Thursday, April 28, 2016

REAL SCHOOL PEOPLE® LEGACY: PRINCE



"Freedom is a beautiful thing."-Prince

                                     
Still stunned? So am I.  I believe that this is one of the few times the world is in harmony with the color purple and grief. Prince Rogers Nelson was beloved by everyone. He was a subliminal mediator of the generation gap, an electric real schooler with passion. He was an absolute masterpiece of his own design.


We all can say, he has gone too soon. And the reality of “this thing called life” is leaving it. If anyone should have gotten a pass for immortality, it was Prince. He had a style that was uniquely his and was loved for his dedication to funk, rock, pop, classical jazz or anything else he wanted to play. 

Both of his parents were musicians. John L. Nelson (nickname Prince) a keyboardist and Mattie Della Shaw, a vocalist met at a Minneapolis Jazz show in 1956. They would soon start to work together in Nelson's band, The Prince Rogers Trio before they married. 


A very young Prince
Prince, their first born, was born with epilepsy and struggled with seizures in his early childhood. By age 7, he had written his first song. 

In 1977, 18-year-old Prince signed with Warner Bros. Records. He was given full creative control. Back in the day, those kinds of deals were rare. His first album debuted in 1978, the year I had moved to Los Angeles. I marveled at the album and considered Prince uniquely ahead of his time. This thought proved itself to be true. And eventually the rest of the world caught up with him.

What made him extraordinary is that he didn’t follow trends, he set them. Many thought he was a little odd and weird and were somewhat dismissive when he was in the infancy of his career with Warner. But you have to be outside of the box in order to pave the prairie of your own originality.

Prince at Flippers in 1981
A couple of weeks after my 25th birthday in 1981, I went to a  private party where Prince was being showcased. The venue was Flippers Roller Boogie Palace in West Hollywood, (The Studio 54 for roller skaters).  He was wearing little more than briefs, a trench coat and high heel boots. 

It certainly drew attention. But as with any new artists on the fringe of their careers, the crowd didn't know what to think of him. I observed celebrities and established musicians who seemed somewhat cool and dismissive while Prince forged on. I'm sure for those of us who were there and thinking back on that performance, it has become our Prince memory.

Prince: the personification of “to thine own self be you.” It was something about his style—very visual.  It  would take a while for his persona to stick. No one in that audience at Flippers, many entertainers themselves, could not fathom at that performance, even if they peered into the crystal ball in Prince's future how profound he was. Because quite honestly, Prince was always profound and the world had to discover it. Everything that he was going to be when he made his commitment to being a musician as a child was lined up and ready to take its rightful place in time.

In the early 80s,  artists were safer as copy cats in looks and style. But Prince, came with his "A game" and whether you caught on to his visual seemed less important to him than  bringing the ultimate performance from his soul. His message was loud and clear: You may not get me, but you’ll get the groove.


Prince had respect for artistry and fought for his independence as a creative energy and the right for equitable treatment. He fought for rights as an artist and songwriter, hence his historic break with Warner and seeing himself as a slave to the rhythm of the record companies.



In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1996 he explained, "People think I'm a crazy fool for writing 'slave' on my face, But if I can't do what I want to do, what am I?When you stop a man from dreaming, he becomes a slave. That's where I was. I don't own Prince's music. If you don't own your masters, your master owns you."

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When it came to who “got the look” Prince’s presence saw several wardrobe statements. 

Toward the late 80s it was as if he was  re-purposing the flare from the real school 70s Eleganza and Flagg Bros catalogs.





He stayed in an interesting place when it came to fashion and set trends continuing to remain true to himself. It’s evident that being true to himself won him respect. 

His presence before the still  camera is undeniable. It was  his cognizance and  deep understanding of the elements of the artist/performer and songwriter in the plane of artist imagery and idol appeal that was awe inspiring.

He had a face that was  all people and both genders. His eyes- soft, hypnotic, and beckoning. He was pretty and he worked it.





Prince: the brother like no other. A blend of so much from the real school from James Brown to Jimi Hendrix to Little Richard and at the piano, you could even see Beethoven. He was funk, rock, R&B, soul, blues, bubblegum.

It was the way he took the impressions of the icons before him that were inclusive in his growth as an artist and showed his interpretation of them through his work. It may appear that his stage persona was meshed with androgyny, What Gemini doesn’t have 2 people within them but on different planes?  His alter ego:  a female named Camille who sang on the song "If I Was Your Girlfriend."


Cordial, humble and very likable, Prince nurtured his audiences with his talent.  He was respectful in his humility for the fans who loved him. And at the news of his death, the whole world reeled at the news of his passing. 


Never before have I seen an artist more beloved. He was able to be that messenger musically that was not outcast by any generation. 

While everyone has the curiosity as to how he lost his life, it is honorable that such a beloved icon of the real school who kept it real, was celebrated in a private memorial. While news media and media rags continue to build story upon story to sensationalize his private life, it will never trump his stellar contribution to music and performance. This is where we must all keep his life and legendry in perspective. He gave and gave of his soul through his work and performance. His down time was his own personal space. 


Prince Rogers Nelson worked tirelessly as a songwriter and musician. Many don't understand the addiction that comes with this kind of work. Musicians are by no means utilities, but human beings with the courage to share their souls.

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2 comments:

  1. Absolutely an amazing piece written by Teira Doom. The photographic images are real and true to the reflective side of Prince, the side we see in our mirrors and perhaps not as he shown himself to be. What a wonderful memory to have as keepsake. The man really knew how to entertain and deliver a show and that's all that a court could possibly ask of a Prince.

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  2. Absolutely beautiful Teira! Great article.

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