Prince was as big a star in the Eighties as Madonna or Michael Jackson and in terms of musical invention eclipsed them both. His signature style sounds simple enough; often the verse is almost identical to the chorus and the whole package is wrapped in a percussive cloak of handclaps and robotic beats. It is Prince himself who brings character with his expressive voice. His best songs are real earworms; once heard they are never forgotten. Being a true pop star he was also as eccentric as you like from his obsession with the colour purple to inventing text speak b4 we even knew we needed it!
Yet he was much more than just a pop star. A prolific writer he released albums much more often than his superstar peers and still found time to gift songs to other artists as well as produce some of his protégées like Wendy and Lisa and even, unexpectedly, Sheena Easton. After initially cultivating a provocative image, he moved onto to hits like `Little Red Corvette` and `1999`. Later he used a range of influences like the Sixties psychedelia of `Around The World In A Day` and the more socially conscious material on his acknowledged masterpiece album ``Sign of the Times` whose title track is a blistering roll call of 1980s problems relayed over the most minimal of mostly percussive instrumentation. During his imperial period every single seemed to be a work of pop genius- `When Doves Cry` (which has no bass on it!), `1999`,`Let’s Go Crazy`, `Raspberry Beret`, `Take Me With U`, `Sign of the Times`, ``Pop Life`, Kiss` and many more. In all he released 104 singles. His and Sheena Easton’s `U Got The Look`, Sinead O’Connor’s `Nothing Compares To U` and Tom Jones’ version of `Kiss` are all classic singles as well. As a performer he was by all accounts electric and invigorating.
Naturally such genius comes with a cultivated image and his interviews were few and far between. I remember reading an account in one magazine of a journalist invited into his Paisley Park HQ who wasn’t allowed to either tape or write the encounter; Prince just wanted them to remember it! This sort of thing would ultimately un-do Prince’s commercial success along with his lack of quality control; as the 90s dawned he seemed happy to release any old thing. For several years he wasn’t even called Prince at all choosing instead to be represented by a squiggle that became known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. He declared he was a prisoner of his record company and showed up to events with the word Slave written on his face, a public mistake given his wealth and the real history of slavery. Latterly his name, reputation and some of his form returned; he was always capable of causing a stir. Whatever came afterwards that run of classic songs is a mighty musical achievement that will always be remembered.