Prince: America’s musical genius

Rest in Peace!

Ron EdwardsMillions around the world were in a state of shock to learn of the passing of Prince at 57. History will record and identify Prince Rodgers Nelson as one of the greatest musical geniuses of this nation. Minnesota and Minnesotans should feel proud of this native son, acknowledged as a “prodigious talent and relentless innovator” who rose “from humble origins to mega-stardom.”

I remember this young Black activist who used to come to our civil rights meeting as a young man, who was a life-long soldier of the “Revolution,” the name he chose for one of his musical groups, part of his “protean career.”

Prince accepted with great passion the forces that drove him and provided him with the genius and the command of music’s creative use of instruments, composition, and performance. He has served well the history and the image of Minnesota as a place of innovative change agents.

He could have located anywhere on this planet — Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, London, Paris. He chose to stay home in Minnesota. He has been called by national writers as “perhaps the greatest living performer in the pop tradition,” the “creator of a hybrid of rock and funk,” “a musician, songwriter, producer and actor… widely considered the single greatest live performer in rock.”

As another wrote, he overcame what many youth in our community have not overcome, as he  “bounced from relative to relative and home to home — changing address over 30 times, with music as his path out of struggle and isolation.” This reminds us of the paths we need to provide and help our young people find today.

Prince was a private person. He was not flamboyant, disrespectful or disruptive. He respected his profession and those he worked with. He handled accordingly the success and failure of his legacy. He had a spiritual side, and became a devoted Jehovah’s Witness in 2001, joining congregants in door-to-door proselytizing.

He provided Minnesota with an industry that thrives even today, as his “Minneapolis Sound” became a legacy both locally and world-wide. He made Paisley Park his musical and recording capital. Some would call it his Taj Mahal. His respect for Minnesota and his respect for its citizens will always be remembered, and we would hope that his legacy would always be appreciated and respected.

He left this life too early. There are decisions that are made which we do not always understand. He had physical issues from his marathon performances — some up to five hours, creating hip and knee problems that came from years of jumping off risers and stage speakers in heels.

His four-decade career, as with all the greats, leaves a great legacy that will long be remembered. He was a man of drive and discipline.

As Duke Ellington, “the piano prince,” used to say, “Self-discipline, as a virtue or an acquired asset, can be invaluable to anyone.” May more of our young people emulate that about Prince. For Prince, as for Louis Armstrong, his “life has always been his music, it always came first.”

It is said that we only pass this way once. We all need to leave a positive legacy, to create a sense of purpose, to bring joy into the life of society, as did Prince. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”

Prince was a gift to us. May his success be remembered. May he rest in peace as one of God’ treasures gifted to us to continually value.

Stay tuned.


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