Prince died on 21 April 2016 at the age of 57 and the whole world cries once again the loss of yet another artist who managed to cross so many dimensions of modern music.
It’s August 1988, Waldstadium in Frankfurt is almost packed and hundreds of people are still getting off the tram that has been taking thousands from the city’s main station to this stadium by the forest. Some have been dancing on the train that brought them all the way to Frankfurt. Special trains were organized to bring fans from the north and the south of Germany to the gigs in Frankfurt and Dortmund, trains that felt like a discotheque, and thousands have been partying for hours before the gig. While I wait, I look around at the crowd. And what a crowd! There was a bit of everything: new punks and rockers, disco queens and poppers, blacks, white, yellow, GI Joes by the thousands from the nearby American bases, street kids and rich kids and nearly all the youth cultures you could think of, all ready to take off. The place felt a bit like a big pow wow, a modern-day Woodstock with a high level of extravaganza. I had never seen anything like it. No one looked like the other, everybody had something special, odd, original, groovy on. By making dance music with such a big degree of groove, sexiness, mastery and rhythm, with power drums and long guitar solos, street beats and great lyrics he appealed to all music lovers from all sides of the music fences. His persona and his looks, both vibrant and sexy, and his sexy motherfucking appeal, did the rest. Prince was not a disco star, a rock star or a pop star. Prince was just that. He was a musical cross dresser who managed to touch all music dimensions of modern music. And this would prove it.
The party mood was there. And when the first lights were lit and Prince showed up in a huge American pink cabrio the crowd just went mad. “Housequake” was one the first songs, a true earthquake of rhythm assisted by Prince’s guitar riffs and the powerful drums of Sheila E., the sexy drummer who would drive the crowd mad for the duration of the concert with her power drumming. There we were dancing in a concert by a black funk star with all the typical elements of a rock concert, from the riffs to the drumming. This explained to a great extent the huge diversity of the crowd. In 1988 Prince’s was at its peak and in ten years he had released his best and grooviest songs, a bit like the late David Bowie who passed away this year and whose main body of work was composed also in one decade. Prince’s first album was released in 1978 and recognistion would come one year after with his new LP and the track “I feel for you”, a song later covered by Chaka Khan in 1984. But the record that set the tone and fired him to stardom was “1999”, released in 1982 and which featured the powerful song “1999”, one of his best tunes ever. Two years after “Purple Rain” was there and did the rest, consolidating his career thanks to the powerful “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry”, and notably “Purple Rain” the song most people remember by this small prince from Minneapolis. The man was unstoppable and one year after more was to come under the form of great hits, contained in the album “Around the world in a Day”: “Pop Life”, “Raspberry Beret”, “Around the “World in a Day” and “Tamborine”. In 1986 another big hit would catapult him once again to stardom. “Parade” had just been launched and “Kiss” was the song being aired everywhere, a song and a video clip of overt sexiness no one could be indifferent to. “Girls and Boys”, both sexy and daring was another, along with the beautiful “Sometimes snows in April” the sentence used as headline by most of the world media to report his tragic passing this April. Death was also a sad reality in the mid-eighties as thousands died from a disease with a little name. This was the motto for “Sign of the times” from the eponymous album launched in 1987 and his most coherent album featuring some of his best songs from “Starfish and Coffee” to “Sign of the Times” through “The Cross” or “If I was your girlfriend”, just to name a few. In 1988 he launched “Lovesexy”, the album he was promoting at this concert in Frankfurt. But most of the people had been drawn to this stadium to listen to the magnificent “Sign of the Times” and to the the great body of work he had released from 1978 to 1988. Prince died yesterday at the age of 57 and the whole world acclaims him as one of the best artists ever in modern music. I saw him live after this but this German gig will remain in forever in my memory – I had seen the huge small artist at the peak of his career.
Carlos Tomé Sousa