There are so many threads to this complicated human being. The blend of committed spirituality and enthusiastic sexuality (which, tbh, Mormons have no right to be offended about). His intense introversion and control issues, paired with bright-as-the-sun charisma and onstage courage. The way he flouted social conventions about gender, race, even geography. (Can there any cool thing come out of Minnesota? Yup.)
He could have been any age. He could sing in every register. He could expertly play every instrument.
From what I can tell, Prince applied that creativity and flexibility to everything he did. Beyond being a musical genius, he was a business genius and a technological genius. He hacked and reimagined existing structures to fit his needs (he basically broke the radio promotion and metrics system). He incorporate new technologies into his work (he was always the first to incorporate new sounds, new instruments, and digital tools). And he completely rejected industry trends that he felt compromised his work.
That combination of big abstract creativity + systems thinking is crazy to me.
He could look at a complex process or industry, and evaluate whether it helped advance his work and his creativity. If not, he would subvert it (the radio industry), reshape it (genre charts), bully it into submission (the filmmaking process for Purple Rain), or simply reject it (the online streaming revolution—casual fans had a difficult time yesterday finding his music online).
And this is completely hearsay, but from what I understand he was very kind, surprisingly grounded, and always willing to help people out with money or mentoring or whatever it was they needed.
I’m of the generation that was too young for most of Prince’s work in the ‘80s (I got my first taste of Prince through the Batman soundtrack). By the time I was musically aware enough to know anything about him, he was already living in the ether. Not a real human, but a concept called “Prince.” I can’t picture him eating breakfast. Or watching New Girl. Or tweeting. My first thought upon hearing about his death yesterday was that he’d probably pulled a Yoda move, and simply evaporated into the universal consciousness.
Of course, that isn’t actually what happened, and yesterday was an intense, unexpected day for his family, friends, and fans. I believe we honor the deceased by grieving for them in the way they would have wanted. In Prince’s case, that probably means appreciating each other and celebrating our differences, and the freedom we have to be different. And he’d definitely want us to listen to more Prince music.