What I learned From Prince
The whole world is currently mourning Prince and rightfully so. Last Sunday, churches offered tribute in the most puzzling ways...E. Dewey Smith even offered his explanation for the brief tribute that took place at his church...not sure everybody gets it, though. That's the enigma of Prince Rogers Nelson, though...he was a lot to everybody. Whether you were wild, crazy sex driven Prince fan or the overall creative, innovative brilliant minded Prince fan, you like me were a fan nonetheless.
Prince was the definition of an artist. There will never be another like Prince, all the rest are imitations. He was weird and made us ok with it! As enigmatic as he was, death was the only one who had him figured out. The bible says there'd come a time when we'd be glad to see 'em go and sad to see 'em born...if these aren't those days, I just don't know!
However, as all the tributes have poured in, I've silently sat back waiting for someone to steal my story! To my fortune, they have not. So let me share with you Prince's biggest influences on myself. This of course follows after the very obvious musical legacy.
As a twenty something, it hit me early that I needed to study Prince's music. I got hold of my late uncle's 8-track collection as a pre-teen and was hip to most of what Motown had to offer before the age of 13. So when I began to study Prince, I really studied Prince. College was my first real Prince experience...the Gold Experience album. Of course the single was "Diamonds and Pearls" but there was a song one club in particular always seemed to be playing when we walked in..."P-Control". I laughed and never really danced to it thinking it was some EDM track from overseas or something! Yep, that's Prince, too! LOL
I studied his albums, I have a few LP's as well. Of all the albums he recorded, I loved his creativity and the album title: "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic". I was always kind of leary of Prince as a believer because of the obvious reasons. But when my friend Charles basically challenged me to check out his album "The Rainbow Children" I debated but finally acquiesced. It was actually one of the best musical decisions I've ever made. The reason it's not talked about much is because it's actually a biblical album. Prince was a devout Jehovah's Witness and while I don't know what the doctrine is currently, for years they didn't recognize Jesus as the son of God as "Christians" do. Listening to the album, I had a feeling that he'd tapped in to some deep truth that not many believers cared to discuss. "Who are the rainbow children"? Are those the Hebrews scattered, slaves? Who are they? It takes listening to the entire album to really begin to discover any remote possibilities to what that answer may be. The album is a huge part of my development as a musician and for that I will always appreciate Prince.
One of my favorite DJ's of all time is Rudy Vee. He was at 105.7 KRNB in Dallas for years on the Quiet Storm and he introduced me to Prince's track "Muse 2 The Pharoah". I loved it and then I knew that Charles was onto something, so I went out to get it.
I love that album and it's my favorite Prince album. John Blackwell on drums just spoke the clearest drummer language I'd heard anybody speak and I'll never forget that summer! I was also really trying my darndest to woo this young lady named Angela and we spent many nights riding in my Volkswagen Passat (with the Rabbit engine) listening to tracks from the album with the moonroof open...the Angela thing didn't work out but the album stayed in my cd changer! ;) One thing as a producer I learned from Prince was the untitled/hidden track idea. I'd be riding in the car and a song would just start playing. I thought my cd changer was messing up until I realized that the cd was made that way! How genius an idea it was...I've done the same on albums I've engineered and mastered.
"She Loves Me 4 Me" was the song I used to look for a wife. I heard the lyrics and I was like: "Where is she?" LOL I can definitely say that my wife Rhonda comes the closest to that, so yeah, Prince helped me pick a wife, too!
Sign O' The Times
The summer of 2002 in what would be my last days at Weatherford College I went on a vintage music feast..."a smorgasbord at least" (from "Wedding Feast") I'd located a turntable and proceeded to spin every '33 I could find. One of the greatest treasures from that summer was finding Carole King's "Tapestry" LP. I loved it and played til I thought it would die right there on my turntable. I had also started my journey into adulthood...I finally had a video rental card in my name! I found the movie "Sign O' the Times". To this day, I don't remember what it was about, more like a concert video. I remember seeing Sheila E (I was in love) and hearing "Little Red Corvette" and a few other amazing tunes...the most vivid memory from watching that movie was watching Prince go around the bandstand and play each instrument like a virtuoso. You may remember Tonex doing the same thing on his "Out the Box" video.
That solidified Prince's legacy as one of the world's greatest musicians, for me. I didn't think he'd know his way around a Hammond B-3...but he did, he absolutely did! I was a Prince fan, at that moment!
As a fan I was disheartened that I didn't see or hear from him as much as I did earlier so I did a little research and discovered the NPG site. The site is no longer but it was more than a fan club...It was actually the hub for all things Prince! If he released new music, he released it there! If he was in concert, the only way to buy tickets was there! I hit the Prince jackpot..."so how much does all this cost, anyway?" Well, let's say that as a young college musician, I couldn't pay it! LOL
I remember seeing word of Prince concerts here and there and hearing people talk about music that wasn't for sale...but then it hit me, this guy is a real genius! He reinvented the whole music industry! This is the same guy who handed out cd's with ticket purchases...WOW! But he's Prince so this doesn't work for everybody. But could it?
Since I've been working with and for indie artists, I want to share this with you what I learned from Prince:
1) Be Yourself, no matter how uncomfortable it makes others
2) Find your audience
3) Engage them
4) Reward them
5) Use your platform the right way
The last point really speaks volumes in regard to who Prince was. He denied people the right to idolize him, declining a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame twice! He made his faith known, well known! He is quoted as saying: "Jesus is King" a number of times over the years. We spend a great deal of time in faith wars in our world and on social media, but when you're firm in your faith, nobody can war with that!
So that's it, that's what Prince taught me! Not some musical epiphany, but those five things are solid Prince "things". So when I remember him and celebrate him, that's my Prince story and I'm sticking to it!
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In this blog, you will hear from Fred directly about a broad variety of subjects. Though Fred normally expresses his thoughts in his columns, he has created this space to share his most intimate thoughts concerning everyday life!