Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, hard working Scandinavian farmers, liberal politicians and mediocre sports teams, is also the birthplace and last resting place of a 1.58 metre tall force of nature called Prince.
Before Prince, Minnesota’s most famous musical son was a skinny Jewish kid named Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan. And like Dylan, who radically redefined the notion of folk, pop and rock music, Prince (born Roger Nelson), remoulded R&B into a musical form that was infinitely more complex, rich and exciting than anything that had been pedalled before him.
With his death on Thursday, at age 57, popular music has entered an era that will henceforth be known, as AP—After Prince. His contribution to popular music is nothing less than genre-defining and so his loss is as equally traumatic to fans, critics and peers as the passing of David Bowie is to pop music.
As a student at the University of Minnesota my first awareness with Prince was as the bus driver’s son from North Minneapolis, the black ghetto. He had made a couple of well-received albums, including Dirty Minds notable more than anything for the fact that he played every instrument on them. A good-looking novelty act, nothing more. Or so we thought.