Why Is Prince So Vital?

for: Ronald Primeau

It was like the legend of Johann Sebastian Bach which encompassed his sons who followed him, attempting to shape what they heard in their minds and hearts and to place those ideas on paper so the world could see what they had imagined.

So it was with James Brown, Godfather of Soul, and the motions his body took on as it engaged in the righteousness of song, which caught fire in Michael Jackson as he danced his way, irrevocably, towards the Moon while all the entranced young boys, imitated him as if he were The Pied Piper of Hamlin. And who should follow in this wake but Prince as if he had been called forth by the hand of God.

Talented as Prince was, and David Bowie was, and Lady Gaga is, they all added two other elements to their acts: make-up and fantastic dress; which no performer had imagined, let alone performed in.

It was an explosive that fired the imagination. And they dared to take themselves directly to the cliff’s edge. That is how James Brown danced to the last, and that is how Michael Jackson was prepared to dance his last tour, and that is what Prince was doing as he gave those last performances.

It was all about motion among this triumvirate. They took the song and danced it; the song took them and turned them into pure rhythm. It was daring and it was breathtaking, and we watched as only an audience can and always does when it is entranced. We could see the magic taking place right before our very eyes and we were all mesmerized. We watched, but we could not tell you how it was done, only that it was done, that it had been done.

The legend has been appropriated, the pulse added to the rumor. The history extended.

So we say, whatever it was the father did, James Brown would be blamed for it, and what he thought was a righteous gift he gracefully passed it along to this son Michael and that son passed it along to Prince. They danced like they were connected to the Holy Spirit, perspiring in the sun because the fans, with expensive adulation, demanded of them what other men could not give them.

This is how history is bestowed on one generation after the other. It is our wealth, it is what we could carefully pack and bring with us, imported as we were, headed toward the new world dancing.