This week we turn our attention to the one and only Prince.

Many of the artist featured on this series so far have had successful and lengthy careers because of their ability to foresee and lead paradigm shifts in popular music. David Bowie, who we recently featured, never stood still artistically and was forward-thinking in everything from his song structure to his presentation onstage. Likewise, Beyoncé has managed to dine at pop’s top table for the last twenty years thanks to a peerless back catalogue of music that’s been supported by flawless live performances.

Prince is certainly in the same category as these wonderful musicians. Someone who was the vanguard of the music industry for so long, Prince tragically passed away in 2016. his music shapes so much of what is created today, and in this blog we’ll reflect on his unique blending of pop, rock, funk, jazz, R&B to create a distinct sound that is uniquely his.

Creative output

Prince Rogers Nelson was born in 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and wrote his first song by the age of seven. So began a lifetime of serious creative output. When Prince died, dozens of fully produced albums were found in his vault, along with music videos and other media that had been unreleased. Combine this with the 39 albums that he did release when he was alive, and you start to get an idea of just how prolific he was.

He was constantly creating music. Sound engineer, Susan Rogers, who helped Prince record a number of his biggest hits, including ‘When Doves Cry’, tells of her experience working with him:

“I didn’t get a chance to form memories because I didn’t sleep long enough to form them…People remind me of the wildest stuff and I say: are you sure I was there?”

We’re big fans of BBC Radio 6 Music at RSL HQ, and we’ve been loving their recent celebration of his seminal album ‘Sign ‘O’ The Times’. The station’s DJs have been reflecting on Prince’s unrivalled work ethic and how it helped him create such an era-defining album.

Susan appears alongside Lizzo, Janelle Monáe, Trevor Nelson, and others in this 6 minute compilation where stars discuss the significance of the album to them personally. The haunting qualities of 'The Ballad of Dorothy Parker' is discussed in an interesting insight into how Prince went about his work in the recording studio.

The original cover star

Cover star on our grade 6 Electric Guitar book, we’ve chosen “I Wanna Be Your Lover” to feature on the Rockschool syllabus. Released in 1979, this was the lead single from his eponymously titled second album, and placed just outside the Billboard Top 10, holding the number 11 for two weeks.

The song has a super-catchy riff that is sure to stay in your head for weeks on end, with Prince’s perfect falsetto providing the finishing touches. You can hear how it sounds in the video below, which includes a brief overview of our interactive practice tool, Replay.

Like David Bowie, Prince kept creating music right up until he died. Here he is in 2004 performing the fiercely groovy ‘Musicology’ on the eve of his 45th birthday with just as much swagger, stage presence, and musicality as when he first burst onto the scene aged 19. A one of a kind artist who has such a special place in so many people's hearts, it is unlikely we'll see someone so deeply talented across so many disciplines for a long time.

If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to share it and check out last week’s blog on the amazing Alicia Keys, while you can learn more about the Rockschool repertoire here.

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