A Paler Shade Of Purple

May 17, 2018

The world has lost an artist. A true artist. An artist we won't see the likes of for a very long time.

Prince's musical genius cannot be overstated. A pop song writing machine from the age of 19, Prince's career went from strength to strength as he released hit after hit. His mixture of funk, rock and soul transcended the barriers of race, as he amassed fans from every corner of the globe. His skills as a multi-instrumentalist were legendary, but what inspired me most, was Prince's guitar playing.


To this day, I have not met a guitarist who cited Prince as one of his/her influences, which I can understand to a certain degree.


Over-the-top dance routines and synth-driven pop songs could have easily convinced most 80s rockers that they were witnessing another here today, gone tomorrow "musician". I must admit, I didn't take Prince seriously either when I was starting my journey as a guitarist. Clapton, Hendrix and AC/DC were all I needed. And then I heard Purple Rain...

I almost wasn't ready for the sonic onslaught of it. It just seemed to get bigger and bigger until it crescendoed into a guitar solo I could not have imagined in my wildest, guitar-filled dreams. The emotion behind it was, and is still, tangible. Purple Rain proved to me that Prince was a musician who should be taken very seriously.

I began to delve heavily into Prince's body of work, devouring any recording I could find. From the groove heavy Cream, to the emotional When Doves Cry, I was transfixed. Every note, every phrase, every lick, perfectly executed. I hated myself for not discovering his music sooner. One needs go no further for an example of Prince's guitar playing prowess, than listening to his solo at the end of Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne's cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

 Like Hendrix, Prince never seemed to stick within the "rules" of music and guitar playing in general. This can be heard in Cream, where in multiple riffs, Prince moves freely between the major and minor scales of Bb, all in one lick! Certainly a case of learning the rules only to break them later.

I cannot more strongly urge fledgling guitarists to pay close attention to Prince's approach to our favourite instrument. His control, his feel and, more importantly, his acute understanding of where his instrument should sit in order to best serve the song, are lessons that we as guitarists, and musicians, would be all the better for learning.

Prince's death has come at a time when pop music is becoming more and more generic, with different artists beginning to sound worryingly alike, making the loss of this boundary pushing artist all the more tragic. The world is a little less purple.

I was, and will always be, proud to claim Prince as one of my all-time favourite guitarists.

You will be missed.


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