Prince Rogers Nelson
is easily the most daring, inventive, and subversive pop star in contemporary music. He is just as much Cole Porter
as he is James Brown
. Using an R&B aesthetic base, he has interwoven punk rock, rock & roll, pop, jazz, blues, and new wave to carve out a sound that is American, uniquely African-American.
His diverse background, varied music palette, and pop/showbiz mentality can be cred
ited to his Minnesota upbringing. Like Bob Dylan
(also from MN), he balances spirituality and humanity with heartache and yearning. He is part spiritual leader, religious zealot, sensualist and priest of carnality. His work is visceral yet calculated, both frank and overt. This is all anchored by his genius for laying out a great tune. I mean, who
caught the first time that "Raspberry Beret" was a tale of a person losing his virginity? With attention to detail draped in poetry and the abstract, the lyrics sound idiosyncratic and real as anything Joni Mitchell
ever wrote. But songs like "Darling Nikki" expose a rawness and sexiness balanced in a tale about the love and loss found in a one night stand. So what is he about? What does it all mean?
Prince's music, story and career are so singular that many have tried to trace where this all comes from. The Minnesota link was a start; maybe it's his mixed African-American heritage. Who knows? But Prince has continued time and time again to break the mold of pop constraints, social uptight-ness, cold war hysteria, bible reading, and corporate rock greed. And through all of Prince's moods, phases, flings, mysteries and crusades, he has gotten us to wonder, follow and believe with one thing-- our own body. So where it "all comes from" is beyond us all, but where it goes is rapidly obvious -- we feel it in our bodies. There is no doubt he has moved us.