Saying Goodbye to Prince: Today’s Recommended Reading

Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. Today, we all were forced to say goodbye to a legend. Only 57 years old, musical icon Prince died earlier today. Though we all would probably prefer to cry, Prince would want us to celebrate his life. As is such, today we have assembled a few pieces paying homage to the one-of-a-kind rockstar. One writer recounts his first Purple Rain viewing, and another explains why Prince’s genderbent fashion made her feel comfortable as a queer woman. We also have an explanation of Prince’s complicated relationship with online music and streaming services, as well as an op-ed from 1981, where the acclaimed late music writer Robert Palmer declared that Prince was leading music to a “true biracism.”

At Complex, Andrew Guttadaro reflects on the first time he saw Prince’s Purple Rain movie-musical extravaganza.

In 1984, Prince released a motion picture film to accompany his groundbreaking album of the same name, which had been released just a month earlier. Though the film was initially met with a mixed critical response, over three decades later it’s clear that Purple Rain is a classic. And, if praised for nothing else, Purple Rain must be accepted as one of the clearest artistic visions of any one single person, making Prince more than just a musician — he’s a visionary.

It’s rare to be able to watch something and immediately feel so close to its creator, to share his or her emotions, and to have a deep understanding that everything in the creator’s life led up to what you see on the screen. Purple Rain was Prince’s destiny, as Leeds said. But what’s more remarkable is how palpable that destiny is to the audience. Communicating through a medium in that way isn’t easy—it requires true genius.

On MTV, Jane Coaston recounts how Prince made her feel free to be queer.

Aside from being a musical god amongst men, much of Prince’s rise to cult icon status has circled around his willingness to blur gender lines, in his style of dress, his mannerisms, and his music. Overall, Prince has always been exactly who he has wanted to be. And, although the singer has come under scrutiny in the past for his responses to LGBT issues, it’s no doubt that Prince’s unabashed sartorial choices ushered in an entirely new era for the way a man (particularly a Black one) could present himself.

Prince wasn’t effortless. Everything about Prince was the result of a lot of hard work, and thought, and a large closet. Prince would never just put on a pair of jeans. Prince wasn’t Springsteen, wasn’t Kurt Cobain. Prince WOULD wear a full leather suit and stare soulfully out at a Minnesota river, looking fabulous as hell. Prince was what happens when you create yourself exactly as you want to be and you just don’t give a single solitary fuck what anyone else thinks about it. He crafted himself in his own image, brick by brick. I can’t think of a better way to explain being queer.

Over at The Daily Beast, Kevin Fallon explains why you can’t find any Prince music online — aside from on Tidal.

After battling with Warner Brothers for control over his music back in 1993, Prince ended up losing everything. Following that, Prince seemed to be in a never ending battle with the internet itself, famously declaring that “the internet is completely over” in 2010. Eventually, Prince pulled all of his music from the internet, bashing streaming services in the process — except for Tidal; Prince supported Jay-Z’s service and its pledge to pay artists.

His views on digital music evolved, of course—he had previously condemned it—because evolving is what artists do and what Prince did better than anyone. But evolving doesn’t mean caving. For Prince, that means not caving on a stance he’s spent his career supporting. In 1993, Prince went to war with his record label, Warner Brothers. The label was offering him a lucrative contract in exchange for control over masters of his early work and how he releases new material.

In 1981, the New York Times‘ Robert Palmer declared that Prince was leading music to a true biracism.

When Prince was only 21 years old, he was already being called the most “controversial contemporary rock star.” The singer was already four albums deep into his career by this time, yet he was still getting booed off the stage as the opener for The Rolling Stones during their American Tour 1981. “Precisely because he challenges sexual and racial stereotypes,” Prince was a hard sell to any audience at first, but as his star grew, he was credited with ushering in a new era of “true musical biracism.”

The fact that Prince can do everything makes him one of the most impressive new pop talents of the past few years. It’s also the secret behind his apparently effortless fusion of black and white pop styles. The music transcends racial stereotyping precisely because it’s almost all Prince; Prince himself transcends racial stereotyping because, as he once put it, ”I never grew up in one particular culture.” One suspects that as time goes on, more and more American pop will reflect a similarly biracial orientation. If that’s so, Prince’s black-white synthesis isn’t just a picture of what could be, it’s a prophecy.