Much of the news on music sites these days has gone towards memorializing the plethora of artists and musicians who’ve left us too soon–ours included. So it is with great sadness that we have to use this space to comment on yet another one, Prince, who passed away in his studio Thursday morning.
Generally, the tributes center on his musical innovations, which lit sparks of creativity into popular music in the 80s and 90s. As Robert Christgau once noted, original is one thing, worth doing quite another, and what set Prince’s songs apart from everyone else’s seemed to be a deep understanding of musical structure and a high level of proficiency in his instrumentation. Who else could save the Super Bowl halftime show from sterile blandness after Justin and Janet’s infamous Wardrobe Malfunction sent the NFL into play-it-safe mode for several years? The irony of that performance is that an artist whose mainstream popularity centered around overt sexuality wowed millions of Americans with his technical chops. Who knew an artist with such a penchant for raunchy subject matter could be, you know, talented?
Blues fans, that’s who, and aside from the howling guitar riffs, you could argue Prince’s link to the blues is equally centered around his amazingly filthy lyrics, and it is in this spirit that we present two infinitely memorable performances–the aforementioned halftime show from Super Bowl XLI, and the George Harrison tribute at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Prince is dead! Long live Prince!