Prince Took Versatility To Another Level

prince3Making wildly different types of music is characteristic of all the greatest Rock artists. You could draw a line through them all. Dylan went electric and then went everywhere else, live and on record. The Beatles created nothing but massive musical change over a five-year span. Bowie went even further, creating new personas with new sounds every couple of years.

But Prince took musical versatility to still another level. It’s partly a generational thing: he had the advantage of growing up absorbing James Brown and Hendrix and Bowie among the other greats. But it is mostly about talent. In terms of pure musical abilities, Prince was one of the most freakishly talented musicians who ever lived.

He was considered a virtuoso by his peers on at least three instruments — the guitar, piano and drums. The guy was said to just ooze music, eagerly playing in clubs after doing three hard hours on stage. He said he slept for only three hours a night because music gave him energy, so he’d be up at 5 a.m. recording stuff. That’s how you make 39 studio albums.

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Like Dylan and Bowie, Prince didn’t really care if you dug his music or not. The music was in him and it was going to come out. The important thing to him was being able to lay out his artistic vision in his own way. He didn’t pander to anybody. He was often aloof and prickly. His 10-year battle with Warner Brothers alienated everybody, including his fans. Seriously, changing your name to an unpronounceable symbol is not a recipe for good record sales.

I think all that Angry Prince stuff – all those internet and label fights over royalties – it all spoke to his profound belief in his art more than it did to any monetary zeal. He had a gift, and he knew it. He had to share it his way.

And so, we are left with this vast expanse of music that he shared with us. Hopefully many will be inspired to dip back into this well, like we did when Bowie left us. Just about everybody on the planet will find similar things in the Prince catalog: some music we don’t like, some music that sounds interesting, some music we really like, and some really brilliant, transcendent moments.

He dared us to listen to music with a more open mind, and to build bridges between genres. He reminded us that you can’t please everybody, so be bold, and stick to your vision. And he showed us, just like all the great artists did, that you’ve got to keep changing to stay vitally creative. His was a once-in-a-lifetime talent, and I think we’re all pretty lucky to have witnessed some of it. Shine on, Prince Rogers Nelson.

Photo by jimieye from – ( [CC BY 2.0 ( or CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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One comment to “Prince Took Versatility To Another Level”
  1. What a loss. The man was a true talent that can never be duplicated. An artist with his originality will be hard to come by in this day and age.

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