Prince's music, movies, mentorship and fight against piracy
With news of Prince's death, The Frame looks at his music legacy, his films, and his impact on music critics and other performers.
For music fans, this is one of those days you will always remember — where you were when you heard the news that Prince had died.
To honor his legacy, The Frame devotes the entire show to the life and work of Prince Rogers Nelson. The hugely influential and prolific artist died on April 21 at the age of 57 at his Paisley Park estate just outside Minneapolis.
PRINCE'S LAST CONCERTS
When Melissa Ruggieri, music critic for Atlanta Journal-Constitution, went to see Prince perform at Atlanta's Fox Theater on April 14, she had no idea she'd be one of the lucky ones. He performed two shows that night, and they would be his last. They were solo shows — just Prince at a piano with some candles on stage. As she said, "No razzle dazzle. None of the usual Prince showmanship." And it was a pricey night — top tickets cost between $800-$1000. In fact, when the first show ended after an hour and 20 minutes, some in the audience were grumbling. But Ruggieri says, "It was such a raw visceral experience to be able to see him." She also says that despite some apparent congestion, he seemed okay.
At the show itself you wouldn't have had any indication that something was wrong. When he spoke he sounded a little big nasally, as if he had a cold or maybe some allergies, but when he sang he was phenomenal. His falsetto was in pure form. His range was all over the place. He was doing some really inventive things on the piano.
He opened with a very cool version of "Little Red Corvette" which he then melded with the Peanuts' "Linus and Lucy" song [by Vince Guaraldi]. And for a second you're [thinking], That's an interesting pairing, and then you realized how similar the melodies were between the two of them. Just the way his mind works that he could do things like that. Then he did "Nothing Compares 2 U," which Sinead O'Conner had a huge hit with, but it's a Prince song. To hear the original person do that song was really chilling. And speaking of chilling, he also did a tribute to David Bowie. He performed "Heroes."
Prince was famously private, but in the concert he did open up a couple of times. He started the the show talking about how his father taught him about funk. At one point he left the stage briefly after performing Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You." When Prince came back he said, "I forgot sometimes how emotional these songs can be."
PRINCE AS MENTOR
Prince produced Judith Hill's debut album last year. My phone rang and it was, "Judith, this is Prince." He had never seen me on 'The Voice' or '20 Feet from Stardom.'" But when she said in an interview that she'd always wanted to work with him, he got in touch.
Hill told The Frame:
I'm such a big Prince fan, and the biggest thing for me was the funk. We talked about that and I said, "I want to do a record that's like Sly and the Family Stone." And he said, "Oh, I got you. No problem." There was such a musical connection between the two of us that it was fun. We made a pact and said, We want to make the funkiest record and we want to do it the right way. We had a picture of this lady with her hat on tilted, and we'd look at it and say, "The music needs to be as funky as she looks." [laughs]
Before Alex Pappademas became executive editor of MTV News, he was a writer and podcaster at Grantland. And as part of that network he co-hosted the podcast, "Do You Like Prince Movies?" with culture critic Wesley Morris. Pappademas tells The Frame that he and Morris did, in fact, like Prince movies. Pappedemas said of Prince: "He never met a barrier that he didn't want to kick a hole in."
"If anybody's never seen 'Under the Cherry Moon,' it's really worth seeking out. It's one of the stranger products ever created by a pop star."
PRINCE'S MUSIC LEGACY
Alex Pappademas, executive editor of MTV News had this to say about Prince as a musical artist.
All the really great artists manage to embody all of their influences and the place they came from, but still seem to have just come out of nowhere. Like Madonna emerges from disco- meets-Marilyn Monroe and yet there's sort of no formula that gets you Madonna. And like Dylan is absolutely the sum of his influences and yet 2+2=5 there, right?
There's a great compilation of late '70s Minneapolis of funk and rock music called "Purple Snow," with people like Jimmy Jam and André Cymone on it. And you can listen to that and it's like a scavenger hunt, and yet it doesn't explain [Prince]. I mean, he's like 19-years-old on his first record. He's a one-man band in the studio and plays something like 29 instruments and was barely getting started. For anybody else that would be a crowning achievement.
I think the most important thing that happens after is "Dirty Mind" in 1980. At a moment when MTV and pop radio didn't play black music, he breaks through with this amazing record that is absolutely a funk record and absolutely a rock record.
We're living in the aftermath of that earthquake. Kids today don't recognize genres. Everybody listens to everything. Prince dreamed that dream before anybody.
PRINCE'S FIGHT AGAINST PIRACY
"I never thought in my life I would get a call on my cell phone from Prince," says Scott Goodman of yourlisten.com.
When Prince fans were uploading his music to share on the file-sharing website, Prince wasn't happy. He'd deliberately made his music only available on Jay Z's Tidal service. So, what did he do? He called the guy who runs that music sharing site and insisted his music be taken down.
"We never had the artist decide to physically call us and ask us to take that music down," says Goodman, adding that he usually gets these types of calls from automated 'bots working for the record labels or distributors.
Prince stayed on the phone with Goodman for nearly 30 minutes. Goodman tells The Frame what they discussed and how Prince impressed upon him why he was so protective of his music.
His big picture and his goal and battle he's been fighting for decades ... is stopping piracy. He truly believed that piracy could come to an end with people like him, who obviously had power and money. He told me, "Scott, we need to fight piracy. We cannot have musicians having their music stolen."
At the end of the day, if you're monetizing or hosting music that isn't copyrighted you're essentially stealing that artist's creation. And he has a larger stake in it than the majority of artists, being that he owns his entire music catalogue. It's not owned by a music distributor. It's not owned by a record label. So he had a large financial stake in it, and at the end of the day his goal was to make copyright violations obsolete. And he truly, truly believed that was possible. And based on the call, he was just as passionate about protecting his music and other artists' music as he was about creating new music.