Letter: Prince leaves behind a powerful legacy

Prince leaves behind a powerful legacy

To the editor:

Seems like my generation has reached that point in life where the influential artists, musicians and actors we grew up with have been leaving us in rapid succession. Though I wasn't a hard-core Prince fan, as a musician myself, I admired his talent, drive and artistic vision.

There was no denying his talent as singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, dancer, and actor. The fact that he played and arranged the 27 instruments featured on his "For You" album is a feat that is hard to ignore. He definitely expanded my awareness of music through his integration of funk, rock, R&B, soul, psychedelia, and pop.

In the '80s, he was a prolific songwriter, writing songs for and producing works by other acts, like Ready For the World, Sheila E., and Sinead O'Connor, often under pseudonyms. It was impossible to turn on the radio back then without hearing something he'd worked on in some aspect.

Like many of my fellow '80s adolescents, I went to see his movie "Purple Rain" (at the Canaan Colonial Theatre) and afterward, purchased the soundtrack of the catchy pop songs I'd just heard for the first time and would soon hear in regular rotation on the pop radio stations. A couple friends and I used to deejay school dances and during the mid-'80s, "Purple Rain" soon replaced Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's epic "Free Bird" as the ubiquitous last, long, sweaty slow song at dances. At least "Purple Rain" kept the same pace and didn't elicit an awkward moment where you had to decide whether to keep your slow two-step circle groove going or start fast dancing during the up-tempo coda of the others.

After his spectacular 2007 halftime performance at the Super Bowl in the pouring rain, I was compelled to purchase his "The Hits" 1 & 2 CDs, which has most of the songs I recall from my teenage MTV years and his familiar later works. These songs point out the fact that Prince was a unique and progressive ground-breaking visionary, the likes of Frank Zappa, Brian Wilson or Quincy Jones. For example, the unique sound of "When Doves Cry" comes from Prince's decision to take the bass out of the mix, which is risky since the bass is a crucial part of the rhythm section, but somehow the song still works.

Prince was an artistic amalgamation of the funk and soul of Stevie Wonder, the electric stage presence of Jimi Hendrix, and the vocal improvisation and footwork of James Brown. With his passing, he is now one for the ages, and the legacy he leaves is the music he created and left behind. To borrow a phrase from the lyrics of his 1984 hit "Let's Go Crazy," Prince's music is "Electric word life, it means forever, and that's a mighty long time."

Jim Reynolds, Pittsfield The writer teaches English at Pittsfield High School.


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