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RIP: Prince 1958-2016

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Artwork by GARY CARD

NEW YORK TIMES: Prince recorded the great majority of his music entirely on his own, playing every instrument and singing every vocal line. Then, performing those songs onstage, he worked as a bandleader in the polished, athletic, ecstatic tradition of James Brown, at once spontaneous and utterly precise, riveting enough to open a Grammy Awards telecast and play the Super Bowl halftime show. Often, Prince would follow a full-tilt arena concert with a late-night club show, pouring out even more music.

In Prince’s biggest hits, he sang passionately, affectionately and playfully about sex and seduction. With deep bedroom eyes and a sly, knowing smile, he was one of pop’s ultimate flirts. But elsewhere in his catalog were songs that addressed social issues and delved into mysticism and science fiction. He made himself a unifier of dualities — racial, sexual, musical, cultural — teasing at them in songs like “Controversy” and transcending them in his career.prince-art-official-age

He had plenty of eccentricities: his fondness for the color purple, using “U” for “you” and a drawn eye for “I” long before textspeak, his vigilant policing of his music online, his penchant for releasing huge troves of music at once, his intensely private persona. Yet among musicians and listeners of multiple generations, he was admired well-nigh universally. MORE

QUESTLOVE: Around two in the morning we were ready to go. Still no Prince, and the anthropological benefit of watching this strange half‑attended all‑skate was wearing off. Suddenly, Eddie [Murphy] came in.

“Hey,” he said. “I have an idea. Maybe don’t take those skates off just yet.”

And there he came, Prince, followed by a Princely entourage: his wife, Manuela; Larry Graham; some kids. I didn’t recognize the kids but they were a familiar type—show‑biz small‑fry, like I was all those years ago, when my father took me down to the green room to meet KISS.

Prince was carrying a big briefcase in his hand, and he was acting all mysterious, like it contained the glowing substance from Pulp Fic­tion or something. He made like he was going to open it, then stopped, then started again. Then he walked toward me.

“Where’s your phone?”

“What?” I said.

“Yeah, right, what?” he said. “I know you have it, Ahmir. Where is it?”.prince-art-official-age

I thought maybe he wanted to make a phone call. I admit now that’s not a plausible reading of the situation, but it was all so surreal. “It’s here,” I said.

He took it from me and turned it over in his hand. “Your coat is in coat check?”

“Yeah.”

“Put this with it.”

“Why? You think I’m going to record something?”

“Check the phone.”

“What about him?” I pointed at Eddie. “You’re not going to take his phone? He’ll tell everyone.”

Eddie put up his hands. “Hey, man, I don’t know what you’re talk­ing about. My phone’s in the car.”

I put the phone in coat check. Prince was asking me. I was being asked by Prince. It was Prince who was asking me. And fine, maybe I didn’t understand any part of what was happening, but sometimes you just have to launch yourself out into the river of an evening.

When I got back, Prince had the briefcase out on the floor. He clicked the lock and opened it, and took out the strangest, most singu­lar pair of roller skates I had ever seen. They were clear skates that lit up, and the wheels sent a multicolored spark trail into your path. MORE

NEW YORKER: Prince had his change of faith, he said, after a two-year-long debate with a musician prince-art-official-agefriend, Larry Graham. “I don’t see it really as a conversion,” he said. “More, you know, it’s a realization. It’s like Morpheus and Neo in ‘The Matrix.’ “ He attends meetings at a local Kingdom Hall, and, like his fellow-witnesses, he leaves his gated community from time to time to knock on doors and proselytize. “Sometimes people act surprised, but mostly they’re really cool about it,” he said.

Recently, Prince hosted an executive who works for Philip Anschutz, the Christian businessman whose company owns the Staples Center. “We started talking red and blue,” Prince said. “People with money—money like that—are not affected by the stock market, and they’re not freaking out over anything. They’re just watching. So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.” He pointed to a Bible. “But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.”

When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’” MORE

NFL: Prince, I want you to know it’s raining.

PRINCE: I know it’s raining.

NFL: Are you OK with that?

PRINCE: Can you make it rain harder? MORE

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