This day, the A Pop Life Panel presents an article that is seemingly out of character. Of course we don’t let the 5th anniversary of Prince’s passing go unnoticed.
Top 15 albums
Initially the idea was to compile a top 15 album list as a tribute to the genius that passed away on April 21st, 2016. at just 57 years of age. At the same time all panel members were asked to write a piece on their personal experience on Prince’s passing. Anything was okay, a story, a one-liner or something else. It resulted in the contributions below. We wish you lots of fun reading them and would love to hear your memories at the end of this article! By the way, that top 15 is still on, and will be published within three days.
Prince, 5 years on!
If U look up the meaning of the word ‘prince’ it’ll tell U: a male ruler of the royal household… well, that is as about as close as it gets 2 what one wants to state here.
The origin of why I became a Prince fan lies in the 1981 release of Controversy. That was the moment when I became aware of this high-heeled, dressed in a purple trench coat, odd appearance. Not odd as in peculiar but rather unusual … unusually interesting, fascinating, compelling, captivating, spellbinding. As well as innovating: pushing boundaries, as from his androgynous appearance at the time. And thus, the reason why Controversy, the album, crashes so high in my album top 15 (which U will see in its entirety in a few days). During 1981 the full album version of the song Controversy was often played in the Soul Show on Thursday evenings, being one of the few places at the time where Prince was passing by regularly. When I saw the accompanying video, I was completely sold. A man in purple stilettos, matching trench coat and make-up?! Wow! Not so much that I found him attractive, but pushing and exploring boundaries was very intriguing for me. I myself was exploring my own sexuality at the time, well … actually not, duuuh! I knew I was gay from a very early age. Prince just pushed me 2 do something about it, not hiding and just be who U are. In addition, the album was riddled with speculations about Prince himself at the time, such as his sexuality, gender, religion and racial background, and how he couldn’t understand all that curiosity about him, fueled by all those headlines on the cover. For me as well, it never was an issue 2 be gay, and it always occurred strange to me why it was such a big deal 2 others. Prince tried to shift the attention to the music, his music, with more important themes at hand such as the cold war that was raging at the time (Ronnie, Talk To Russia), the murders of Afro Americans and John Lennon (Annie Christian, meant as a pun for the anti-christ). Obviously, unrestricted sexuality was also preached in abundance as the foundation for a more loving society (Sexuality, Private Joy, Do Me Baby, Let’s Work, Jack U Off). That suited very well 2 my way of thinking. So, that is what sticks 2 U, one person who has influenced U so profoundly. And probably the very reason, why U stay true 2 that one artist for a lifetime. And there was a lot of more excitement 2 come…
Of course, that feeling fades in time, in my case probably by the time Emancipation was released, 15 years after the first encounter. After that, it becomes an artist which U keep respecting and U keep remembering 4 that initial impact, all those many years ago.
Then came the day of April 21st, 2016… I remember it vividly. U never forget what U did or how the day evolved. Just like any other historic day. Just another working day… supposedly. In some way or another, my mobile was turned off most of the day. Which is very odd, as I never do that. When I returned home, during the trip in the tram, I turned on my mobile: 156 messages (!) WTF?! I was shocked, what happened?! I felt my heart pounding somewhere in my neck. There’s gotta be something sincerely wrong. And indeed, there was…
U feel immediately that this is the closure of an era. So, what does one do? Not all that much, in all honesty, just playing a lot of his music the following weeks. 2 recapture the feeling why he was such an important influence on me, and thinking about all the happier times U experienced, all the (after)shows U went 2 …. so, no more crowd barriers I guess. Now, 5 years ahead, a few beautiful releases saw the light of day, finally! Piano & A Microphone 1983, deluxe editions 1999 and Purple Rain, His Majesty’s Pop Life, Versace Experience, which we never would have seen if Prince was still Here on Earth, I guess. Nevertheless, it would have been better 2 see him alive, it would have been interesting 2 see what he’d be doing now…
When I proposed each of us write an article about how we look back at the last five years and what our personal memories were, I initially didn’t fully realize that I should do that as well. What did I think/feel, without lapsing into predictable clichés? Has is brought me anything? Do I listen differently now? Has a certain revisionism clouded my judgment of Prince and his work? In short: questions, questions and no answers.
In the meantime the brain is busy, thinking, contemplating and an image was painted: Yes, I miss Prince the live performer. But do I miss Prince the releaser of new music? Frankly, no. The sheer amount of work that has been released since his passing, have rendered it practically impossible. And: has my view on Prince changed? Yes.
But first I returned to August 18th, 1986, when I witnessed Prince And The Revolution perform at Ahoy’ in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The official starting point for my fascination, which lasts to this very day, for anything Prince, his satellite acts, his albums, his (retracted) projects, his tours and vision/battle for independence. It all started on that particular Monday when Prince And The Revolution raced through the concert’s first 30 minutes: such ease, such strength, such genius. When he arrived at the first breather Do Me Baby I was completely won over. This man was capable of anything!
In the following years it went uphill ever more, especially on vinyl (and sometime later cd). By the time it all had slowed down a bit, he remained untouchable live. He would never lose that until his untimely death. Even during the periods where he produced less interesting music there were the occasional highlights, at times in the form of a song, at times by a brilliant project. The years of the NPG Music Club, the online community you could sign up for, were particularly unbelievable. The inconceivable amount of music, the pre- and after shows that could be witnessed, it was a truly exciting time, one I wouldn’t want to have missed for all the gold in the world.
His personal struggle for independence, ownership of his music, name and artistic dignity were laughed at, but were essentially too innovative for people to comprehend. Without Prince’s battle, which cost him a large part of his career, the world of music, and the right of self-determination of artists in particular, would have looked quite differently. I like to compare Prince to football player Johan Cruijff, one of the best players of all time, yet vilified as well on his opinions about how players/athletes should be addressed, paid and valued. At the time, it went against his career as well. Both were light years ahead of their time.
It gets to the core of my admiration. Next to the obvious genius, the multi-talent and the musical jack of all trades, he was always unscrupulous in his drive and audacity to being different. Both vulnerable and arrogant at the same time.
On April 21st, 2016, my suspicions sadly came true. Prince hadn’t been well for quite some time, I thought he looked frail and fragile. At the time he was on his Piano & A Microphone tour, which had made him nostalgic. The passing of Vanity in February of 2026 had touched him profoundly. Nostalgia and looking back were things Prince had never done before. The report of the emergency landing a week before were alarming. And yet the shock was huge when around 7 PM my telephone and social media feeds exploded with reports of police being at Paisley Park in Minneapolis. Supposedly, a body had been found. Sadly, it turned out to be Prince. The end of an era.
The remembering could commence. The loss felt by the (musical) greats of this earth felt genuine. Prince wasn’t only loved by music lovers, but by many of his colleagues as well, who all realized just how big the loss really was. U2’s Bono stated:
I never met Mozart, I never met Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker
I never met Elvis
But I met Prince
© Bono, 22-04-2016
He’s right, I do consider it a privilege to have witnessed Prince myself, to have seen magic being created right in front of me on several stages. The fact I will never ever will see Prince play another guitar solo fills me with melancholy, but I’m glad to say I have witnessed quite a few!
And, did it bring me something? Well, one of them is this blog, A Pop Life. My first real stories were written after Prince’s passing (see Prince 1958-2016, Prince, top 50, songs 50 to 26, Prince, top 50, songs 25 to 11, Prince, top 50, songs 10 to 1, Prince satellite, top 10 and Prince, the closing). Because of these stories, and the reactions to them, I decided to start my blog, giving myself two tasks. Write about music I like and write an article on every Prince album, released during his lifetime. The first task is continuously being fulfilled, task two is a journey for years, but I’m about 80% done.
Through my blog I have encountered many Prince adepts, music lovers and writers. They have all provided me with great memories. People from the inner circle of Prince and/or satellites also made themselves heard, including Jill Jones, The New Power Generation, Sophie Roux and Coke Johnson.
In May 2017 Susan Rogers visited Rotterdam for some lectures. Besides them being loose and highly entertaining (I even got to talk to her very briefly), she inspired me greatly. She talked about the importance of telling and sharing the stories, to let newer generations know about Prince, the importance of an artist like Prince and that historiography will always be necessary. I have, in my own modest way, tried to play my part in that.
But, the absence is here to stay. Never again the incredible live music. Could he have revived once more? Knowing Prince he probably would have. The periods in his career that are above and beyond human understanding have been many. Of course there’s the incredible run from 1980 to 1988, but there’s also 1993-1995 at the time of Come and The Gold Experience, 2001-2003 at the time of The Rainbow Children and the fantastic One Nite Alone… Tour and the 3121 and Lotusflow3r projects.
The absence does provide us with one thing though: all those fabulous special deluxe editions with his older work, giving us treasure troves filled with new music, that shows not only that Prince was indeed very special, but was an impressive composer as well for whom innovation and experiment wasn’t a means to an end, but was engrained in his DNA. Some feel discomfort with the releases from the Paisley Park Vault, but given his prior statements (including this one on September 17th, 2012), I think that’s unnecessary. Prince completed his songs for a reason. Not everything will be equally brilliant, but the majority just didn’t fit into the project of the day (anymore). Because, that much has come to light, Prince carefully chose his projects and could flawlessly decide what should and shouldn’t be part of the upcoming project.
And, how do I feel about his passing? The thought of never being able to see him live predominates. Never again hearing those guitar notes that pierced my soul. Never again that gloriously swinging funk groove he could play so well, the humor and excitement.
On the other hand, a picture started to emerge about prince being bored and felt he couldn’t be challenged anymore. All the great stories, memories and musical highlights pale to personal well-being. It seems Prince had lost it, and that’s painful and makes his passing uncomfortable.
But, the happiness I feel to have been alive at the same time Prince walked this earth, ultimately prevails. I have been able to witness it firsthand. An incredibly exciting, thrilling and musically genius time that will never return.
I miss Prince. The opportunity to catch him live. I was looking forward to seeing his last tour but unfortunately it never reached me, but from what I heard and saw it was clear that he was reminiscing, and I was looking forward to seeing him behind the piano. It sounded like a goodbye before he left.
Now that he is gone I also find it difficult because I am SO happy that it is now possible to hear his older work, yet I also feel like a Thief In The Temple at times.
What I carry with me is all the music we already have; so many memories, friends I made through his music and I play his music every day. Makes me dance, it makes me cry.
And what a wealth of music is still waiting for us; music we secretly already know and a wealth of music that will surprise us, over and over. Together with the memories, that’s how I keep Prince alive.
What does Prince mean to me?
I really discovered Prince, quite late (I was 19) and I was instantly hooked. His music brings me a lot: support during good and bad times, gives energy or tranquility, is sweet or sexy, is nice or naughty, is hard as hell and big or very mellow and small, all music styles pass by and are mixed and in the end there is just his sound. Sometimes I listen a little less for a while … then I put his music again and I immediately understand why the love for his music never ends. The man was just a genius and is a legend. I also thought he was a beautiful person: funny, wise, cool and sometimes just a diva but always refreshing and inspiring.
What happened the day he died?
I was at a business award gala, in tuxedo. It was going to be a festive evening, because our company was nominated. We were at dinner when someone said “Hey … Prince is dead”. My first reaction was “Which one?” I thought some prince had died. Then someone showed the news flash on his phone (I had left mine in the car) and then the shock came. This couldn’t be true. I did not consciously experience the rest of the gala, we won an award but it did not interest me, I just wanted to get away… away from all those people who only thought about his death for 2 sec. My hero was dead… what the fuck. I went home as soon as possible, still in a blur. I got home and could only sit on the couch and stare at nothing at all. I didn’t want to see or read news, didn’t feel like reading well-intentioned messages. It really felt like a friend was dead, even though I didn’t know the man personally. It felt that way for many, I guess. After a few days of grief, the resignation came and also the realization: he is no longer there, but his music remains! Gratitude took the upper hand, how grateful I am for what he did, how lucky I was to be able to experience him live in concert and how beautiful it is that I can continue to enjoy so much of his work. Prince: thank you for being you!
Prince’s passing was so unexpected. First disbelief until multiple news sources came up with the same news. Strange that the death of someone you personally don’t know at all can affect you like that. But Prince was the composer of the soundtrack of my younger days. Many of his songs take me back on a trip down memory lane. Holidays, childhood, girls, nights on the town and of course his amazing concerts.
The news that Prince had passed away made me very sad. How could such a superstar just die? In my eyes Prince always lived super healthy and was not on drugs or booze. I’d been a huge fan since 1983 and couldn’t imagine what it would be like if Prince was gone. Therefore, April 21, 2016, was a black day for all fans. How could I / we do without all those great concerts and aftershows, the excitement of buying concert tickets and listening to a newly released album or song? Prince was a musical genius and lived for music. Fortunately, he left a great legacy in the form of his vault that we will enjoy for years to come. For all children born after his death, Prince will be a kind of musician as we see Mozart. Still, the realization that I will never see him again hurts, but I can say that I lived in the same period as Prince!
Original Dutch texts translated by their respective authors.
Header image: apoplife.nl
Prince And The Revolution – 1985 logo image: redbubble.com
Logo Prince / O(+> image: wikipedia.org
Prince – Statement 1981 image : Edward Gubbels
Other images: prince.com