This morning, Prince died. I’m not sure that has really sunk in yet.
There are few people who have carved such a unique slice of the American Dream for themselves more than Prince – and completely did it his way. A champion for the Artist having ownership of their Art, Prince was passionately independent, telling Warner Bros. to take a fucking hike when they refused to play by his rules. Over the following 25 years, Prince continued to forge his own path, releasing music on his terms and under his own label N.P.G., retaining the rights to his music. Even when he teamed up with labels like Arista and Columbia (and eventually circling back to Warner Bros.) they understood that they needed him more than he needed them; Prince had his money and his fans and was never going to be someone else’s “slave” ever again.
The sad thing about Prince going rogue is that the music didn’t get the same kind of promotion (or availability; frankly, some of it is still difficult to acquire…). Some of his albums like Planet Earth (2007) and 20Ten (2010) were initially “released” in a magazine – yes, a cover mount in a magazine (20Ten has never gotten a traditional release; maybe it will now…) – and LOtUSFLOW3R/MPLSound (2009) was exclusively released to Target for some reason that I suppose made business sense to Prince. His relationship with technology and the internet has been a unique one – simultaneously embracing digital platforms like Spotify and Tidal, yet abhorring YouTube, Grooveshark, and other file sharing sites in where Mr. Nelson did not get a cut (one weekend when Julian was gone, I listened to Prince’s entire catalogue…before Grooveshark took it all down…hopefully the estate will make them available for purchase on iTunes…). Prince’s opinions on technology have definitely made their way into his latest work; one of his newest (and sadly last, I suppose) is called Art Official Age (2014) – say that out loud to get the pun. Prince, like Madonna, was never interested in looking back, but forever braving forward.
Prince was – God, that feels weird to write – a student of “musicology,” infusing his work with the best of Stevie, Sly, Miles, James, Little Richard, gospel, punk, and even a little Sun Ra for good measure. Yet everything he made was undeniably Prince. As tributes begin to happen, I’m sure various incarnations of “Purple Rain” will be played from here to Antarctica. As they should. Purple Rain (1984) is arguably the greatest album ever recorded and the title song is beyond glorious – that last 3 minutes of guitar riffs and Prince’s sensual wails are enough to send anyone to their knees.
But in my typical fashion, I offer a playlist of what you may not know; the Prince under the radar from 1994-2015 that has hitherto not been included in his legend:
Please follow the link to SoundCloud here.
- “RocknRoll Loveaffair” – HitNRun: Phase One (2015)
- “The Work: Part 1” – The Rainbow Children (2001
- “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” – The Gold Experience (1995)
- “Right Back Here in My Arms” – Emancipation (1996)
- “Somebody’s Somebody” – Emancipation (1996)
- “Call My Name” – Musicology (2004)
- “One of Us” – Emancipation (1996)
- “The Everlasting Now” – The Rainbow Children (2001)
- “Everyday is a Winding Road” – Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)
I tried to upload many other tracks, but from beyond the grave, Prince is blocking his music from being uploaded. I guess I can’t be mad about it. And the above may even be blocked by the time you read this. But maybe this will inspire you to seek them out like I did.
Here are another 20 songs you should find…
- “Breakfast Can Wait” – Art Official Age (2014)
- “Dance 4 Me” – MLPSound (2009
- “Dark” – Come (1994)
- “4Ever” – LOtUSFLOW3R (2009)
- “Beautiful, Loved, and Blessed” – 3121 (2006)
- “Gold” – The Gold Experience (1995)
- “Time” – Art Official Age (2014)
- “FunknRoll” – Art Official Age (2014)
- “You Make My Sunshine” ft. Angie Stone – The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
- “1000 Xs and Os” – HitNRun: Phase One (2015)
- “Somewhere Here on Earth” – Planet Earth (2007)
- “The One U Wanna See” – Planet Earth (2007)
- “Golden Parachute” – The Slaughterhouse (2004)
- “Northside” – The Slaughterhouse (2004)
- “She Spoke 2 Me” – The Vault: Old Friends for Sale (1999)
- “Extraordinary” – The Vault: Old Friends for Sale (1999)
- “Black Muse” – HitNRun: Phase Two (2015)
- “Big City” – HitNRun: Phase Two (2015)
- “Look at Me, Look at You” – HitNRun: Phase Two (2015)
- “Crystal Ball” – Crystal Ball (1998)
It is unclear what will become of his estate (not to mention his immense “Vault” of unreleased songs, rumored to total close to 1000), but here’s hoping that Prince’s great music from the second half of his glorious career will become more accessible to fans.
Thanks for the music, Mr. Nelson. You were truly one of “The Beautiful Ones.”