Prince (1958-2016)

Prince Rogers Nelson, known to us all simply as Prince, (and for a time, "The Artist"), has passed away at the age of 57.  Prince was a provocative, often controversial, and always brilliant entertainer, one whose gifts as a musician and willingness to carve his own path awarded him status as either an inspiration or a question mark.  He was essential to the story of Rock 'N' Roll and it's strange that he's no longer with us.

A little over thirty years ago, Tipper Gore tried to save us from Prince.  Did you know that?  Long before her husband Al served as Vice President, got ridiculed for "inventing the Internet," and became the spokesman for climate change, she was a Senator's wife who took issue with the music industry's then relaxed stance on lyrical content.  An evidently out of touch mother, Gore purchased a copy of Purple Rain for her daughter who, at the time, wasn't yet a teenager.  And it was with the song "Darling Nikki," a song about a girl that apparently had no qualms about "masturbating with a magazine," that set Tipper on her crusade to save the children from inappropriate and/or obscene language in music. 

With the aid of other concerned wives of U.S. Senators, she founded the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), an organization whose sole purpose was to vilify musicians for attempting to pursue their freedom of expression and apply its own standards of decency to material viewed through the questionable lens of so-called "porn rock."  And through said interpretation, Gore and company compiled a list of songs they referred to as the "Filthy Fifteen," songs they felt could inflict emotional harm and potentially corrupt any youthful ears that may have happened upon them.  Prince had the honor of being the first name on this list, his name eventually accompanied by the likes of Judas Priest, Sheena Easton, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, and Twisted Sister, (the laughable rebellion addressed in "We're Not Gonna Take It" was apparently too much for the organization to handle).  The labeling of material deemed too offensive to market to children was the organization's crowning achievement, though I've always felt the label did more to excite curiosity than provide any real warning, children normally drawn to the mysteries of things their parents would normally try and protect them from.

Thirty-plus years later, no one gives a shit that "Darling Nikki" flicked the bean in a hotel lobby.  Instead, Purple Rain is considered only for its place in the annals of popular culture, an encapsulation of an era perfectly rendered through Prince's words and music.  And Prince himself didn't wind up disgraced or blacklisted because some uptight parent with pull decided to sic the word police on him.  Instead, he's met with admiration, his music having touched lives.  He challenged antiquated perspectives on sexuality, taking norms to task through performance.  He even abandoned his name for a time so as to disassociate himself from a bad professional relationship and was eventually able to procure and maintain control of his work and distribute it as he saw fit.

So, while I can't claim to be a devoted fan by any stretch, I am an appreciator.  As I type this, "Baby I'm A Star" is pounding out of my speakers, the mood celebratory and good.  And while the man himself ceases to be, the work lives on.  It's a cliché to be sure and it's an observation made time and time again when eulogies are scribbled or typed in an effort to offer some consolation.  But, that doesn't make it any less true.  Dust off the records, throw 'em on, and appreciate that you're alive to experience them. 

R.I.P., Prince.

Sincerely,Letters From A Tapehead


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