Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince, June 7, 1958 - April 21, 2016

Backstage at the Bottom Line, NYC, 1980

In January I was very surprised to learn of David Bowie's passing at age 69 from cancer. Today however, I was truly stunned when I read the news that Prince has died at age 57 (the exact cause is unknown at this early stage.)  Like Bowie, Prince Rogers Nelson was hugely influential, enjoyed a career that spanned decades and had an enormous catalog to draw from when performing live - which he in fact did up until Saturday. Thus, it is some comfort to know that he got to do what he loved best, almost until the very end.

Due to his highly publicized opinion of YouTube's business model, there are no official Prince videos on YouTube, and his reps famously remove any illegally uploaded clips almost as quickly as they appear. He was also highly selective of which services should be allowed to stream his music: Tidal is currently the only one.

Stubborn? Check. An eccentric? Check. A so-so actor plus an okay film director? Check and check. But Prince was much more than that: a wunderkind with a debut full-length release at age 19, an extraordinarily gifted songwriter, a superb guitarist, a unique vocalist, a multi-instrumentalist, a mentor, a fashion icon, a gender bender, a chameleon, a sublime live performer, a genius producer. Not to mention someone who continues to inspire his fellow artists, as evidenced by a clip that I found on the very same video site that His Purple Highness may have had his personal beef with, but which in all fairness provides a platform for countless singers and musicians who do not enjoy his kind of fame.

Such is the case with 24-year-old Israeli, NYC based jazz pianist Guy Mintus who recorded a session last year with fellow Israeli Yinon Muallem, a resident of Istanbul since 2002. Born in 1968 to parents of Iraqi origin, Muallem is an acclaimed percussionist, oudist and composer; for this performance he recruited two Turkish colleagues: vocalist Elif Caglar and Erkan Ogur on fretless guitar and E-bow guitar. The result is a beautiful cover of a beautiful original, one that I believe its composer would have loved. And in light of his passing during this particular month in late spring, it seems more than fitting to post "Sometimes It Snows in April".