The world has lost His Purple Majesty. Prince Rogers Nelson was found dead yesterday, aged just 57. His death shocked the world, and music lost a true genius.
Thursday 21st April will be remembered as a very, very sad day for music. When word spread that a death had been reported at Prince's Paisley Park home, outside Minneapolis, many fans feared the worst - after all, the past few months have been particularly rife with untimely deaths in the music world, with the passing of such greats as Lemmy, David Bowie and Sir George Martin. But most of us simply couldn't believe it could be Prince. After all, the idea that Prince, aged just 57, could die anytime soon didn't cross anyone's mind.
When it was announced that it was indeed Prince who had died, still many of us thought it HAD to be a tasteless internet hoax. Alas, it was not to be - and today the world is mourning one of the greatest geniuses that pop music has ever seen.
Just a few days earlier, Prince had been rushed to hospital because of a bout of flu-like symptoms, serious enough to force his private jet to make an emergency landing in Illinois. But he later made an appearance at a dance party and told fans he was feeling much better.
A very private figure, always wrapped in mystery, the cause of his death is yet to be determined. He was found collapsed in a lift at home, outside Minneapolis. Prince was pronounced dead at the scene 10.07am local time.
His Purple Majesty
It's very easy to go over-the-top when praising a dead pop star - but with Prince, we get the feeling that no praise can be high enough. His talents and achievements were just so immense. Singer, songwriter, producer and extraordinaire guitarist, Prince was a true polymath who would often play all the instruments at a recording session. Close friends say that he was so prolific that he had enough songs in his "vault" to release a full album every year, for the next 100 years.
At the time of his death, Prince had enough unreleased songs to put out an album each year - for the next 100 years!
Prince lived and breathed music, working on his craft every day. But he was much more than just your ordinary pop star. Those who knew him describe Prince as a funny and down-to-earth individual, who was vegan and didn't touch drugs. He still lived near Minneapolis, the city where he was born and raised. He grew up in a humble but very musical family - his father was a pianist and songwriter and his mother was a jazz singer.
He was also a very charitable person. Prince was a Jehovah Witness and helped the local community, hospitals and schools, without ever disclosing his involvement, because taking credit for helping others went against his beliefs.
The trailblazing genius
By the time he released his landmark 'Purple Rain' album (and film!) in 1984, Price had already done enough to put his mark in music, having sold millions of copies of his '1999' album. The title track was so forward-thinking that it still sounded fresh 15 years later when it once again became a hit - and as it still does now. Another hit, 'Little Red Corvette', was one of the first two videos by a black artist played in heavy rotation on MTV, along with Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean'.
But 'Purple Rain' was something else. It sold more than 13 million copies in the US alone, and spent 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The film was one of the year's blockbusters, and, aged just 26, Prince won an Academy Award Oscar for his songs. At one point in 1984, Prince simultaneously had the No. 1 album, single, and film in the US - it was the first time a singer had achieved this feat.
Since then, Prince had many more hits and won many more awards, always following his own unique path, always being innovative and, sometimes, controversial, such as when he changed his artistic name to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, as a protest against his record label.
In the wake of his death, we'll hear a lot about how influential Prince was - but don't believe half of it. He had many fans, sure, and he certainly inspired many, with his music and attitude. But it's hard to pick an artist truly influenced by Prince - he was just too eclectic, innovative and idiosyncratic. One feels his influence will only be truly felt in the years to come. His mix of funk, R'n'B, dance, psychedelia and rock was just too personal, and futuristic, even.
It's just not enough for someone like Justin Timberlake to sing in falsetto and say he's influenced by him. Prince's music was a very rich and original pool of mixed influences - you listen to 'Purple Rain' and it's almost like a gospel song, but yet as modern as any hit of the time. You listen to 'Kiss' and the little guitar riff seems to be paying homage to James Brown, and yet the song sounds like nothing the Godfather of Soul would ever do. Who else, today, manages to mix so many diverse sources into something of his or her own, really?
So many artists seem to copy others and say it's "an influence", but few - if any - manage to create something so original and personal, like Prince did. If Prince was truly influential, the music scene would be very, very different today.
There's a reason why all of the biggest pop stars are mourning Prince. No matter how big the star, even if they sold more records than Prince they'd still be in awe of his talent. He was really a cut above the rest. Nothing compares to Prince.
The Playlist: 6 Songs To Remember Prince By
Little Red Corvette
A song so good it helped to break racist barriers on MTV in the early Eighties.
The ultimate party song, since 1983!
One of his greatest achievements.
When Doves Cry
Another timeless hit from 'Purple Rain'.
She's Always In My Hair
A more recent 3rdeyegirl-era song. Not a hit, but shows he could still rock and mix musical styles.
Nothing Compares To U
His greatest song? Probably!