Prince died one year ago today. I was shocked and upset for quite some time, surprising myself. I didn't own everything he'd ever released; I didn't know his oeuvre back to front. I knew "Sign of the Times" and "The Black Album" and most of the hits, but that was it. Still, I found myself googling pictures of him and articles about his death, and crying, for weeks.
I've been sitting here for some minutes now trying to think how best to describe what he (and the music of his that I loved) meant to me, but I'm not coming up with anything terribly brilliant (apart from the fact that it was FAR TOO SOON). I'm going to let Michael Chabon, who posted the following on Instagram the day Prince died, do it for me:
"I came of age feeling drawn to the borderlands. I felt like I did not belong anywhere except wherever nobody belonged, and that I could not, would never want to be defined except as someone who instinctively rejected definition. It was exhilarating but it was lonely and confusing. You looked for people who seemed to be walking the tightrope between This and That (or This and Not-This) with grace, confidence, an appearance of fearlessness, a wanton disregard of gravity and physics. Between "high art" and "pop." Between "black" music and "white" music. Between white and black, straight and gay, male and female, cool and nerdy, genre and mainstream, rooted and uprooted, old school and avant-garde, commercial and arty. Between synth-bass minimalism and a shredding Telecaster solo. Between anyplace they stuck you and everywhere you knew you had the right, and the desire, to be.
He surfaced like Aphrodite in a fizz of synth foam with his second album, when he was 21 and I was 16, and at once became my surest guide. Nobody ever walked that tightrope between the Approved Categories with greater heedlessness, verve, aplomb. He wasn't lost, drifting, incapable of choosing. But he also wasn't choosing nothing. He chose never to feel the need to choose. In a culture debilitatingly addicted to labels and categories, Prince gave them all the Slip.
No one else could have felt, understood, expressed so perfectly the quantum state of identity that Prince folded, set to music as tightrope-walking as any he ever recorded, into the lyric: "If I was your girlfriend Would U remember 2 tell me all the things U forgot When I was your man?" When he sung these and all the rest of the lyrics to "If I Was Your Girlfriend" (on Sign O' the Times, his masterpiece of the Slip) he was not just posing a rhetorical or cute question. He had thought about it. He had imagined it. He had wanted it. Being someone's girlfriend was something that on some level he knew he could, maybe even should, do. Or, at least, that no one was ever going to tell him he couldn't." -Michael Chabon, April 21st, 2016.
The week after Prince died, I painted several portraits of him (above). They're all pretty loose; some resemble him more than others. Some I will never show. The ones I'm going to post here are all for sale and will soon be in my store: they 15X21 inches, ink on paper, $600 unframed.
Please feel free to contact me.