In 2016 we lost another legendary performer. Country stars like Merle Haggard, rappers like Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, Glenn Frey of the rock band The Eagles, David Bowie, Natalie Cole, and most recently Prince. They have all passed on leaving behind musical legacies that will inspire current and future performers to achieve their musical ambitions. It’s tragic when we lose icons, but at some point we all must come to that moment in our lives. When musicians pass, we tend to feel sadness because no longer will we be able to enjoy new music from them. We can take solace knowing what they did leave behind will remain with us.
The most recent death of Prince was a tough one for many. Despite what you think about him, he came across as genuine. He may have been flamboyant and oozed a certain sexuality, but musicians across the spectrum recognized his talent and respected him for it. Prince is known for his sexually charged lyrics but is widely hailed as a spectacular guitar player. Most of his music could be classified as pop, but there are many bands and musicians that understood his amazing guitar playing.
Years ago the thrash metal band Sacred Reich paid homage to him. It was a time when heavy metal fans weren’t supposed to like rap or pop music just like those fans weren’t supposed to like heavy metal. In their song “31 Flavors” off their 1990 album “The American Way” one line reads:
Ozzy’s voice is sick as hell
Prince, Fishbone, NWA
these are the things that I like to play
is so very cool
so don’t be
an ignorant fool
there’s so much music
for you to choose
so don’t just be
a metal dude
it’s cool fool
At a time when musical fans weren’t supposed to cross barriers, here was a band flaunting the diverse choices out there and Prince of all people being singled out was a stunning choice for young metalheads. Throughout the ‘90’s other bands followed this trend trying to break down unnecessary barriers. And Prince is a perfect example of a musician deserving this respect.
His talent crossed genres and earned respect from countless musicians. Prince’s song “Darling Nikki” from his seminal album “Purple Rain” was covered by the rock band the Foo Fighters as a b-side to a single and found success as a top twenty hit in 2003. In 2004 at a tribute for George Harrison of the Beatles, a collection of rock legends performed the song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Prince on stage as part of the tribute. When it gets to the guitar solo, they give way to Prince as he shreds the solo and clearly shows off his amazing talent. Surrounded by legends of rock, they give Prince his respect proving he’s no normal “pop” star. He’s someone with true talent recognized by his peers.
It’s tough seeing people we admire pass on but it’s something we have to face. We can crawl in a hole and pretend it’s not true but that doesn’t help anyone. What we can do is appreciate the gifted individuals while they’re here with us and respect their talent after they’re gone. For stars like Prince, their legacy lives on in their music. Fortunately his talent was known and respected by his peers and fans long before he passed on.