Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony airs in about half an hour on VH-1 (and reairs another 2 hours after that, but probably not for the last time). It's not as exciting a crop of inductees as the last couple years. In other words, there probably won't be any speeches as good as Tom Morello's allusion to Steinbeck in lauding the Clash or Anthony Kiedis's observation that when he started listening the Talking Heads, "I wanted to have sex with a lot of librarians."

But there is still Prince, the only shoo-in among this year's batch. A guitar virtuoso who has always remembered that a great guitar solo doesn't matter if the song as a whole doesn't make you want to shake your butt. He created the funkiest music of the '80s. His appeal crossed racial barriers, especially since the very concept of a black rock and roll guitarist had largely died with Jimi Hendrix.

Most of all, Prince rules because it's all about the music with him. He kept his acceptance speech at the ceremony short in favor of playing; he reportedly skipped the ceremony's after-party to go play a set at another club. The backstage reports from his appearance at the Grammys last month was that he put in long hours of rehearsal, a tactic that clearly paid off. The most persistent rumor about Prince isn't some strange scandal in his personal life but that he has thousands of songs stockpiled at Paisley Park, that the guy writes and records far faster than the industry knows how to get the material out to the public. Unlike Madonna, who probably timed her pregnancies to maximize the publicity synergy with her commercial projects, he really does keep his private live private, not merely claiming to do so while exploiting it at opportune times. While he's kept his love life quiet, it appears that his way of proclaiming his ardor for a woman is to write her a hit single. By reverting to his given name from the unpronounceable symbol, he's put the focus back on his talent and maybe managed to get the word out about why his having done so was an act of protest against his stifling record label (see above about stockpiled recordings.) And, at least according to the proclamation of one of my friends in 1984, he made one of the greatest movies ever with Purple Rain; she may have changed her mind since then, and I wasn't buying the argument, but Purple Rain is undoubtedly recorded one of the greatest movie soundtracks ever.

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