Prince the stage magician

By Mark Savage
Music reporter

  • Published
Prince performs during the halftime show of the NFL's Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Florida. Photo: February 2007Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Prince famously wrote, arranged, produced and played almost all of his hit records

"Prince? That skinny mother with the high voice?"

That's how Prince described himself in one of his darkest songs, Bob George, the story of an abusive husband who discovers his wife has been cheating on him... with Prince.

Bob George wasn't his most famous song. It wasn't even among his best.

But it encapsulated everything you needed to know about the Minneapolis musician.

He was funky, he was funny, he was self-aware, he was an unparalleled talent. He had a lot of sex.

A musical prodigy from a broken home, he famously wrote, arranged, produced and played almost all of his hit records.

Sometimes It Snows In April

But the Purple man's purple patch really came with his first band The Revolution.

With them by his side, he wrote more than two dozen rock classics in a five-year flurry. Purple Rain, Little Red Corvette, 1999, Raspberry Beret, When Doves Cry, Kiss...

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Although the hits dried up, Prince was touring right up until his death

At the same time, he dashed off Manic Monday for The Bangles and Nothing Compares 2U for his proteges The Family, later made famous by Sinead O'Connor.

In the studio, he was unstoppable. But the magic really happened on stage.

He would vamp, preen and tease an audience into a frenzy, then slay them with a quiet moment of crystalline beauty. He was a joy to watch. Totally in command of his musicians and his audience. Every so often, a sly grin would creep across his face. He lived for this.

Although the hits dried up, he was touring right up until his death.

And his later albums still contain some incredible work. The piano ballad Breakdown, from 2014's ArtOfficialAge, ranks among his best; while Black Sweat, from the album 3121, beat modern producers like Pharrell and Timbaland at their own game.

Writing in the tour programme for 1992's Diamonds and Pearls tour, the star explained that writing was a life-long compulsion.

"The moon, the stars, everything plays a part. And there are no accidents. Music is made out of necessity. It's a fact of life. Just like breathing.

"The voice inside tells U when there is a song 2 be born. All children are born beautiful. How they are perceived may be another matter indeed.

"Much like an unborn child, a song is never conceived whole. That would be like taking dictation. Pleasure comes from not knowing what your baby's character will be. Pleasure comes from the nurturing process. Whatever we are... Whatever we make."

He remains with us through everything he made. Sometimes It Snows In April. His fans will understand.