I have to admit: when I first heard the Revolution were reuniting, I wasn’t sure what to think. The very notion of the Revolution without Prince sounded bizarre, like Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding getting together to tour as the Experience sans Hendrix. But when I read the reports from their first set of shows in Minneapolis last year, suddenly it made sense. This was, in many ways, less a conventional rock reunion than an act of collective mourning. All of us, the majority of whom never met the man in person, felt a profound loss when Prince passed; so how does one even fathom what it meant to the people who shared some of his most successful and creatively fertile years? And if listening to “Sometimes It Snows in April” helps to process our grief, can we really blame Wendy and Lisa–who were, as Wendy recalled the other night, actually present and involved in the song’s composition–for singing it to process theirs?
Yet even after I understood the reunion, I still didn’t know what to expect. I was two years old when the Revolution disbanded, so they always seemed frozen in time to me: forever lip-syncing on the First Avenue stage in Purple Rain. Did I really want to see them in their fifties–not to mention without the pint-sized whirling dervish of musical and sexual energy who had always been the group’s unambiguous focal point?
It was a Thursday morning one year ago that I first heard that Prince had passed away. It was via a Facebook post one of my friends there shared from TMZ. Being a tabloid agency,it came across as just another online “fake news” story about a dead celebrity. It was my Aunt Deb who confirmed the unfortunate news. Prince Rogers Nelson had been found dead in an elevator at Paisley Park earlier that morning. It turned out to be just one part of a huge “funkapocalypse” of musicians dying in 2016-among them people such as David Bowie and EWF founder Maurice White.
In the weeks following Prince death, there was much ugliness unfortunately. Because he left no will in regard to his enormous musical output,the future of his art was in question. Therefore there was more concentration on people suddenly coming forward claiming to be his child (and a potential heir to his fortune),as well as conspiracy theories about Prince having died of HIV/AIDS. The reality of his death wasn’t any prettier. He’d died of an accidental overdose of the pain medication Fentanyl,part of a series of medications he’d been taking since an injury he’d sustained onstage in 1985.
Now that 365 days have passed since we lost Prince, there remains much mixed appraisal of the man and his music. The fight for control over Prince’s estate still remains fairly hot-with family representatives such as his half sister Tyka and record companies in the process of figuring out how to manage his music releases and online presence. Articles circulate consistently on fan sites all over the internet-especially Facebook and Twitter. And the debate between restorationists and preservationists of Prince’s legacy has proven a true example of the messiness of democratic dialog.
All of this being said, the year since Prince’s death has not been about complete uncertainty. Currently his mid 80’s era band the Revolution have begun for a US tour-indicating that its helping them cope with the loss of Prince. There was a somewhat rushed compilation released by Warner Bros. entitled Prince4ever,which included one item from Prince’s vault from 1982 entitled “Moonbeam Levels”. The CD release of Prince’s final album Hitnrun Phase II also took place a week after his passing. And now,its promised that a floodgate of new Prince material is about to be opened.
Following the Grammy Awards tribute,much of Prince’s music was re-added to streaming sites such as Pandora and Spotify. And there’s also the promise of a deluxe edition of the Purple Rain soundtrack at some point this year. This week however, the Prince estate has filed a lawsuit against against his former engineer George Ian Boxill for attempting to a release an EP of unreleased Prince songs from 2006 entitled Deliverance. In addition,Prince’s music has yet to re-appear on YouTube. And that brings me to what I feel is the most vital aspect of Prince’s creative legacy.
Myself, Henrique Hopkins and Zach Hoskins have been having many discussions since Prince’s passing about the lost opportunities for his continuing legacy online. As for Prince,that’s all in the past now. Because his music is in danger of being somewhat unknown by future generations (and some members of current ones) due to this problem,I hope that those in charge of Prince’s estate realize the mistakes he made in his final decade about publicizing his art. It would be a fitting tribute to him if they continued to maintain the presence of Prince’s musical legacy for the future.
Prince has been gone for over a month now. And it’s now official that his death was caused by an overdose of the strong opioid Fentanyl. As the future of his music stands in the balance,it would seem as if many people suddenly realized the impact Prince’s music had on their lives. Or their own art. Some see that as cretin. Personally I see it as a good thing. Whatever motivates someone to appreciate someone with musical importance of Prince Rogers Nelson will be a pretty good thing in the end. When it comes down to it,it’s the mans funky creativity that should be remembered rather than his tragic early death.
Today will be Prince’s first birthday during my lifetime where we wasn’t alive. Therefore in discussing him today,it seemed best to search for a song that personified everything about Prince’s musical and thematic persona. Over thousands of songs released and unreleased, plus 39 available albums, the task seemed daunting. Suddenly it occurred to me it’s been there for 20 years. It was the last song on the first record on the vinyl copy of his 1982 breakthrough album 1999. It’s another of those Prince’s songs that only become more amazing to me with each listening. The name of this funk is “DMSR”.
A 2 by 2 hit drum machine beat with a nasal trumpet style synth sound gets the song started. That synth horn plays a JB’s style hard hitting riff before shaking percussion and Prince’s high pitched screech over the break brings in the main body of the jam. This adds a down-scaling synth bass kicks along with a choral synth brass part with Prince’s slow crawling rhythm guitar driving home the changes. This is the basic groove up to the last half-where the only change is a bridge with more driving percussion and Prince’s sustain,chicken scratch guitar that plays along with the final choruses before it all fades.
James Brown was a key inspiration to Prince’s approach to funk. He paid direct tribute to him throughout his career. From “Housequake” to “Sexy MF”. In the early 80’s,Prince was still pioneering his synth brass based Minneapolis sound-with it’s stripped down, electronic new wave influences. Much as with Prince alumni Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis’s production on Janet Jackson’s song “Control” five years after this, “DMSR” takes the nakedly brittle synth funk based sound of Prince’s one man band approach of the time into the basic horn chart/drum break/rhythm guitar structure of classic James Brown funk.
This songs title as sung in it’s chorus is an abbreviation standing for “dance, music, sex, romance”. Prince boldly asks everyone (again JB style) to “get on the floor” and “loosen up” in different ways throughout the song. Lisa Coleman,Dez Dickerson,Brown Mark and Bobby Z all join him on a chorus of the song title. Even if Prince once declared this era of his music as being like being in the 3rd grade to him in retrospect,this song is still one I can pick out in terms of describing everything rhythmically,lyrically and creatively atmospheric about Prince’s classic Minneapolis purple funk style.
Filed under 1980's, Bobby Z, Brown Mark, chicken scratch guitar, Dez Dickerson, drum machines, James Brown, Lisa Coleman, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Sound, naked funk, Prince, Prince & The Revolution, rhythm guitar, synth bass, synth brass, synth funk, synthesizers