.

Madonna who once dated the eccentric musician described him as a visionary who changed the world. Wyclef Jean thanked him for inspiring him to be “a musician first and using this tool to heal.”

Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones described him as one of the most unique and talented artists of the last 30 years. He wrote on Twitter that “Prince was a revolutionary artist, a great musician, composer, a wonderful lyricist, a startling guitar player, but most importantly, authentic in every way.”
Jazz queen Aretha Franklin told MSNBC that “It’s such a blow. It’s really surreal. It’s just kind of unbelievable. He was definitely an original and a one of a kind. Truly there was only one Prince.”

Indeed there was only one Prince in the entertainment industry that personified music in all its forms. In a New York Times article ‘The Once and Future Prince’, dated 2007, the writer Jon Parales described Prince as an evolutionary musician who made himself a multi-platform by incorporating different sounds of music and business models to maintain his brand. The prolific singer-songwriter, producer, actor, director was one-man band studio whose love for music transcended rules.
The fascination around Prince started long before his 1984 widely acclaimed fame with the song ‘Purple Rain’ which has a film with similar name.

Born Prince Rogers Nelson, to music parents, Prince’s transfixation on music began at an early age. He clearly followed his father’s footsteps and adopted his father’s stage name Prince. He wrote his first song at an early age of seven. He joined bands and created bands including ‘The Revolution’ and his later ‘3rdeyegirl’ band. He wrote and produced and played all musical instruments in his own music, making him one of the most hardworking artistes of time.

Once he attained international acclaim, Prince made it a habit to release an album every year and most of them were successful. His ‘3121’ album (2005) was among the four albums that peaked number one at the billboard 200.
In 1994, Prince’s ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ was a major national anthem in Nigeria and other countries. Although the album ‘Golden Experience’ wasn’t as successful as previous albums, the singer was No 3 at the Billboard 100 and top most charts in other countries.

Throughout his nearly four decades career, Prince’s music was greatly influenced by a blend of pop, hip-hop, funk, jazz, R&B, soul, disco. He was called the pioneer of Minneapolis sound.
Besides his success in music, Prince was known for his eccentricities. His flamboyant taste in fashion was always a fascination to his fans. He rocked every outlandish outfit ferociously and still exudes sexuality. With his lyrics mostly tilting to love and seduction, enhanced by his flirtatious looks and voice earned him the nickname ‘The Royal Badness’.

He was obsessed with the colour purple which earned him the moniker ‘The Purple One’ and he invented the abbreviation of You with the letter ‘U’ and equating the image of an eye for the letter ‘I’.
Most of his songs were not airplayed but yet they became multi-platinum. At the 2013 Billboard Award where he was awarded an Icon award, Prince dazzled his audience with his guitar, rocking, ‘Let’s go Crazy’ and ‘FIXURLIFEU’ instead of an acceptance speech.

He was also known not to grant much interviews and when he did, he refused to be recorded. According to the artiste, most people sold his voice.
A major controversial side of Prince was the change of names. During a fallout with his record label Warner Bros, he changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph which represented the Love Symbol. He would later return to his stage name Prince.

In the music scene, Prince’s fame rose as the late pop legend Michael Jackson’s fame rose. Thus, the two music icons were considered rivals. They both use James Brown model to promote their music. While Michael Jackson had his inner demons to fight with, Prince on the other hand unleashed his inner demons through his music. Although most of his songs are ballads, there are some of his songs which addressed both social and political issues.
Prince sold about 100 million copies of his songs during his lifetime and the figures have accelerated since his death, as fans rushed to get his songs as memorabilia.

He also won awards including an Oscar for ‘Purple Rain’, seven Grammy Awards and a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his “visionary” use of the Internet. He was the first major artist to release an entire album, 1997’s ‘Crystal Ball’, exclusively on the internet. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The 57 year-old music icon was married and divorced twice in his lifetime.