Celebrating Prince Rodgers Nelson: June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016

Prince

Prince

During the 2016 Presidential election we, as Americans, watched politicians and presidential hopefuls spew their lies, and racist, sexist rhetoric in the hopes of gaining more power and more money, while making the United States a laughing stock.

Then on April 21, 2016, one man from Minneapolis stopped the world, dominated all the news channels, made social media explode, and his songs were sung by people in his honor. I saw blacks, whites, Mexicans, Asian, men, women, transgender people all come together for one man and his music. A man called Prince who was all about love, peace, and freedom. This one man brought all types of humans together as one. I have YET to see one politician do this. That is POWER to me. That is the POWER of music.

I first discovered Prince when I was 12-years-old. My older cousin was over from Indianapolis, I was playing the Go Go’s ‘Vacation’ cassette telling her how much I loved it. She gave me a purple cover with strange writing that read Prince ‘1999.’ She told me to play that, so I did. The first song started and I thought the tape was dragging because it was a slow, robotic voice, then the drums and keyboards kicked into Prince’s major hit “1999.”From that moment on, I was a loyal Prince fan.

A year later “Purple Rain” came out. I reached my teens then, the big 13. When the film came to our small town, I was so excited. My older brother took my friend Greg and me to the theatre to see “Purple Rain.” When we got in the long line my friend Greg (who wasn’t too bright at the time, but loved Prince) said out loud, “Why are all these black people here?” A big black guy, seemingly the biggest guy in line, who was in front of us, turns around with his girlfriend and said “what’d you say?” Greg froze and sheepishly said “I’m sorry, I forgot Prince was black.” The big guy laughed it off and said it was ok. That was Prince. He crossed color barriers, sexual stereotypes, and explored nearly every musical genre.

Today mark’s Prince Rogers Nelson’s birthday and Innocent Words would like to make this a celebration of his life and music instead of being sorrowful and giving asinine opinions – I am looking at you Gene Simmons, Nikki Sixx, Paul Stanley, and Linda Perry.

There are very few people in music I would call a genius, but Prince would be at the top of that small list. Love him, hate him or feel indifferent, you cannot deny how much talent this guy had. Innocent Words gathered a diverse group of musicians who feel the same way to share their favorite Prince memories to honor and remember the man and his music.

Thank you Prince for all the music, the love and inspiration you gave us.

Troy Michael

publisher/writer/minion Innocent Words Magazine

“When Doves Cry” was a game changer for me. It blew my mind — there was NO BASS and the tension of waiting for the bass to come in turned into a thrill. A brilliant, brilliant record.”
~ Rosanne Cash, singer/songwriter

“The first time I heard Prince was in my cousin’s basement. He had just gotten the album ‘1999’ in all it’s regal, purple glory. We listened to it over and over again all night long. I’d never heard anything like it – it was funky and sassy and dirty and I loved it. We were certain our grandparents (who had given my cousin the record for Christmas), had absolutely NO idea what Prince was about. A record store guy had simply recommended it to them. This record felt like our little secret. Forbidden, raw, real and all ours. Prince awakened something in me that night in the basement — leaving a mark on my developing creative spirit. His unabashed authenticity, style, musical genius, sexiness, originality, boldness and fearlessness inspired me then, still does today and forever will.”
~ Jen Ayers, singer/songwriter

“There was a time I would crank a Prince song in my car or yell for the driver to turn it up if I was in the back seat, buzzed and “Little Red Corvette” came on the radio. When the record ‘1999’ came out it was like…Here it is…the perfect soundtrack to all our lives. We all loved it. Straight, gay, bi, hip-hoper, rocker, roller, nerd, druggy, preppy… Everyone! Prince was a one man revolution that we all wanted to join and proudly be a part of. That just doesn’t happen very often in music history. He was real, deep, free, pure, electric, eclectic, and passionate, all with a straight up middle finger to anyone who wanted to cast dispersions on his gender-bending persona. The sheer number of songs that hold up to the term perfection (by all standards of measure) is beyond staggering. We all know that he was always working and not just for himself but for the betterment of others.”
~ Joie Calio, 7Horse

”I’ll never forget seeing Prince cover “Creep” by Radiohead at Coachella in 2008. Seeing one of my favorite artists cover a song by another one of my favorite artists is something I will never forget…and with that song and those artists, it doesn’t get much more legendary”
~ Crown Jwlz

“I was at the March 30, 1985 Prince show on the Purple Rain tour at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY. As you can imagine he was unbelievable. He totally did all those moves I’d seen him do on MTV and at one point during the show, he turned around placed his hand on his backside and asked all the women in the crowd if their boyfriends’ asses looked this good. “I don’t think so, I don’t think so.” He said.
~ Sluggo Cawley, The Grannies

“Prince had talent to rival that of Hendrix. He had laser vision when it came to what he wanted to achieve as an artist and was self-assured, bold and obstinate to that end. Prince was eclectic, flamboyant, a Renaissance man. He was otherworldly, mesmerizing, and sexy as all hell.”
~ Kathy Dickson, Innocent Words writer

“I grew up hearing Prince’s music, and liking it ok, but I had never seen much live footage until one night on a tour bus someone let me borrow the ‘Purple Rain’ tour video. I watched the whole thing in my bunk, and afterwards I remember thinking, ‘That is the most talented entertainer/musician I have ever seen.’ There will never be another Prince.”
~ Gabe Dixon, singer/songwriter

“Prince said, “A strong spirit transcends rules,” then showed us what that looked like by living it in all its majestic glory. Gender? Race? Genre? Fake, false, fictions. Prince blew dualities it to bits, reinventing them as unities, spectrums. He was a unifier, and we have been changed for the better by his presence here on earth. He moved us forward, his visions helped us see. He will not be forgotten.”
~ Mary Gauthier, singer/songwriter

“Prince was a generous, creative, truly original and authentic musical genius. Seeing Purple Rain as a teenager was a game changer for me. He always championed women musicians. His melodies and grooves are infective. His guitar playing, virtuosic. His prolific relationship to music is truly inspirational. He is missed. We were lucky to have him.”
~ Gretta Harley, singer/songwriter

“Not only a musical genius but an unapologetic artist who never compromised the vision of his musical work. His music defined generations but what will live forever is his philanthropic work in cities across the world in which he did not seek attention but sought to better lives of those who were less fortunate. One of the most electrifying performers to step on a stage, we will sorely miss him”
~ Kevin Hicklin, 3 By Design

“I shared some funny ‘alone time’ with Prince once when I was living in NYC. This was shortly after ‘Purple Rain’ came out – an album so brilliant, that I and my punk/glam-rock bandmates couldn’t stop listening to it, even though it was such a different genre than our usual fare.

On this afternoon, I was shopping at an enormous vintage store when suddenly, in a flurry of activity, the owners locked all the doors, leaving me all alone in the store… Until I noticed Prince had entered, along with two ginormous bodyguards. He and I shopped for the next half hour together, every so often glancing at each other over the racks of clothing (both at the same eye height). I didn’t bug him, just let him shop for the velvets and ruffles he was so known for. Finally at the end of the shopping spree, he came over and I had the joy of engaging in an inspiring conversation with him about music, life, and fashion.

He was one of those artists that made me happy to be alive at this particular time; to hear his expression of life, through music, was splendid indeed.”
~ Barbara Ireland, singer/songwriter

“Prince was a musician’s musician. He played everything and played it well. As a guitarist he was truly spectacular. I remember hearing stories about how he would cut his vocals alone in the control room of his studio, operating the tape machine himself…naked. I don’t know if that’s true, but it adds to the legend so why not? He was a fiercely independent artist with real integrity who changed his name instead of allowing his music to be controlled by record executives he didn’t respect. I had no idea he was so generous and gave so much to people in need. He did it quietly. What an example for us all”
~ Phil Leavitt, 7Horse

“You know, it didn’t really hit me at first. I saw the news and said ‘oh that’s too bad,” Louris explains. “Then I saw all the tributes and the way people were affected and it really hit me then. You’d see Prince around town, out at a restaurant or whatever, he seemed to love this city and obviously it loved him back. All the purple lights, dance parties down at First Ave, the hockey team and baseball team honoring him, it was quit something.”
~ Gary Louris, The Jayhawks

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“I had an all white guitar made because I wanted to be like Prince. I gotta broken heart again when he died”
~ Shelby Lynne, singer/songwriter

“I don’t know exactly when I became aware of Prince, but “Little Red Corvette” was the first of his tunes to make an impact on me. Prince was different — mysterious, unafraid to be sexual, beautiful, but above all an artist through and through — even a ten-year-old girl in South Alabama could see that. I always paid attention to him. He always made me look up no matter what he did. He was the epitome of what a true artist is — open, growing, and always changing.”
~ Allison Moorer, singer/songwriter

“Gems and precious metals are valued for their uniqueness, purity and properties. The first miracle is that Prince existed in my lifetime, the second is that he let himself be who he was, a conduit, living only to serve the muse. Divine inspiration 4ever.”
~ Johnette Napolitano, Concrete Blonde

“I’m late to this discussion (need to sit with things for a while, especially of importance). Losing Prince is another shocker out of nowhere for me. Besides covering his “Controversy” and “Erotic City “songs in Berlin, I spent three months at his Paisley Park studio recording my solo album in 1991 and he was there the whole time. I never, before or since, have seen ANYONE work as long as that guy. He booked me in his best studio, where I worked with producer David Z from noon to midnight every day. I heard from our engineer that Prince got there around 10am and worked in his smaller studio all day until midnight, then after we left he moved into the bigger studio until about 4am.

I remember Prince showed up every day fully coiffed, in full makeup, in stage clothes. EVERY DAY. Just to work in the studio. Doing the math, his makeup and hair alone had to take an hour minimum (it was that good). He didn’t live at Paisley Park yet, so drive time home and back must’ve been minimum half hour. Did this guy sleep? What, four hours maximum?

I remember hearing from David Z that at the time Prince was estranged from his family, though why David didn’t know. Prince did seem very, very alone most of the time. I remember passing him every day in the hallways and standing with him in the elevator (where he just died). He never said a word to me until my last day there (he said “Hello”). I would think, wow, this guy has social problems, and maybe he did, but it just hit me that I never said a word to him either. So which pot’s calling the kettle black?

I remember going up to the third floor one day and meeting the ladies who made Prince’s stage clothes, and looking at them all. One of them let me try on a gold brocade pair of pants. I discovered Prince and I WEAR THE SAME SIZE PANTS! For a short time Prince walked around with a girlfriend who was gorgeous and even smaller than him. The most memorable part was she and Prince wore exactly the same outfits every day she was there with him. She toddled after him everywhere, in impossibly high heels.

I loved the freedom Prince expressed his sexuality with musically, yet always with class. I never felt he put down women, or himself, in his music, like I hear in some rap songs. His was healthy and free sexuality, exactly like I wanted to express mine in my music.

I’m sorry Prince that MY social issues at the time kept me from reaching out to you. Even just a smile from someone can make a lonely day better. You’ve made my life better. Thank you for gracing it with your genius, passion and love. I hope wherever you go, you’re even freer and happier.”
~ Terri Nunn, Berlin

“When Doves Cry” blew my mind when it came out. He was a master at fusing the erotic with romance. My memory is of watching him play at halftime during the Super Bowl in the rain. His performance was flawless and actually live, unlike most Super Bowl performances. He was an amazing guitar player. Someone asked Clapton what it was like to be the best guitar player in the world. He answered “I don’t know, ask Prince!”
~ Britta Phillips, singer/songwriter, Luna

Prince Unplugged – Acoustic Guitar – Live Musicology Concert 2004

“I didn’t truly begin to appreciate his work until early adulthood. I came to realize that I would always be at some party at peak dance hour and ask the person next to me which artist was currently playing to make everyone so jacked up, only to be met with an eye roll and smarmy response of “dude, it’s Prince; you don’t know Prince?”

In what may have been an enormous act of hubris, the Exports took on a cover of ‘1999’ for a New Year’s Eve show a short while back. I can’t necessarily speak for the integrity of our performance as being representative of Prince’s vast talent and appeal, I can definitely vouch for the fact that that’s some of the most fun shit we’ve ever played. We have “Let’s Go Crazy” a shot later on, which was even sloppier. Didn’t matter, it always feels good.”
~ Archie Powell and the Export’s

“I was a born again Christian in 1981. My church had a youth group one night a week at the youth Pastors house. He and his wife were really great, I sometimes forget what a special time that was. So we were on a break and I was listening to my Walkman. One of the girls asked what I was listening to. Prince, I replied. Specifically, “Head.” She got a big smile and said, Prince? I love Prince! Always thought that was a funny moment.

When you’re an evangelical Christian the world is very black and white. Do this and you go to heaven, do something else and it’s a trip to hell forever. Forever!

For a person like me, it meant the world that Prince played with both sides equally hard. The way humans actually are. His words, music and emotions spoke to me as a whole being. I remember when he recites the Lord’s Prayer in “Controversy” it was kind of scary. Evil almost.

By the time he was writing the ‘Purple Rain’ material he seemed to have had an awakening. As a Christian, this era was a revelation for me in such a big way I cannot put it into words. He was speaking to me. Not in a creepy schizophrenic way, it was more like my spirit, my true self was recognizing itself. I can’t explain it. I did not worship him. I followed him, his words because in doing so, although I didn’t understand it at the time, I was following myself, my heart. The innate wisdom that is the creator. That which is in all of us. Creation itself.

As the years went on it was uncanny how many times he released a new record the day I was leaving on tour. Most memorable was ‘Chaos and Disorder’ which I took on tour when our band Satchel played Lollapalooza in 96. I cranked that album in the back of the bus before every show. His music gave me confidence, reminded me who I was and why I was doing what I was doing. My desire to write songs and play music had reached a feverish peak by 1984 and by 1994 I was really doing it. Touring and making records with three different bands all signed to multi record recording deals. I would have never accomplished this without the voice inside that said, you can do this too.

Skip ahead 20 years, 2014. I’m going through a really difficult time. Broke, a foam pad for a bed. Struggling to be a good father when I was losing faith in myself. Prince releases ‘Art Official Age.’ There were some songs that I played over and over every night. “Way Back Home” and “Time” in particular as well as “Affirmations lll” that was a sort of coda.

Listening to them now, lyrically, it’s like he was getting ready to leave. To go back home. Now, this music didn’t save me. It didn’t cast a magical spell that made everything all right. It was comfort in a storm. Again, he reminded me who I was. That love is real, love is God.

That there is somewhere else free from pain and misery. That it is right here, but we cannot see it. It is us. It is who we really are. Heaven on earth. Joy In Repetition.
~ Shawn Smith, Satchel, Brad, Pigeonhead

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“As many people know, Prince has a tendency to hire female drummers. Sheila E is one of the most well-known female drummers and has a lot to credit to her playing with Prince. His current drummer, Hannah Ford, is pregnant and is due in September so recently I thought I would play a cyber April Fool’s Day joke and tell the world that I was auditioning for Prince. The story was so believable, being that I am a female drummer and that Hannah was expected to take maternity leave soon, that I had to play damage control after I posted my status that I had an audition with him. I had people that I haven’t talk to in years texting me and calling me. My Mom even texted me a week later and asked how the audition went. Playing drums for Prince has always been a dream of mine since I started considering being a musician as a full-time career. When Prince passed away on April 21st, it hit too close to home because I realized that the dream of me actually ever getting the opportunity to play with him wasn’t going to happen. Although, it was just a harmless April fool’s Day joke, it got me really excited and thinking about how wonderful of an artist he was. In fact, I started learning his catalog of songs, just in case ;). “Let’s Get Crazy” is my theme song for the rest of the year as I pay tribute to Prince.”
~ Rikki Styxx, Two Tens, the Dollyrots

“Prince’s music has been a soundtrack woven through my life – I’m very grateful that I was alive to hear what he had to say.”
~ Kim Virant, singer/songwriter

“After White Zombie broke up, our guitar tech and my dear friend Takumi went on to guitar tech for Prince. I will never forget Takumi getting us third row seats at a small theater in New Orleans to see a very intimate performance by Prince. The first thing Prince did was hop off the stage, walk up to our row, lean in, and smiling at us, played a smoking solo. Then he jumped back on stage, and seeing two girls arriving late worked in “now sit your pretty asses down” somehow into the song he was singing – while dancing, spinning, and killing it on guitar of course. Incredible. Not to mention his piano playing that night. I’ve always said he was the Mozart of our era – truly a musical genius and unbelievable talent.”
~ Sean Yseult, White Zombie, Star & Dagger

“I’ll never be as cool as Prince, but I hope to be half the bad ass he was”

~ Riff Marley

Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others — “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

1 comment

  1. Beautiful tribute Troy! I loved reading all the comments – and remembering Prince with celebration instead of sadness. Thank you for putting this together!