El’s Rabbit Trails: Prince and Niche Culture

My husband called around lunch time and told me that he got a text from his brother that Prince had died. As I picked up my daughter from class, she got into the car and said, “Prince died.” I asked her what she could possibly know about Prince, which she found humorous.

Since I have broadcasted my age here to anyone who makes a couple of curious clicks, I have no qualms saying that I came of age as Prince was at the height of his fame, and his earlier works which were released when I was a young girl were easily found in my older sisters vinyls when I was old enough to listen to them. In retrospect I don’t know if one is ever old enough to listen to some of that stuff, as I was recalling to my husband my favorite Prince song from back in the day.

When our older daughter came home (after hearing about this in her office from people of every age, race, and background) she offered another perspective on what in reality is a non story for those who don’t remember Prince’s albums as part of the soundtrack of their younger life. Whatever you thought -or didn’t think- about Prince as an artist, it is almost a forgone conclusion that his level of musical prodigy and exceptionalism is pretty much unheard of among the people being heralded as music stars today.

A virtuoso, highly accomplished playing guitar, percussion, bass, drums, synthesizer, and keyboard, he was reported to have played all 27 instruments on one of his albums. All that, besides a pretty decent vocal range. America’s got talent, and I would never assert otherwise, but it takes far less to be considered talented today than it did 40 years ago.

The other question my daughter asked is this: Is it even possible that 30 years from now an artist of today could inspire cross generational, cultural and widespread acknowledgment the way the deaths of the great names from the 60’s-80s’ do today? I think not.

We live in a niche culture. It is extremely easy to be exposed to what you like and only to what you like 99% of the time. Everything from television channels to clothing stores to Internet dating sites are pared down to accommodate every little quirk and preference we have so that in 25 years the idea of a name or song that most everyone has heard will be nonexistent.

It’s a smaller world in many more ways than one.

Sidebar: Prince had been a devout Jehovah’s Witness for the last couple decades, and this post is not about religion but nostalgia and a bit of commentary on culture and art (or lack thereof)  in 21st century America.

Gratuitous Prince song: She’s Always In My Hair, complete with a superb guitar performance:

 

Still reading Vanity Fair, and it’s taking a while but it’s totally worth it.

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2 thoughts on “El’s Rabbit Trails: Prince and Niche Culture

  1. Another of my daughters mentioned this morning that she couldn’t think of an artist from her generation that would be remembered as “legendary” or who would be mentioned as someone who changed the way people listened to music. No obvious prodigies or risk takers, all cookie cutter she said.

    She did however, mention the Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga duets as something worth noting. Second time I’ve heard that…

    Like

  2. I used to live in Chaska, and drove by Paisley Park at least a few times per week on my way to work or church. It was always kind of sad to see a big facility like that going pretty much unused, more of a monument to Prince than a recording studio, really. Plus those white tiles that formed the outside reminded me of nothing so much as a giant outdoor bathroom.

    I guess it was his money, but seriously? Word has it as well that he located in Chanhassen partially because the Carver County permitting office would work with him, and Hennepin would not.

    Agreed on modern music….seems to me that stage antics have supplanted the music, marketers understanding that (as Prince ironically demonstrated) that stage antics sell tickets and records, but not understanding the art. And there we go. At least we have Weird Al still, no?

    Liked by 1 person

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