KCRW Celebrates the Life & Music of Prince

It may not be the popular opinion to express today, but I must admit to not being that big of a Prince fan. Everybody has their personal musical icons to call their own – I’ve always been more of a David Bowie, Otis Redding, James Brown, Sex Pistols kind of guy, more than, say, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Metallica or Prince fan. That’s just personal taste.  But one thing I have in droves is a ton of respect for what Prince has achieved. He is an artist in the true sense, a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer deserving of the title, soaking up what came before him and delivering a wholly new sound that matched his desire for personal expression, and changing the whole musical world in the process. Even his album titles spoke so clearly as to what he was trying to say with his music: Controversy, Sign o’ the Times, Emancipation, Musicology, etc. Heck, he made hits by REMOVING instruments, such as when he took away the bass line from “When Doves Cry.”

I didn’t see him perform at any of his legendary run of 21 shows at the Forum in Inglewood in 2011, although I did see him at Coachella in 2008, which was cool. I only own a couple of his regular studio albums, but I can’t think of any other artist who inspired me to buy a triple-CD best of collection of their work. And while I’m not sure I’d cite many of his songs on a list of my all-time favorite tunes, “Delirious” is a guilty pleasure, the most Little Richard-like in his catalog, and Parade’s “New Position” has some killer percussion tricks. But the guy’s talent, skill, dedication to his work, and conviction was undeniable, and for that I mourn along with the rest of the world in his passing.

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KCRW DJs Reflect on Prince

For many of our DJs, this respect was combined with a deep-seated passion for man’s music, so his loss is all the more personal. Here are some thoughts:

Mario Cotto: Prince taught 9-year-old me about sex, synths, funk, psychedelia and that you could be bad and good at the same time. Later in life, Prince taught me about the nebulous illusions of race and gender and the blinding power of identity. The moment he literally became a symbol, as both a signifier and a protest, is one of the most righteous things an artist has ever done.

Talking to a friend yesterday, I had the startling realization that I couldn’t listen to Prince at all after the news. When Bowie passed, I couldn’t bear to watch his videos, but I found solace in his music as a reflection of the man’s art. Yesterday, I watched some grainy Prince footage and it warmed my heart. But trying to listen to the music alone on headphones was a crushing experience. The feeling was not one of listening to the man’s art, but the man’s life. A kinetic, sexual, electric thing. To listen and feel that will be a beautiful thing in due time… but right now, it’s just too goddamn hard.

Favorite Album: Sign o’ the Times
Track: “Darling Nikki”

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Travis Holcolme: Prince blazed a trail all his own and of his time, combining new wave, funk, R&B and classic guitar rock.

Whether he was on stage performing in an arena, court side as a spectator at a basketball game, or dropping in on any nightclub on Earth, Prince was always the coolest cat in the room.

One of my favorite, lesser known cuts by Prince is “Laydown [Bonus Track #77]” which features the funniest lyrics Prince ever wrote: “From the heart of Minnesota / here come the Purple Yoda / guaranteed to bring that dirty new sound.” Too bad the song never got big, because “Purple Yoda” is an excellent nickname.

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Jason Kramer: I remember the day I bought the 12″ extended mix on record of “Alphabet St.” when it first came out. That week I must have played it over and over… So many musical things going on in that song.

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Chris Muckley: I’ve always had a soft spot for Around The World In A Day. The song “Pop Life” brings up a kind of nostalgia where I can almost smell the air of summer 1985. The 12″ version of “Raspberry Beret” is still one of my favorite remixes of the decade.

My best Prince memory was seeing him play in a Miami hotel ballroom in 1998. It was a music-industry convention, and Prince agreed to do a set at the awards ceremony. Seeing him in a room of maybe 400 people was pretty incredible.

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Anthony Valadez: I remember Prince use to drop into a few of the clubs I use to DJ at. He use to sit right behind me and his management would warn me to not play any Prince songs. It became so frequent that I knew the routine every time he would show up to TempleBar or The Sayers Club. I could smell his presence when he would walk in without me seeing him.

One time I was rocking the party and I looked over and saw him playing the air guitar to one of the records I was scratching to. It was Zapp’s “More Bounce To The Ounce.” And he was dissecting the song to his lady friend. He was pointing out the changes and guitar notes. Then he got really into it and he began playing the air guitar. The more intense he got with the air guitar, the more intense I got with the scratching. It was like we had a connection. Me on the turntables and Prince on air guitar. For that mere 30 seconds, Prince and I had a band. We had a moment.

Prince in the library
Prince records at the KCRW music library.

Lapsley Pays Tribute to Prince

Even our guest on Morning Becomes Eclectic yesterday morning, British singer/songwriter Lapsley, was caught up in the moment & chose to perform an amazingly quickly put-together tribute to Prince with a powerful version of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” the Prince-composed song that became a career-making hit for Sinead O’Connor in 1990.

Prince Tributes on KCRW’S Airwaves

Thursday night, Garth Trinidad (along with special guest & fellow Prince fanatic J-Rocc), Travis Holcolmbe & Karene Daniel (filling in for Aaron Byrd) dedicated their entire shows to the music of Prince, bringing together hits, deep cuts, rarities, live tracks, cover versions and other tributes throughout the course of their shows.  You can revisit each one below:

http://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/garth-trinidad/garth-and-j-roccs-prince-tribute
http://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/travis-holcombe/traviss-prince-tribute
http://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/aaron-byrd/karene-daniel-guest-hosts-2016-04-22

And you can listen to an appreciation of Prince that aired yesterday on Press Play with Madeleine Brand that featured Garth and journalist & Prince chronicler Alan Light here, as well as interview Steve Chiotakis conducted with award-winning composer, Prince collaborator and friend Patrice Rushen and myself during All Things Considered last evening here.

There is no doubt that Prince’s music will continue to live on as long as people care for artists who push boundaries & challenge the norm. And for that he deserves our full respect.