This post is about 700 words.
I love the process of creating art. For me, it’s writing. I love hearing successful people talk about their own trials and influences. I could watch Inside The Actor’s Studio, Behind The Music, and the audio commentaries of movies for days. I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing a dozen times. But I also love talking with fellow hopefuls about our own struggles.
It is in this spirit that I share a piece of myself tonight. I lost an idol today. A one-way friendship with a person unaware of my existence, although his music spoke to me as though he did.
A single word that needs a million other words in definition. Fortunately for you, I’ll only use about 700 tonight. The words come slowly, but they come (heh, that sounds like a sentence Prince would approve of, so I’ll allow it).
He’s been one of my biggest influences and I’m staggered by his death today. I’m not a musician anymore, but consider myself a kindred creative spirit (albeit distantly related). When I say he was an inspiration, this isn’t an exaggeration or a lame attempt to connect my blog to the flood of news following his death. It’s a simple truth. Aside from family and Star Wars, I can’t think of anything else in my life that’s been as present or influential as Prince.
As I sat in stunned silence at work today, recalling fond music memories and trying to keep the void at bay, my writer’s brain started organizing thoughts. It occurred to me that I learned four very important things from him.
1. Create limitless art. Man, he was fearless. His life seemed to be a constant experiment with music that resulted in beautiful, crazy, innovative, inspirational art. But it wasn’t only music. Look at his fashion over the years. The album covers for Dirty Mind and Lovesexy. He assembled musical groups. Created movies. He absorbed and synthesized musical styles, the results of which were distinctly Prince. His life was art and it knew no bounds.
2. Don’t compromise your beliefs. Whether the symbol-shaped middle finger he gave to Warner Music or his ongoing fight against digital music piracy, Prince stood strong for what he believed in, even if it cost him money. Perhaps more importantly, he knew who he was, what he needed to be, and when he needed to change. He reinvented the word reinvention. Despite this, we never questioned who Prince was – it was obvious. We might not have known what we’d see next, but we knew it would be 100% Prince.
3. Strive to master many different disciplines and styles. I just mentioned his style reinvention, so I’ll speak to his talent with instruments. It’s said that he sometimes showed a musician how he wanted them to play his song, the result of which would be the musician’s realization that he could play better than they could. I heard Tommy Barbarella of NPG say something similar on the radio today. He wasn’t just a brilliant lyricist with an incredible fashion sense. He was a multi-talented musician who was never restrained by the confines of definition or convention.
4. Always be ready to capture “the idea”. I’ve heard this story many times: Prince had every room in Paisley Park wired for recording, so if he was suddenly inspired, he could capture “the idea” without fear of losing it. Now, I’ve never tried to verify if that was true, though it seems consistent with other stories of him. But that’s not my point here. It’s something I think about when inspiration hits at (what might be considered) an inconvenient time. I’ve lost “the idea” far more times than I care to remember, and this legend – true or not – inspired me to be always be prepared.
As always, the writing is therapeutic and I’m feeling better after a tough day. It helped to get some additional inspiration from my Prince playlist, which contains nearly 250 songs from studio albums, greatest hits, live bootlegs, and tracks that, well, I’m not sure how I got them or where they came from.
And I saw an angel come down unto me
In her hand she holds the very key
Words of compassion, words of peace
Rest in peace, sweet Prince.
And here’s a bonus for your enjoyment. I went through my playlist and pulled out just the well-known songs, which is a pretty long list. Give ’em a spin and enjoy a little musical therapy.
In the random order of my playlist:
- U Got The Look
- Let’s Go Crazy
- I Wanna Be Your Lover
- Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad
- Nothing Compares 2 U
- Thieves In The Temple
- Little Red Corvette
- Sign ‘O’ The Times
- Diamonds and Pearls
- Take Me With U
- Baby I’m A Star
- I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
- Darling Nikki
- Sexy M.F.
- Purple Rain
- Erotic City
- Gett Off
- Alphabet St.
- I Would Die 4 U
- P Control
- When You Were Mine
- When Doves Cry
- Pink Cashmere
- The Breakdown
- Soft and Wet
- The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
- Raspberry Beret
- Pop Life
- My Name Is Prince
The list doesn’t include some lesser-known, though personal favorites like: She’s Always In My Hair, 17 Days, Billy Jack Bitch, Partyman, Scarlet Pussy, Uptown, If I Was Your Girlfriend, Pope, Irresistible Bitch, Starfish and Coffee, and Money Don’t Matter Tonight. That’s more than three hours of music and I’ve not even mentioned the deeper stuff.
By the way, Year 2016, you’ve already claimed more than your fair share of musicians. No more!
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© Michael Wallevand, April 2016