Prince – addicted to music

Anyone who knows me or follows me on twitter knows what I think of Prince.

He’s probably the single most talented musician of our time.

As a musician friend of my ex-wife told her once (someting like) ‘Any musician who doesn’t like Prince isn’t a musician’. He’s simply incredible. Even if he’s not your cup of tea style wise, to deny his talent is sheer lunacy. He’s one of the few people, like Stevie Wonder, who can record (great) whole albums by himself. He’s so multi-talented it’s unreal.

Some great artists are taken from us too early (Hathaway, Gaye, Hendrix, Coltrane, Winehouse), and some survive but their initial promise fades out for various reasons – often drug/alcohol and/or mental problems.

Take Chet Baker. He had it all. A wonderful trumpet player, a great voice, amazing looks. In the 1950s he was full of promise (there’s lots of great work to recommend but ‘Chet Baker Sings’ is very accessible and a great introduction, as well as being a wonderful album).

But he quickly developed a lifelong struggle with addiction, mainly heroin. He lost his teeth aged 39 after being beaten up trying to buy drugs, which caused a bit of a problem for his trumpet playing (it ruined his embouchure and he moved to the flugelhorn for many years). Then he died at just 58 after falling out of a hotel window – with heroin and cocaine in his system.

Chet Baker in his 20s and his 50s

Chet Baker in his 20s and his 50s (I have a print of the younger Chet over my turntable – not just because it’s an amazing photograph but because it’s a great reminder of how fragile talent and life is).

And I realised last night, thinking about addiction, drink, drugs, early deaths etc, how Prince is one of the few artists of his calibre to actually survive and continue to develop, in part at least, presumably because of a lack of alcohol or drug problems.

Yes, sure, he’s had his ups and downs. Not everything he touches turns to gold. But considering how much music he’s recorded over the years his quality is incredible.

What would Hathaway have done had he not died at 33. Hendrix, had he not died at 27. Marvin Gaye had he not died at 44.

‘What’s Going On’ is 44 years old and, sadly, still as relevant today as it was when it was released. What would he be doing now had he not been unable to fight his addictions which ended with his tragic death by a gunshot from his own father?

Prince gets a lot of stick for his religious beliefs and odd behaviour. Sure, he’s an ‘interesting’ character. But the fact he doesn’t appear to have had an addiction problem that I’m aware of (other than music which he clearly does have an addiction to) is a testament to his character and a blessing to the world of music.

He could have died at 27, and still left a great body of work behind. But thankfully he’s now 57, working harder than ever, looking and sounding great, and still releasing amazing work.

Anyway, here’s a video of a song he did recently called Baltimore about the recent ‘troubles’ in the USA over police brutality against black people. It’s simply superb, and another example of how Prince doesn’t JUST sing about sex (ok, he does that a lot too…).

From what I’ve read, after an initial recording with his current band, he then went into his studio that night and re-recorded this version (except the female vocals added the next day) playing everything himself. What the hell? Anyone who doubts his talent just needs to listen to this.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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