Like everyone else, I was stunned to hear that Prince had died yesterday. After the loss of David Bowie earlier this year, 2016 will already be remembered as a terrible year simply because these 2 musical geniuses are no longer with us.
I have always told people who asked me that my favorite musicians were Bowie, Prince and Stevie Wonder. They are all timeless greats and their contribution to music will never be equaled. It saddens me to know that already this year 2 of them are gone.
Prince and Bowie were tremendously talented musicians, each in their own way. I cannot debate the virtuosity of Prince on so many instruments. This is amazing considering that he taught himself to play all of those instruments. Like Bowie, Prince distanced himself from the mainstream at all times, preferring to be the individuals that they were rather than just one of the crowd. Even when Bowie achieved his mainstream success with "Let's Dance", he said that it was the least fulfilling point in his long career. It was as if Bowie only deigned to become popular in the mainstream once in order to say he had done it.
Prince began as another underground artist who made a big splash and then went on his way. His early music is so much more intense and personal than his commercial period. Perhaps Prince maintained a bit more mainstream success over a longer period of time, but I think that this was due to a recognition of his vast talent, just like Bowie.
Prince fought his battles wisely and effectively. Like Bowie he kept his persona visible to the public only to the degree he chose to. Both men were intensely private and almost shunned the spotlight unless they were prepared to use it. I mean that last statement as a tremendous compliment to them both.
Prince and Bowie both explored different genres of music rather than being pigeonholed into a neat category. Bowie explored R&B and Soul, Prince dabbled in Rock and Roll, but neither was easy to pin down. Each would push the boundaries as they explored music and dare others to follow them.
Bowie and Prince had the same detractors throughout their careers. The small-minded people who wanted nothing experimental or daring from their musicians tended to despise both of them. Bowie fought against the stigma of his stated sexual ambiguity. Prince fought that battle as well as the battle of being a successful Black artist who refused to sell out. Personally, I know of many people that would talk about Michael Jackson and insinuate that Prince must also be another "freak". The sad truth is that the statements against Jackson were always more public fodder than anything else, but as I said, small-minded people could not distinguish artistic freedom in their own little minds.
Bowie and Prince are gone far too soon. The world will probably not know geniuses like this for a long time to come. To have the pleasure of being alive and listening to them both growing up is something that I will always cherish.