Prince (1958-2016)

Looking in from the outside has certain advantages; there is no need to demonstrate loyalty to your cultural roots and/or holding onto key moments in your individual cultural awareness and development. You have no place; this has the potential to keep you free.

And yes, of course, I'm aware of the privilege that is being expressed here, where the ability to isolate yourself reflects confidence about your cultural power. There is no need to unearth, to recognise and take comfort from belonging when all around you see people like you. 

Miles Davis speaking about Prince:

He’s got that church thing up in what he does,” Davis continued in his autobiography. “He plays guitar and piano and plays them very well. But it’s the church thing that I hear in his music that makes him special, and that organ thing. It’s a black thing and not a white thing. Prince is like the church to gay guys. He’s the music of the people who go out after ten or eleven at night. He comes in on the beat and plays on top of the beat. I think when Prince makes love he hears drums instead of Ravel. So he’s not a white guy. His music is new, is rooted, reflects and comes out of 1988 and ‘89 and ‘90. For me, he can be the new Duke Ellington of our time if he just keeps at it.”
— Miles Davis speaking about Prince, quoted in Miles: The Autobiography

(To read more on this, go to 'Inside Miles Davis's Prince Obsession' first published in Pitchfork; or have a look at this brief snippet from an interview with Davis. And check out this never previously released collaboration between Miles Davis and Prince).  

Last night when walking home from an attempt to see what had been advertised as a tribute to the great late Detroit hip-hop producer, J Dilla in a neighbouring arrondissement that ended up being a DJ in a booth high above a restaurant, where the entirely white population of diners was eating and talking and having fun - unable to hear the music being played, and remembered (and probably loved in an intimate way by the DJ). 

When walking home I listened to a group of French radio personalities, and artists (musicians, producers) talk about Prince in a special memorial program. One man who had, I think, written a book on Prince said how he was largely not recognised, or appreciated by the Black community in the US in that Prince was playing some kind of wild fusion of music, as much as rock as soul as funk that was entirely new. He said this even though he name-checked George Clinton, Funkadelic, Parliament. (The danger of absolute statements). 

The writer added that what he loved about Prince was his essential liberty; Prince as an artist was free, certainly but when thinking about the truly great, transcendent artists it is never a matter of either/or, nor should it be. Just listen to this to understand ...