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Sunday, April 24, 2016

RIP Prince

The death of the musician Prince caught me by surprise. He was one of those artists whose songs I liked when I was younger, but I didn't grow to appreciate him more until I got older and paid closer attention to his lyrics.

Musicians are like writers in that they use their talents to express themselves and can tell a story in their own ways. Prince was a master at doing this. I didn't really think about the deeper meeting of the title track of his album "1999" when I first heard it, but it was more than just a party song.

A good song can tell a story as much as a novel can, but most songs need to tell that story in just a few minutes. And putting together a collection of songs that tell a longer story isn't an easy task, but Prince was one of those artists who could do that, as evidenced by perhaps his most famous album, "Purple Rain."

And watching the movie of the same name puts that album into context. By itself, the song "Darling Nikki" is indeed suggestive, but its place in the movie is to illustrate how The Kid (the character Prince plays) is using his musical talents in the wrong ways. In the movie, he sings the song in an attempt to prove he can be edgy and as a retort against his girlfriend. All he does is upset people, and it isn't until after his father shoots himself in the head that The Kid gains perspective and starts composing lyrics to a tune his band members created. The end result is a number everyone loves.

Prince did go through a period in which plenty of fans wondered what he was going through, a time in which his works were perplexing, often considered poor quality, and his popularity waned. That sounds a lot like periods that writers go through -- Stephen King has related his own tales about how his battle with alcoholism led to some subpar efforts and pieces he doesn't even remember writing.

But once Prince got past that period and came full circle, people could once again appreciate his talents. It's just unfortunate that he was taken from this life too soon.

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