Not a eulogy for Prince
People are done eulogizing Prince. People are done sharing their favorite Prince songs, stories, and pieces of video. A lot of it is very good and some of it is spectacular. The video of Prince’s solo during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and the video of Prince showing up Michael Jackson at a James Brown concert are both worth seeing. While I was paying tribute to him in my own way, I was floored by something.
For any number of reasons I will sit down and listen to the entire back catalogue of an artist. Might be I want to familiarize myself with someone I don’t know well, or just want to spend a few days with a favorite band. Sadly this year reviewing an artist’s back catalogue has been because one someone passing away. Feels like I just did this for David Bowie. Regardless of the reason, the process is the same, collect all the artists albums and then listen to them one after another in the order they were released. Usually with Wikipedia or Allmusic close at hand for more info on an album’s context and history.
When I went to listen to Prince’s albums I was floored. I have always enjoyed his work, but he was never an artist I listened to or really followed that closely. I knew his big albums, and some singles here and there. What floored me was that he has 39 albums. Let that number set in: 39 studio albums. He started releasing albums in 1978 and just died this year.
That is one album a year, every year. That is also not counting double, triple, quadruple, or quintuple albums, of which he had many, as anything other than a single album.
That is the measure of a true artist. Here is someone who found his medium and proceeded create for the rest of his life. He had his ups and his downs, he did not escape the excesses of being a pop culture figure, but through it all he just kept on creating new albums.
(And we won’t argue the quality of the albums, there are some stinkers in there, but he never quit trying and even his missteps are interesting.)
He had success and turned that into the ability to do exactly what he wanted to do, make music and share it with the world. That is a legacy.
And, no, I am still not done listening to them all.