Prince was Lit right out of the gate
I remember the first album Prince released in 1978. It titles "For You." I had never heard of the guy and I was deep into rock and funk, like Funkadelic - "One Nation Under a Groove" and Parliament - "Flash Light" and oh, I can't forget Heatwave's "The Groove Line". Back then, I was knee deep in the trenches of college life, strolling down the campus lawn when I heard singing and screaming coming from the womens dorms. They were on th third floor singing word for word from the track called "soft and wet." Woah! I had to investigate, plus they could help me with my homework. So I get up there and they're blasting tacks from this new artist by the name of "Prince". Prince? Humm...let's put it this way; I was blown away. He came out of left field with all the goods, and from all the angles.
His "For You" album in 1978 is an amazing debut. It revealed signs that he would experience a phenonimal evolution to earn a place in music lore. Prince showed that he was a maestro right out of the gates. Fans were blown away to discover that Prince wrote *and* produced every song on the album. That's extraordinary. He played all of the instruments. He clobbered the vocals, thumped the bass, tickled keys on the piano and synthesizers, ripped it up on the guitar, and kept time on the drums. "For You" reached No. 163 on the Billboard 200 and No. 21 on the Billboard Soul chart. "Soft and Wet", the album's sexy lead single, became a minor hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 92. The tune became a Top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, peaking at No. 12.
In 2016, after Prince's death, the album re-charted on the Billboard 200, reaching No. 138.
"For You" is as authentic Prince material as it gets. Yet, it was simply a practice lap for a marathon career that placed him in the pantheon of great recording artsis, writers, musicians and live performers.
Released in 1980, the "Dirty Mind" album was brilliant. He took the "bad boy" route leaning on an androgenous visual and performance style. On one hand, Prince appealled to fans by appering vulnerable, fragilke and sensual. On the other hand, Prince could deepen his voice, and attack ont eh guitar with an aggressive sound that energized his growing base. The "Dirty Mind" album hit the mark and "I want to be your lover" gave Prince another hit on the billboard charts.
I was taken aback with his "Dirty Mind" album cover (at left) but after watching the reaction of the female fans, I realized that the album wasn't really for me at all. It was for THEM. But I became an instant fan because of his undeniable musical talent and melodic savvy. His aggressive playing style could change in an instant. In his music, I heard all these different genres packed into an album. The album never went platinum in the U.S. like its predecessor or 11 of the albums that followed.
The tune called “Uptown” didn't crack the Hot 100. Yet his talent, voice and boldness earned him a new kind of audience, one that would also support rockers and pop stars and even post-disco lovers. It is this album that defined Prince as an undefinable artist. With those stats and being about my music, I decided I needed to check him out.
GOING ALL OUT - IN HIS WORLD
It was the summer of 1981 and I heard that Prince and his band were coming to Hampton, Virginia with a one-night concert at the Hampton coliseum. By coincidence, I was in the area at the time so I got a ticket early. As I retuned to my car, I heard the music; live music. I followed the sound of the music and recognized the live band and definitely recognized that voice.
I went around the side of the Hampton colosseum where the loading docks and found myself at the back of the stage. The music was loud and strong. I strolled to the front of the stage. Nobody stopped me because nobody was there except a few engineers. Prince and the band were right there, rehearsing, going all-out. The Hampton coliseum was completely empty except the band, the sound engineers and of course myself.
That moment wil stay wiht me because Prince, in rehearsal, was performaing as if his life depended on it. He moved from the guitar to the keys to the drums and played as well if not better than his bandmates that were assigned to those instruments. It didn't matter that there were no specators. He was simply in his world.
His influence and impact on music has DNA from the past including elements of the great James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and of course the incredible Jimi Hendrix (on the guitar, they look related). Prince introduced a futureistic style of music with blasting synthesizers, drums that sounded like container tubs, and rhythm guitar licks that are funky and in the pocket. Those guitar licks are often hit making hooks that Prince put his signature stamp on.
His vocals were beyond that of most singers. Rolling from a deep base all the way up to a high pitched fosetto is a rarity for even the best singers in the business. Prince did it effortlessly, using it as a tool to break the listener down, forcing them to appreciate his extraordinary talent.
Prince was bold and was the first artist to star in a movie, produce and perform the soundtrack, and win an Academy award for it (seen below). In addition that movie, purple rain was number one in the box office solidifying his legendary status.
So powerful was he that he changed his name to a symbol and still thrived (seen below behind Prince at the keyboards).
Prince was innovative when showcasing new music videos when music videos were exploding. But the industry was in need of something more substantial than special effects. Prince gave it to them in spades. His spectacular videos helped elevate BET, MTV and VH1 to new heights. HIs Super Bowl performance in the rain is iconic.
My only regret is there so many people under 30 who missed the opportunity to catch Prince live, or to watch his accent to the top and enjoy his journey. In spite of various sat backs, tragedies, and legal troubles Prince remained crerative, productive and legendary. One of my all-time favorite r&b and funk bands "THE TIME" was also born of The Prince movement, which included hit-making super-producers Jimmy jam and Terry Lewis among many, many others.
This episode was released on Prince's birthday, June 7th but the facts will remain forever, princess one of the greatest of all time. Be sure to check out the follow-up blog giving you details of his successful journey.
By Tony C. Lesesne