21 April 2021 was the 5th anniversary of the tragic passing of one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Prince was not only a multi-instrumentalist, a singer-songwriter, and a producer; he was also a unique artist, who inspired generations worldwide. In the following article, I have collected information about five of his songs and I would like to write a short commemoration of the artist’s work in order to celebrate his greatness and the legacy he has left behind.
“Purple Rain” (1984)
It is probably one of the most popular and well-known tunes of the 20th century. It features on Prince’s studio album of the same name and it was released in 1984 via American record label, Warner Bros. That classic chorus-effect-driven guitar sound, the lyrics of it, and the stark but emotionally expressive gospel chorus make it one of the best songs ever written in the 20th century. There are elements of multiple genres in it like rock, RnB and soul music, which make the record eclectic and show the versatility of Prince as a musician. Prince’s evergreen hit has inspired other artists to make covers of “Purple Rain”, including Etta James, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Levine, Beth Hart and Foy Vance.
“When Doves Cry” (1984)
Released prior to the debut of the album Purple Rain, this song is another evergreen that shows the quality of Prince as a songwriter. It was critically acclaimed at the time and became the best selling single in America in 1984. In terms of instrumentation, it has the vibe of the 1980s, the drums and bass line are distinguishable and give the track a groovy rhythmic pulse, but besides music, the lyrics are also remarkable and deserve credit. The influence of Prince on the music of younger generations is unquestionable, the multiple cover versions of this song are the evidence for that. There are numerous bands and artists who’ve covered this tune, but I’ll give a special call out to the versions by Damien Rice and Alexisonfire.
“Raspberry Beret” (1985)
Around the World in a Day is the seventh studio album from Prince and “Raspberry Beret” is among the songs that feature. It was Prince’s second release where his backing band The Revolution was billed. It was released on 22 April 1985 by Paisley Park Records and Warner Bros. Records. After the massive commercial success of Purple Rain (1984), Around the World in a Day and specifically “Raspberry Beret” provide further proof of Prince’s envelope-pushing style as a songwriter and arranger. “Raspberry Beret” has psychedelic elements and more opulent textures.
It is a song composed, written, and also produced by Prince himself. Released by the Paisley Park label as the lead single from Prince and The Revolution‘s eighth studio album Parade (1986) on 5 February 1986, it was a No. 1 hit worldwide, holding the top spot of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks, additionally, peaking at No. 11 on the Irish Singles Charts.The release became certified Gold in 1986 for sales of 1 million copies by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). “Kiss” is a perfect mixture of pop and funk music. Furthermore in terms of sound, it also has all the marks of 80’s-vibe pop, with elements of disco music too.
“The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” (1987)
It features on Prince’s album Sign o’ the Times and slightly differs from the previously mentioned songs above. There is a sensible drift in this tune, in terms of sound and mood. One can hear the elements of funk music in the solid groove of the drums that is supported by a quite vivid bass line. Furthermore, the effects of the keys that are used within, create a psychedelic atmosphere that can be sensed throughout the track. A solid improvement can be heard here in terms of artistic identity that again demonstrates how eclectic Prince was as a musician. Although credit also belongs to his former sound engineer, Susan Rogers, who was working with Prince at the time and helped him in shaping the sonic identity of this classic tune.
I believe all the above mentioned tracks show the artistic greatness of Prince, who was a remarkable songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. He rose to popularity and success during the 1980’s and his music has been influencing and inspiring generations ever since. The tragic passing of Prince in April 2016 was definitely one of the bitterest chapters in music history, but through technology, he has been able to reach partial immortality. Through his recordings, Prince’s art and his spirit live on as long as we remember to listen, so a farewell is not really a farewell after all.