And Now, Here Are Some Of Prince’s Best Videos To Remember Him By
Prince Rogers Nelson, one of the most innovative, talented and wonderful figures in modern music, passed away today. Nothing about this is pleasant information. Like the untimely passing of David Bowie in the early weeks of this dreadful, difficult year, the news of Prince’s death cuts deep. Like Bowie, Prince felt eternal, someone who somehow managed to skirt around the messy reality of death and live forever.
Any man who could step onstage during the halftime show of the Super Bowl and turn America’s annual celebration of performative traditional masculinity into a rain-soaked epic that tricked the viewers into thinking that he planned this is a man that could certainly live forever.
When a celebrity who was so beloved dies, the impulse is to turn back to the work. Prince had always been notoriously protective of his output. YouTube is mostly scrubbed of videos; a person looking to sink their feelings into repeat listens of “I Would Die 4 U” will have little luck on Spotify. What we are able to find in the muck and the mire is few and far between and their scarcity makes them all the more precious.
Maybe Prince understood above all that his music wasn’t meant to be enjoyed from the tinny speakers of a desktop computer. Or maybe, to paraphrase Erykah Badu, he was an artist and he was sensitive about his shit. Either way, watching videos of Prince and his verve, his oozy horniness and his indomitable skill as a musician and performer works on a very basic level to facilitate appreciation for his genius.
Consider this performance of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a song stripped of its grit and desperation by Sinead O’Connor’s cover. In performance with Mary J. Blige, Prince restores its edge. There’s a louche sexiness to all of his music, a thrumming sexiness that underscores everything he did. Prince’s brand of dirty R&B set the stage for the glossy horniness of The-Dream. Watching his performances, you can hear his influence in their work.
In the bowels of YouTube resides a full video of a Prince concert. Shot in 1982 at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, it’s a nice little hour and change of Prince and his band bopping around on stage, casually stutnting. If Prince’s allure eludes you – if his juicy, weird horndog-ness freaks you out – watch him play the guitar. Say what you will about Prince — and really, what will you say right now, out loud, a legend has just passed — but keep in mind, he was so, so good at what he did.
Prince will be playing in every bodega and out of every car I pass on my way home as if it were a national holiday and not a regular Thursday. Tonight, friends, lovers, side-pieces and maybe-boos will gather to dance and mourn. Prince’s passing, coinciding with the lusty arrival of late-spring — warmer days that tease of warm nights to come — feels appropriate, though there is never an appropriate time for anyone to die. Prince is gone too soon.
“I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I’m something that you’ll never understand,” he sings in the beginning of the first Prince song I remember hearing, “I Would Die 4 U.” He understood his own inscrutability, packaged his weirdness as a positive and reaped the benefits of that calculated risk. Thank you for who you were, Prince.
Rest in peace.