“Sometimes It Snows In April”
Pure genius has no conscience. Pure genius is strictly instinctive and makes no conscientious effort to reflect on its words, actions or endeavors.
In others words, if genius has to think about being genius, then it’s not genius.
The man born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7th, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to John L. Nelson and Mattie Shaw, did very little that he actually had to think about.
He just did it.
When in 1977, he decided that at 18 years of age to turn down major record labels such as; A&M and Columbia when they balked at allowing the teen to produce his own albums, it wasn ‘t something that he put much thought into outside of the fact that the young Black musician from the mid-west, knew best how he wanted his music to sound.
A year later his debut album “For You” was released in 1978, after his first manager Owen Husney convinced the more artist friendly imprint Warner Bros. Records to sign him to a 3 album deal, reportedly worth a million dollars, thus making him the youngest producer in Warner history.
The opening track on “For You” which is the title track, begins with Prince’s choir like vocals over dubbed backwards, hence giving us a hint that the man later to be dubbed “His Royal Badness” would never do things conventionally. The vocals are then played normally where he sings; “All of this and more is for you, with love, sincerity and deepest care, my life with you, I share”.
And that’s exactly what he did for the next 40 years, averaging the release of almost one per year ever since.
His parents were both from Louisiana but met in Minneapolis where his Mother Mattie sang with his father John in his jazz band called The Prince Rogers Trio.
Both his parents had children from previous marriages before they gave birth to Prince and his younger sister Tyka.
There were complications when Prince was born when the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and almost strangled him to death during the delivery leaving him with a case of epilepsy until he was seven years old. Prince saw his father perform at a young age and it was then that he apparently knew what he wanted to do. He first learned piano around seven years of age, then guitar, then bass, then drums and eventually around a dozen instruments. All self-taught.
His parents divorced when he was around ten. Prince shuffled back and forth between both his parents,(his mother by now had remarried) several relatives and friends until he finally was taken in permanently by Bernadette Anderson, whose husband ironically played bass in Prince’s father trio and whose son Andre, even more ironically would become Prince’s bass player until 1981.
After playing in several bands like Grand Central and Champagne, Prince eventually met studio owner Chris Moon who in exchange for Prince’s assistant in writing and recording commercial jingles that generated income, would show the young Minneapolis wunderkind the art of the recording studio. After recording several demos that Husney would shop around, Prince spent most of the advance that Warner gave him, taking an inordinate amount of time recording “For You”, whose single “Soft And Wet” made only a small dent in the r’n’b charts, leaving Prince in depth to Warner for a big commercial breakthrough.
When Prince released his self-titled sophomore set in 1979, which was fueled by the huge r’n’b hit “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, people began to take more of a notice.
So did a 10-year old Black kid in N.D.G. named Duke Eatmon.
My cousin Wade was living with my family and I in our apartment at the corner of Sherebrooke and Benny. He had just bought the album at the Discus record store downtown. I had the 45 of “I Wanna Be Your Lover” which bore no photo of the first artist I had ever heard of with just one name. I remember saying to myself as a kid: “Whose this cat that’s so bad that he only has to have one name”. I remember asking myself; “I wonder if everyone makes fun of his name like they do mine”. After all, a Duke is the son of a Prince. Then Wade brought home the whole album in the fall of ’79 and said “Dukie, check out this new album by Prince”. I remember just staring at the cover of a shirtless light-skinned brother who was almost as light as I was with those “funny looking eyes”. The same eyes that neighbours and family would always tell me I had. He had long straightened hair and just look different. I remember looking at the cover and thinking to myself; “he looks like he could be my big brother”. I was still an only child at that point. Little did I know that at ten that I was probably was the same height as the 20 year-old Prince, who measured 5’1’’. The heights of artists were not listed on their album’s liner notes, so to me he might as well been 10 feet tall.
As most young Black teeny boppers did during this time, I read Right On and Black Beat Magazines. Read the infamous interview with Cynthia Horner in which Prince asks the journalist if he could buy her a “banana” or a “dress”. I often wondered why so many Black teenage girls were in love with the young dude and why they snatched all the Black teen mags off the shelves when he was on the cover or featured in an interview or pin-up.
The following year, Prince would open for Rick James during his U.S. “Fire It Up Tour”. James eventually kicked Prince off the tour for upstaging him night after night.
In 1980, Prince released the risqué album “Dirty Mind” and Rolling Stone Magazine called it the “most important album of the year”. I remember I was on vacation with some family and friends in Florida when I went to the Prince section of the record store in a mall in Tampa. Prince was on the cover with a trench coat, leg warmers and high heeled boots with no shirt on. I remember looking at the cover and going “whoa”. Wasn’t sure what to make of it but knew that no one else did this and that it must mean something. Contrary to what some might have thought, “Dirty Mind” was not a pornographic manifesto.
There were songs about “war”(“Partyup”), “infidelity”(“When You Were Mine”), “discrimination” and “identity”(“Uptown”) and a song called “Sister”, a true story about being molested by his own sister while visiting her at her home in New York City in hopes of getting into the music industry as a young teen.
The music styles on “Dirty Mind” ranged from “punk” to “disco”, from “rock” to “funk” and from “new wave” to “alternative”.
Prince didn’t really think this out. He simply wanted to get out of the box from his previous two releases and start recording music that would now begin to better indentify him.
The following year, his 4th album “Controversy” was released and even added “rockabilly”, “early techno” and “religious themes” to his repertoire.
The title track and album’s first single opened with the lyrics; “I just can’t believe all the things people say, controversy, Am I Black or white am I straight or gay, controversy, do I believe in God ?, do I believe in me ?, controversy.
By now his stage show included his friends Morris Day, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jesse Johnson, Monte Moir and Jellybean Johnson in an out-fit called The Time as well as Trinidad’s Susan Moonsie(a teenage girlfriend of Prince’s), Brenda Bennett and Ontario’s own Denise Matthews(whose model sister I met as a child), whom he renamed Vanity and the sexually charged trio Vanity 6 was born.
I had never seen a Black artist tackle these themes or present his or herself as such and all Prince’s idols were my idols; James Brown, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, War, The Commordores. But Prince also had other musical heroes that now made it ok for young Black people to explore like: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Santana and one of his biggest musical influences; Canada’s own Joni Mitchell, whose 1975 album “The Hissing Of The Summer Lawns” was the last “album he enjoyed from beginning to end” according to his 1985 interview with Rolling Stone.
If George Clinton and his Parliament/Funkadelic empire made if ok for Black kids to be weird and sci-fi nerds, then Prince was taking it to the next level by letting all young people know that it was ok to be WHOEVER they were as long as they were being themselves. See the lyrics to “Uptown” for clarification. Prince had given birth to a “New Breed” as he dubbed his new “army” on Controversy’s second single “Sexuality” but yet Prince cautioned as always the need to stay connected to God and stay grounded. On “Sexuality”, he warns; “Don’t let your children watch television until they know how to read or else all they’ll know how to do is cuss, fight and breed”.
Something about Prince that also struck me was the fact that he thanked God on the liner notes of every album. Although, I was born a Protestant Baptist, my family never emphasized religion or God too much for that matter. Yet there was always a curious spirituality brewing inside me from a young age. Now the newest and coolest rock start was making it “cool” to believe in God and sing about it, albeit over screaming rock guitars or a deep funk groove.
I remember saying to myself; “I really relate to this cat”.
In 1981, Prince was asked by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to open for The Rolling Stones for some dates on their gigantic U.S. stadium tour. Also opening would be George Thorogood And The Delaware Destroyers and The J. Geils Band.
When Prince took to the stage at The Coliseum in Los Angeles for the first date, clad in a trech-coat, bikini briefs and leg warmers with his face caked in make-up and eye liner, he and his multi-racial and multi gendered band were booed off stage and pelted with garbage and debris.
Prince immediately flew back to Minneapolis but was coaxed by his lead guitarist Dez Dickerson, his new manager Steve Fargnoli and Mick Jagger himself to return to finish the dates and now allow the all-white rowdy audience to run him out of town. Prince returned to L.A. the day after for the nest show and was pelted with even more debris but nonetheless finished his set.
It would be the last time Prince would ever open for anybody again.
I remember buying the “1999” 45rpm at Discus at the Cavendish Mall in 1982. Bringing it immediately home and playing it on my tiny suitcase record player. Didn’t know what to make of it at first. Sounded really different at first. Funky, but yet also very poppish. A real unique sound. But the song’s apocalyptic theme about the end of the world didn’t scare me but it greatly intrigued me. When I saw the album cover soon after which was hand drawn by Prince. I knew something really special was happening. Plus the cover was “purple”.
“Little Red Corvette” was the album’s next single and I remember saying to myself at 13 years of age; “are Black artists allowed to make songs like this ?”.
Prince had that whole Bruce Springsteen/John Cougar Mellencamp pop rock, sing-along chorus thing down pat. Yet is sounded more soulful than anything.
1983, was the first year since his 1978 debut that Prince didn’t release an album. He had toured successfully for “1999”, again with The Time and Vanity 6 opening. The tour was unofficially dubbed “The Triple Threat” tour. He played all across the U.S. with one British date and the whole while was taking notes in purple notebook. The notes were for a screenplay for a film.
I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom, reading an issue of Black Beat which talked about Prince’s upcoming semi biopic called “Purple Rain”.
I remember thinking wow !!! “Purple Rain !!!??? What is Purple Rain. Are we going to actually see “purple rain” in the film. Is purple rain going to come down and signal the end of the world like it’s 1999 ?
It’s incredible the images painted by some artists and the way the mind of a 14 year-old perceives them.
What is “purple rain” and how come I have never heard another Black artist ever in music history paint such a strong and mysterious image ? It was clear to me even at 14 that something very special was happening here.
Little did I know at that time that the term “purple rain” was taken from the lyrics of a classic 1972 rock hit called “Ventura Highway” by the British/American band America from their 1972 album “Homecoming”
But at the time, Prince invented “purple rain” and that was the story I was sticking with.
The summer of 1984. I remember it like it was yesterday. “Purple Rain” was opening in June. School was almost out but not yet. All the girls from the school were going. I went with my friend Victor. The Palace Theater. Downtown Montreal.
There was a gigantic poster of Prince on his motorcycle with his co-star Appolonia on the Cathcart entrance of the theater. The Palace Theater decided to enter the audience for “Purple Rain” showing through the back entrance on Cathcart instead of the front entrance on the busy Sainte-Catherine St. Since many waiting in line were there for 2 or 3 showings in advance.
And then my life changed…
Prince was the only cast member of the film to not have a character name. He was simply known as “The Kid”.
But all “The Minneapolis Sound” cohorts of Prince were in “Purple Rain”. Prince’s backing band now called The Revolution, The Time, Appolonia 6, as Patricia Kotero(now known as Appolonia after Prince’s favourite character in “The Godfather”) hell even Prince’s real life bodyguard Big Chick Huntsberry. Clarence Williams III, whom played Link of “The Mod Squad”, played Prince’s father.
All of the disturbing things that I experienced in my life were featured in “Purple Rain”. The fights at home between my parents, the challenging relationship that I myself had with them, heartbreak, loss even death. And even though this was only sort of based on Prince’s real life, you kinda got the feeling that there was more truth to this story than fiction.
But through all the turmoil and tribulations that The Kid goes through in this film, he somehow comes out the winner in the end and for a young impressionable 14 year-old as myself who was trying to find where I fit in this world, prince made me feel that maybe I might come out a winner too.
“Purple rain” changed my life and from this moment on, I let Prince guide me though “this thing called life” as he said in Purple Rain’s opening scene as well as the album’s opening cut “Let’s Go Crazy”. “And id the elevator tries to bring you down, go crazy, punch a higher floor”.
Purple became my new favourite colour and when his next album, the psychedelic “Around The World In A Day” came out the following year in 1985, I decided that my life would take a major change.
I, was also self-taught as a musician and played guitar, piano, bass and could kinda handle myself of drums.
I had decided to get a part-time job, save up and after my last high school exam at Northmount High, where I was now attending, I decided to move in with my uncle, aunt and cousin in Sacramento, California.
Cali life was cool with me but when I didn’t become a star in a matter of months, I moved back to Montreal with my tail between my legs.
I built a home studio in the basement of the house where I was living and went to work recording hundreds of songs on my new Tascam 4 Track recorder, whose master tapes, I’m still in possession of until this very day.
In 1986, Prince releases the comedic black and white film ‘Under The Cherry Moon” which the critics panned but whose accompanying soundtrack “Parade” – Music From “Under The Cherry Moon” was praised as well as its no.1 hit-single “Kiss”.
Then in 1987, Prince’s “Sign O’ The Times” double album came out and again His Royal Badness changed my life but again.
Gone were all the purple and psychedelic images, the outrageous costumes he wore, the cryptic and mysterious messages, hell he even wore less make-up.
He was now a star. Knocked Michael Jackson, the previous pop title holder off his throne and was now ready to give it all up and show you what a bada$$ musician he really was.
The title track, “Play In The Sunshine”, “Housequake”, “Adore”, “It”, “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker”, “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” and “The Cross” were just some of the songs of the double magnum opus that many until this day say was his finest hour. He lost the Grammy for Album Of The Year to U2 but it didn’t matter. As far as I was concerned, no artist, Black or white had ever touched so much musical ground in their careers ever in the history of popular music. He has established his own record label; Paisley Park, which released album s by purple cohorts like Sheila E., The Time, The Family, Mazarati, Tony Lemans, Jill Jones, Taja Sevelle, Three O’Clock, Good Question, Carmen Elektra(yeah that Carmen Elektra) as well as Black music legends Goerge Clinton and Mavis Staple. He had also written hit songs for other artists like Sheena Easton, The Bangles and Martika as well as memorable cuts for Debbie Allen, Nona Hendryx , Cyndi Lauoper and even Kenny Rogers. His music had been covered by Chaka Khan, Meli’sa Morgan, Latoya Jackson, Tom Jones, Age Of Chance, Stephanie Mills, Chyenne, jazz legend Miles Davis, Tina Turner and would later be covered by another group of artists like Hindu Love Gods, The Foo Fighters, Ginuwine, Morgan James, even M.C Hammer.
Prince was now The King and his reign would live on for another 30 years.
In 1988, he released the gospel album “Lovesexy” with the controversial album cover. “Lovesexy” was released instead of “The Black Album”, whose original title was “Funk Bible”. I remember going to buy a bootleg of “The Black Album” at a underground bootleg store on Sainte Catherine St. Called The Record Goldmine. The kind of joint that you went into that you told nobody about. I felt like I had just purchased forbidden gem. Brought it home to my first apartment in N.D.G. to play it. Man was it “funky”. Sho nuff was “funk Bible”.
Prince released the soundtrack to “Batman”, which went double platinum off the hits-single “Batdance”. In 1990, he released the film sequel to “Purple Rain” called “Graffiti Bridge” which the public just did not get but I got it. God was becoming more and more of an issue in Prince life as well as mine. The following year I became a follower of the teachings of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and became a muslim. In 1991, Prince released the critically acclaimed hit album “Diamonds And Pearls” followed by the 1992’s album whose title was the symbol Prince would now use as his new name. All this after signing a hundred million dollar recording contract with Warner.
I saw Prince for the first time at The Montreal Forum with my little brother Jesse and I remember the feeling as we sat on out floor seats waiting for the show to begin. It was a feeling like God himself was about to take the stage.
When Prince emerged climbing down a staircase in a cloud of smoke to the opening riffs of his new hit-song “My Name Is Prince”, the roar of the crowd was deafening. This was after all his first time in Montreal.
After this tour, he would no longer be called Prince. He chose the symbol that he has long been associated with which is the male and female symbols morphed together and then wrote “slave” on his face.
Warner has a long stormy relationship with Prince in regards to the frequency of his releases. By this point, Prince was wanting to release several albums a year. Not owning his master recordings of all his hit material of the last 15 years, not even the rights to his own name, he decided in a very shrewd and misunderstood move to no longer be Prince. White people laughed. Black people understood what it meant to have their name taken away from them. Pirnce acknowledged this very fact in interviews.
After releasing a 3 c.d. set compilation in 1993 of his hits and b-sides, then the 1994 album “Come”, 1995’s “The Gold Experience”, 1996’s “Girl 6” soundtrack to the Spike Lee film and “Chaos And Disorder” , Prince finally dissolved his contract with Warner and signed with EMI which released his 3 c.d. set “Emancipation”, which was a celebration of the birth of his first child with his new bride Mayte Garcia. His son, whose name was listed on hospital records as Gregory would be born with cloverleaf skull syndrome and would be kept alive only via a life support system, which Prince finally decided to pull the plug on after being informed that his infant was in excruciating pain. I cried for Prince as I too had become a father for the first time the previous year.
This would mark a turning point in Prince’s life. I saw Prince in concert for the second time at Place Des Arts a few months later for the “Jam Of The Year Tour”. It was ten times better than the Forum show from 4 years earlier.
He started a new label called N.P.G. Records, named after his backing band “The New Power Generation, and released a 3 c.d. set of previously bootlegged material called “Crystal Ball”, which was the original name for “Sign “O The Times”, which he had intended to also be a 3 c.d. set before Warner paired it down to a double album.
Prince was now revolutionizing the industry through his use of the internet in releasing his music and began collaborating with Chuck D. of Public Enemy, who I myself now began working on several projects with along with my best friend and musical partner Ron Maskell.
When publishing deal in 1999 with Warner expired, He announced that he was Prince again and I attended the first concert that he used his stage name again at Place Des arts once more. This was part of the 2000 International Montreal Jazz Festival. A year later, festival founder told me backstage at an Eryka Badu concert that Prince’s show at the festival the previous year was responsible for the festival becoming the number one jazz festival in the world, kn ocking off the long-standing Montreaux off the top, spot.
He released “Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic” in 1999 as well as a remake of his 1982 hit 1999 just in time for the changing of the new millennium.
He taped a concert at Paisley Park with The Time, Lenny Kravitz, members of Sly’s Family Stone and offered it as a pay per view on New Year;s Eve. I watched with my 3 year-old daughter Jessica. We danced…
Prince continued to release albums every year and I continued to buy them. He signed a one deal with Sony and released “Musicology” which went platinum by virtue of giving away a free copy of it during his record-breaking “Musicology Tour” in 2004. Some cried that this was a foul way to achieve platinum status. Prince smiled. All the way to the bank. He then signed another one off deal, this time with Motown and released the funky, latin tinged “3121” which went to the top of the charts. Prince was approaching 50!
I saw Prince in 2011 with my daughter Jessica as well as a my son Nathan(see lyrics to “Sign “O The Times” to see where he got his name from) at Metropolis as again part of The Montreal Jazz Fest. He came on stage at midnight and played non-stop until 4am. My son “Nate” was on top of my shoulders for most of the show playing along with his Stratocaster electric guitar as we stood in the 1st row. Just before 4am, Prince launched into the closer; “Purple Rain” and just before he began his solo, he looked at Nate and pointed to him and mouthed; “this is for you”. My son smiled and everyone afterwards wanted to take pictures with Prince’s new little friend holding his guitar.
Later on in the year, I went to see Prince again at The Bell Center, where he again wrecked shop and I was invited to attend his after party at New Town where he stood a couple of feet in front of me and played until 5am.
Prince would return to Warner Bros. in 2014 and released two albums; “Plectrum Electrum” with his all girl band 3rd Eye Girl as well as “Art Official Age” under Prince. The album’s concept is a therapy session in which Prince goes back throughout his life to examine all of the hardships growing up, the death of his son, two failed marriages but the continued victories throughout. The refrain “until I find my way back home” is repeated throughout the album. The exploration of love and loss and finding one’s way back home was the inspiration that brought me to seek out my wife to be Donna Gayasingh, after running from intimacy in my own live for so many years. Prince stopped running and he gave me the courage to stop running. It was through Donna, my daughter Jessica but most of all through Prince’s words and music on “Art Official Age” that inspired me to repair my own damaged relationship with my own parents who I am now closer to than ever before.
I don’t want to get into where I was or how I found out what happened on April 21st of this year. Those closest to me know where I was when I heard the saddest news of my life. The very writing of this article is painful enough. It just has not truly registered that the artist whose music saved me during the most dire times of my life is no longer here. His struggles were my struggles. His pain was my pain. His search was my search. Although we did not know each other, he truly was …my friend.
Would you not call someone who has saved your life for almost 40 years your friend?
I won’t say goodbye because goodbyes are too painful. I will instead thank him for all that he has taught me and for all that he enlightened me about. For all the time that he refused to let me give up. For sayings like; “If you don’t own the master then the master owns you”. For showing me what it sounds like when doves cry but most of all for being Prince, which is just another way of showing people how to be themselves. Thank you my friend…..I’ll never forget you…
Every time I watch the other people news
I c a false picture of myself, another one of u
They try 2 tell us what we want, what 2 believe
Didn’t that happen in the Garden
When somebody spoke to Eve?
But I’m willing 2 do The Work
Willing 2 do what I gotta do
I’m willing 2 do The Work
Tell me now- what about u?
Look around and tell me ur Sun is Risen
When ur brothers and sisters r in the Fall
What is left give when r work is done?
What do we own besides the right 2 crawl?
C we’re living in a system that the devil designed
And suffering from this devil’s most heinous crime
He’s tried 2 keep us from the reason we were born
That is 2 b the living truth in human 4m.
But I’m willing 2 do The Work
Willing 2 do what I gotta do
I’m willing 2 do The Work
Tell me now- what about u?
This work is not an easy task
But this is the work we must do 4 Revelation2 come 2 pass
This work is the kind that turns ur back on the Ruling Class
By putting them in their place just like the past
Taste it, ain’t it sweet sweet?
Gotta lotta work 2 do
Taste it, ain’t it sweet sweet?
Gotta lotta work 2 do
Nothing can stop us/Whatever’s in r way
We got 2 go thru it 2 get 2 it
I head somebody say,
“I’m willing 2 do The Work
Do what I gotta do
I’m willing 2 do The Work
Tell me now- what about u?”
Thank u – “The Work” Pt.1 – by Prince Rogers Nelson
The life of Prince
What we know is that Prince is gone. But in his absence, questions remain – how did he die? And what will happen to his estate?
Prince Rogers Nelson was found dead in the elevator at Paisley Park, his home that doubled as a recording studio in suburban Minneapolis on Thursday, April 21. He was 57.
He had told fans at a show earlier this month before his death that he was dealing with the flu, but entertainment news website TMZ reported he had been treated for a drug overdose days before he died.
His lawyer has since refuted those claims, telling The Associated Press the musician led a clean and healthy lifestyle and wasn’t “drugged up.”
But perhaps the biggest question is what will happen to his multimillion-dollar estate. His sister has asked a Minnesota court to appoint a trust company to temporarily oversee his fortune because the singer had no will.
Under state law, when a person who has no surviving parents, children, or grandchildren dies, the next people in line to share in the estate are the surviving siblings, including half-siblings.
Prince wasn’t married and had no known living children. He has one full sibling and five half-siblings. Observers say with that many siblings, getting them all to agree on asset distribution could become very complicated and possibly litigious.
Not only did Prince pen his own hits, but he also wrote songs that became hits sung by other artists – Manic Monday by the Bangles and Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Conner were both his creations. He was a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, keyboards and drums, and created music that flouted the typical genres, mixing everything from funk, rock, R&B and pop.
Born June 7, 1958, he was into music at a young age but also played basketball. His father was also a musician. His music career began in the mid-1970s, but it was in 1984 that he became a household name with the release of the film Purple Rain, which he starred in and was loosely based on his life. The soundtrack to the film spawned the titular hit as well as When Doves Cry and Let’s Go Crazy.
The Purple Rain album sold more than 13 million copies in the U.S. alone and spent 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. He won an Academy Award and a Grammy for the songs and at one point in 1984, Prince had the No. 1 album, single, and film in the U.S.
Sales of his music have been soaring, with thousands of people flocking to stores or to their computers to buy (yes, buy) his albums since his death.
He was cremated on Friday, April 22 and family and friends held a small memorial service at Paisley Park on Saturday April 23.