R.I.P. Prince

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Prince was found dead this morning at his estate in Minnesota. Last Friday,  his plane made an emergency landing in Illinois for an unknown medical emergency. He left the hospital three hours later and returned home. He performed in Atlanta Thursday night after cancelling some previous shows for health reasons. On Saturday, he appeared at a dance party close to his home and told the crowd, “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.” Prince became an international superstar in the ’80’s after the explosive success of his Purple Rain album and movie. His ability to write, produce, perform innovative pop had the press calling him The Genius Wunderkind. Warner Brothers believed in his abilities so much they signed him at age 19 and he was given the rare privilege to write and produce his own album. In the beginning, he was marketed as an R&B artist on Black radio and had mild success with single like “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Sexy Dancer.” But his third album, Dirty Mind, took him in the direction of New Wave and controversy with songs about incest and oral sex. Dirty Mind’s follow-up, Controversy, also pushed the envelope in regards to sexuality and there was criticism of Reganism. The introduction of his 1999 album got him to rock radio with the single “Little Red Corvette” and this album is where he began to sonically master the politics of segregationist radio in regards to Black people who play guitar rock. Prince understood how to incorporate the elements of funk, soul, rock and pop into his own voice and create something instantly inscribed into Americana pop culture like Motown. His eye-catching presentation, mastery of multiple instruments, infectious songwriting and sexually-charged shows made him Michael Jackson’s only contender. Miles Davis once called Prince the future of music and with good reason. In the ’80’s he had a camp of artists he wrote and produced for including The Family, Sheila E., Madhouse, Mazarati, The Time and Andre Cymone. Chaka Khan’s solo career was reinvigorated when she covered his song, “I Feel For You.” Prince recorded 39 albums, made four movies and was one of the greatest live performers ever.