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Prince Dead At 57: Iconic Singer Passes Away Suddenly

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Danna Bruenning
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« on: April 21, 2016, 11:33:15 pm »

A Unifier of Dualities

Prince recorded the great majority of his music entirely on his own, playing every instrument and singing every vocal line. Many of his albums were simply credited, “Produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince.” Then, performing those songs onstage, he worked as a bandleader in the polished, athletic, ecstatic tradition of James Brown, at once spontaneous and utterly precise, riveting enough to open a Grammy Awards telecast and play the Super Bowl halftime show. He would often follow a full-tilt arena concert with a late-night club show, pouring out even more music.

On Prince’s biggest hits, he sang passionately, affectionately and playfully about sex and seduction. With deep bedroom eyes and a sly, knowing smile, he was one of pop’s ultimate flirts: a sex symbol devoted to romance and pleasure, not power or machismo. Elsewhere in his catalog were songs that addressed social issues and delved into mysticism and science fiction. He made himself a unifier of dualities — racial, sexual, musical, cultural — teasing at them in songs like “Controversy” and transcending them in his career.

He had plenty of eccentricities: his fondness for the color purple, using “U” for “you” and a drawn eye for “I” long before textspeak, his vigilant policing of his music online, his penchant for releasing troves of music at once, his intensely private persona. Yet for musicians and listeners of multiple generations, he was admired well-nigh universally.

Prince’s music had an immediate and lasting influence: among songwriters concocting come-ons, among producers working on dance grooves, among studio experimenters and stage performers. He sang as a soul belter, a rocker, a bluesy ballad singer and a falsetto crooner. His most immediately recognizable (and widely imitated) instrumental style was a particular kind of pinpoint, staccato funk, defined as much by keyboards as by the rhythm section. But that was just one among the many styles he would draw on and blend, from hard rock to psychedelia to electronic music. His music was a cornucopia of ideas: triumphantly, brilliantly kaleidoscopic.
Runaway Success

Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958, the son of John L. Nelson, a musician whose stage name was Prince Rogers, and Mattie Della Shaw, a jazz singer who had performed with the Prince Rogers Band. They were separated in 1965, and his mother remarried in 1967. Prince spent some time living with each parent and immersed himself in music, teaching himself to play his instruments. “I think you’ll always be able to do what your ear tells you,” he told his high school newspaper, according to the biography “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon” (2013) by the critic Touré.

Eventually he ran away, living for some time in the basement of a neighbor whose son, André Anderson, would later record as André Cymone. As high school students they formed a band that would also include Morris Day, later the leader of the Time. In classes, Prince also studied the music business.
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