Ever since I was three years old, I've had one idol in music. One artist that I've looked up to, emulated and studied diligently. That artist was Michael Jackson. I couldn't tell you how many days and nights I've spent watching Michael perform his legendary moves over and over and over again. I used to record those VH1 "Michael Jackson Day" specials on video cassette and watch every video, only to tap the slow motion button on my VHS remote to look at every incremental detail in Michael's movements. I was doing this at 7-8 years old. I'd put on his History album, the first album I'd ever heard and owned, and just dance from the first to the last song for hours. There was nobody, NOBODY you could put up that was even close to Michael in my book. Every artist I saw was either not up to Michael's greatness in sheer talent, not up to Michael's genius in creativity, or was just imitating things that they got from Michael.
And then two years ago I decided to listen to some Prince. I had always heard that Prince was great, but c'mon, in the battle of MJ vs Prince I was already heavily Team MJ. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a go. I started with his greatest hits. When Doves Cry, Purple Rain, Little Red Corvette, Raspberry Beret, Kiss etc etc. And I couldn't believe it. I couldn't fathom the moment. Never in my 22 years up to that point had I heard something that would EVER rival music like Billie Jean, Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, Bad and so on and so forth. But here I was listening to the Purple One, and freaking the fu** out. I was hooked.
Luckily for me, I became friends with Mindfieldsound, one of the biggest Prince-heads I've ever met. Dude even looks like him. And I told him how amazing I thought Prince was, something that almost nobody in my generation would say, and he lit up, telling me how he was a HUGE Prince-head. He went on to show me his Prince collection. The amount of singles vinyls, albums and memorabilia that this guy has collected is astounding, and is still growing. I literally had everything I needed to know about Prince at my fingertips, and I went and I DID my homework. I've never studied an artist's music like I've studied Prince's. I mean I'm STILL studying Prince, because the guy literally has dozens (DOZENS) of albums. The sheer amount of material that Prince has made is unmatched by ANY artist. Period. The fact that this guy wrote, produced, engineered and played every instrument on his first few albums is ridiculous. Then at the height of his career he went on to produce and write for a gang of artists. The Time. Vanity 6. Apallonia. Sheila E. It would take years and years of studying to even cover the amount of work that Prince has created in his lifetime, not to mention the THOUSANDS of unreleased songs that he has in his vault. THAT is what I call a LEGEND. Even more than his discography, Prince stood for complete freedom. Freedom to express yourself in any fashion, freedom to delve into your sexuality openly despite what others may think, freedom to become a symbol and rid yourself of a record label's control. He represented this idea that you could explore and go wherever you wanted creatively, and no matter where he went, it was always dope as hell.
Although they both challenged the status quo and pushed music to new boundaries, it's almost as if everything that Prince was, Michael wasn't. Michael's personality was innocent and kid-friendly, Prince was a badass, a diva. Michael's signature "hoo's" and "hehe's" were child's play compared to the high octane shrills that Prince was known for. These guys were for sure competing with one another. The way I studied Michael's vocal ability, his high full voice/mix voiced range, his dancing and the creativity in his legendary music videos is the same way I've studied Prince's musicality, the grit in his lower voice and sweeping high falsettos topped off by those iconic screeches of emotion, his onstage antics and overtly sexualized performances. Prince is the antithesis of Michael, and I couldn't have been more obsessed with it. The way MJ made me appreciate the performance, Prince made me appreciate THE MUSIC.
My fondest memory so far through my journey of discovering Prince has to be when Mindfield showed me live footage of Prince performing the album Purple Rain a year before it came out at a benefit concert in Minnesota, a video that's RIDICULOUSLY hard to find. This was cool as fu** for two reasons. He performed never-before-heard material for a small audience of maybe 300 or so, and he did this to benefit the arts in his hometown. The man was thoroughly dedicated to Minnesota. You think Drake puts on for the 6? Prince puts on for Minneapolis tenfold. The man is known for crafting and coining the Minneapolis sound. Few have ever done so much. This was also amazing because Prince had brought studio equipment to the concert and recorded the entire live show, and actually used stems from the live performances as real tracks on the album that eventually became Purple Rain. So in other words, he performed so perfectly live, that it became the actual tracks on his most successful album. Unbelievable.
Well during this benefit concert, Prince performed what later became classics from Purple Rain, songs like Let's Go Crazy, Darling Nikki, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Purple Rain etc. The crazy thing to me was how much energy Prince could exude on stage. I've never seen someone run around the stage, doing the splits, rolling on the ground, get up and do a 3 minute guitar solo, and absolutely KILL the solo while still singing in perfect pitch. It was just so hard to believe that that could even be done. And then. And then the finale. The finale of the concert is what got me the most. After almost an hour and a half of sweating, playing music, and dancing, Prince launched into Purple Rain, and it sounded to a T like it did on the record. He even added a never-before-heard third verse. I was so freakin close to crying. I had never experienced a moment like that since seeing MJ moonwalk when I was 3. Prince had easily become my biggest musical influence, and I honestly will never forget that day or that moment. If Michael was number 1, Prince was number 1.0000000000000001, but that order could easily be reversed on any given day. I made it a mission to see Prince perform live before he passed. The same way I had always longed to see Michael perform before he passed as well.
And I never got the chance.
Today is one of the saddest days for me. I can't even begin to describe how devastated and heartbroken I am about this. It's just crazy to me how in just a few short years, an artist could have such a profound impact on my life. Prince was everything. The only living legend I had left in my eyes. The only idol left to meet. And I'll never get the chance.
I haven't cried over a celebrity passing since Michael passed. Until today.
Rest in peace Prince Rogers Nelson