R.I.P. Tim Rollins- A Remembrance

Tim was a miraculous being.

“I’m Blessed,” he always replied when I asked him how he was. Indeed, he was. Certainly, now, too.

Rarely in Art History, if ever, has there been an Artist who gave of himself so completely to his students that he put their names on the work they created and considered them collaborators. Right now, at The Met, you will look long and very hard at the work of Ghirlandaio for signs of the hand of his young apprentice, Michelangelo, in their blockbuster show of the latter’s work. Elsewhere, it’s the same with Verrocchio’s work for signs of the young Leonardo da Vinci. Would they put their apprentices names on their work? Never!1 Ditto for the apprentices and assistants of almost ANY Artist in Art history, right up through today.

Not Tim.

Each and every work he created is signed “Tim Rollins & K.O.S.,” for “Kids of Survival,” as his group of young students named themselves early on. While most Artists who collaborate do it for a short period, he did it for 35 years- his entire career! A career that has ended, now, way too soon with his passing on December 26th.

Beginning in 1981 at I.S. 52, an NYC junior high school, he took students from beginners and taught them about Art, Literature, discipline, technique, about what it took to succeed at anything, including Art, and, most importantly, about life. But, these were no ordinary students. These were “at risk” youths in the South Bronx during one of the worst times in recent New York City’s history! Tim’s was no after school babysitting Art class. His was the real deal. “Today we’re going to make Art, but we are also going to make history,” he famously told them.

And? They did.

He took classics of Literature, from Shakespeare through Malcolm X, and had the students read and study them. They then distilled the book down to an essence, which they each created images based on their own interpretation & experiences. These were then collaged over actual pages of the book.

Talk about making history? This one’s in MoMA’s Permanent Collection

“Tim Rollins, K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) with Angel Abreu, Jose Burges, Robert Delgado, George Garces, Richard Lulo, Nelson Montes, José Parissi, Carlos Rivera, Annette Rosado, Nelson Ricardo Savinon ‘Amerika VIII,’ 1986-87, Watercolor, charcoal, synthetic polymer paint, and pencil on bookpages on linen, 70 x 14”. That’s how the wall card read when I saw this work at MoMA’s “What is Painting? Contemporary Art from the Collection” in 2007. This work is based on Kafka’s “Amerika,” a key work for the group. MoMA Photo.

Imagine how it made the students feel to see this? Regardless of the commercial success they subsequently achieved, the notoriety and all the trappings of “Art fame,” that they got grief about, you can’t put a price on that kind of support for young people. In my opinion, what really matters is that quite a few of them have gone on to college and to Art careers themselves. Tim left his teaching post in 1987 and established a Studio with the group in Chelsea as the area was becoming a center of Art in NYC.

I met Tim some years later and had the privilege of speaking to him at length numerous times. He was very encouraging. “Recognize the creative glimmer in others,” was one of his mantras that he lived. He saw and encouraged mine. We talked about a huge range of things, from the Old Masters to current shows and developments. Contrary to many Artists who are focused on their current project at hand, Tim was aware of seemingly everything going on in the Art world. Was The Met’s determination that  Velazquez’ “Portrait of a Man,” was really a Self- Portrait correct? We both felt it most likely was. What about the small Michelangelo “Young Archer” that’s now in the center spotlight at their Michelangelo show- What it REALLY his? When it first arrived at The Met, where it has been virtually ignored for most of the past decade by most visitors, sure enough, Tim had seen it and we discussed it at length. He introduced me to the work of Joseph Beuys. I was endlessly impressed by his awareness, the breadth of his taste and the depth of his knowledge. He was a true student of Art History as well as of Literary History. The last two times I saw Tim, we spoke about the Rauschenberg show at MoMA. He had gone to see it on May 28th, and I ran into him on his way back. I could tell his mind was full of thoughts, and reactions to it, and he asked if I was going. Busy finsihing up other pieces, I went for the first of 18 times 3 days later. Then, he said quietly- “I knew him.” Instantly, I asked him if I could get a quote from him about Rauschenberg for my piece that I knew I was going to write, and he agreed.

I ran into Tim, for the last time, on July 31st, and again, we spoke about Rauschenberg, this time comparing notes on the show I was devouring room by room. I showed him my new at the time Raymond Pettibon Posts, and we spoke about him and his work. I told him I had blocked out the entire summer to research and write what turned out to be 3 Posts on the MoMA Rauschenberg show and the 4 satellite shows going on around town.

I have no excuse, but I never got around to writing him for a quote for those pieces. I was scrambling doing so much reading and researching I plum didn’t get around to it. But, I did hope he’d read them and we’d have a talk about them and how I did. Now, I dedicate all three pieces to his memory.

Tim on his Birthday in 2011, with three of his “Kids,” including Artist & Photographer Rick Savignon, to Tim’s left.

Over the years, I also became friendly with Rick Savinon, a wonderfully talented Artist & Photographer, who is one of the first Kids of Survival. After having known them both for a few years, I discovered the excellent Documentary, “Kids of Survival: The Art and Life of Tim Rollins & K.O.S.” WOW! Tim as a young(er) man! Rick as a VERY young man! It was like watching private family films, except this “extended family” was living a “quasi-public” life as their work was being shown in major gallery and museum shows, AND being filmed for a documentary! Award winning, it’s still the best introduction to Tim and the “Kids,” though I prayed for years it would be updated. I still hope it will be. I was also present after Tim received the draft of the retrospective monograph, “Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History,” which he was proofreading, and  which was published by MIT Press in 2009. It was the size of a MASSIVE phone book. I remember thinking that I had no idea how prolific he had been in his career (which would have another 8 years to go). A traveling Retrospective followed it’s release, which appeared at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania and at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle. Ostensibly marking 25 years of work, there seemed to be so much vitality around Tim, and so much more still to do.

Tim Rollins had an extraordinarily kind and giving spirit- In many ways that I experienced first hand. When I ran into him, I could never tell if he’d had a bad day- he was extremely even tempered, and he always lived in the moment.

The Chelsea District of Manhattan is now known for it’s Art galleries and Artist’s studios. Tim Rollins is one of the people who made it what it is today. More importantly, his spirit, congeniality, supportiveness, creativity, and his firm guiding hand made many friends, and most of all, he taught at risk “kids” that Art could be a way to learn about life, and in the case of a number of them, a way to college, to a career, and a better life. I’m not surprised one bit that any number of the K.O.S. become longtime, even lifelong friends of Tim’s.

Also an Art Practice faculty member at the School of Visual Arts, Tim left a legacy that I hope countless teachers study, learn from and incorporate. And? I hope that NYC names a School of the Arts after Tim Rollins.

I prefer to think of Tim’s passing this way. Here, he (in the sharp Blue jacket) walks away, leaving me pondering our Rauschenberg conversation on May 28th, after he had seen the MoMA Rauschenberg Retrospective. I don’t know why I took this Photo. Something just told me to. I prefer to think he’s gone to his next meeting and we’ll talk again.

Tim taught me a lot, and in doing so gave me a tiny bit of the feeling of what “his kids” got from him. I’ll never forget his kindness and his supportive & encouraging words.

“Ask me how I’m doing
I’m blessed, yes
Living every moment, no regrets
Smile up on my face, I’m like, oh yes
I’m blessed, yes
I’m blessed, yes”*

“I’m Blessed,” too, Tim. I was Blessed to know you.

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “I’m Blessed,” by Charlie Wilson.

This Post was created by Kenn Sava for nighthawknyc.com
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  1. In fact, at the time, the apprentices paid for the priviledge of learning form the master, though they were often put to work helping him earn money.

R.I.P. James Rosenquist- American Master

I was saddened to learn of the passing of the great James Rosenquist today at age 83. One of the greatest American Painters of the Post World War II era, he began as an outdoor Billboard painter (from 1957-1960). Ever since I first learned that, I’ve paid attention to the few that are still hand painted. I always stop and take a photo of them when a new ad is in progress, partly out of fascination at the death defying skill involved, and because they are wonderfully abstract before they’re finished. I actually took this photo on West 34th Street earlier this afternoon, before I learned of his passing, of one of the few outdoor billboards that are still hand-painted. Fittingly, it was unfinished. I post it in homage.

I shot this unfinished, hand painted Billboard at West 34th & 8th Avenue this afternoon, before I heard James Rosenquist, who began as a billboard painter, had passed. Fittingly abstract. Click any image to enlarge.

Mr. Rosenquist’s Retrosective at the Guggenheim in 2004 was a spectacle that overwhelmed the eyes and the senses. I lived with this on a smaller scale, (though too large for my small space), after I bought a set of 7 prints by Mr. Rosenquist, another example of which was in the Guggenheim extravaganza. The title of the series, “High Technology and Mysticism: A Meeting Point,” proved tantalizing and inspired endless speculation. Typicaly, they  were so large, (each 34 x 33 inches) that I could only hang one at a time.

“The” by James Rosenquist, 1981, limited edition print (set of 7) based on his photography.

Each print is titled by hand with a one word title. Together the 7 titles form the “poem,” or haiku,- “Somewhere Above The Sky Silverbirds Fly Somewhere.” In the Rosenquist Print Catalog by Glenn, Mr. Rosenquist says of them- “It was the first thing I had ever done that was solely photographic. I went to unusual lengths to take photographs. I was specifically trying to sandwich negatives together to bring about a certain look, a certain thing that I wanted through this photo process…I went to study where technology was illustrated, in libraries and other places. I went to hospitals to see how it all related to the human being. I went all over the place to see the sources of imagery from technology and find out what it had to do with so-called art. So, I came up with these strange shapes, DNA symbols, electrical circuits.”

“Fly,” From the same series, 1981.

When you look at these works, bear in mind that Adobe Photoshop was first released in 1990- nine years after Mr. Rosenquist created these remarkable images. Yes, he created these works that reference “high technology,” without actually USING high technology. How fitting to Post, and revisit, these now when they serve as, both, my personal remembrance of this great Artist, and because my head has been buried in Contemporary Photography.

And “Somewhere,” ditto. Where have you seen anything similar? Even Mr. Rosenquist never worked in this style again.

James Rosenquist hasn’t received as much attention (it seems to me) as his contemporaries Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein or Robert Rauschenberg (who’s Retrospective is set to open at MoMA next month and sure to be a blockbuster). He was an Artist who never stopped growing, and neither did the size of his work. I loved that about it, almost as much as I marveled at his powers of invention. Originally dubbed a “pop artist,” by those who need some sort of crutch (bear that in mind when you read his Obituaries that try to put him in that box), Mr. Rosenquist’s work quickly grew beyond categories. And stayed there. One only had to see the final huge gallery of his most recent work at the Guggenheim show to feel overwhelmed at the size and scale of his vision, and marvel at them. It’s something very, very few Artists, especially Painters have matched.

That scale, and the daring of his vision are what I will miss most. “Sail on, Silverbird…”*

I think I’ll remember James Rosenquist as he is seen in the front of the Guggenheim Retrospective Catalog, in my signed copy.

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Paul Simon, published by Universal Music Publishing Group.

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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

R.I.P. Master Saxophonist Arthur Blythe

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Arthur Blythe this past week. Mr. Blythe was a Master of the Alto Saxophone, who, after having worked as a bouncer, started making his name (as “Black” Arthur Blythe) on the NYC avant garde loft scene, centered around Sam River’s “Studio RivBea” in the late-1970’s. This led Mr. Blythe to tantalizing first solo records for small and adventurous labels, before finally breaking out in 1980 on Columbia Records.

Arthur Blythe on the cover of his 1991 ENJA album “Hipmotism.”

“Adventurous” is a word I’d use to sum up what attracted me to him, actually. His early masterpieces like “The Grip” and “Metamorphosis,” (both on India Navigation) were never far from my turntable back in the day, bringing a breath of fresh air both in his writing and compositions as well as in his choice of instrumentation (bringing back the tuba, a staple of Jazz’ earliest bands, instead of the bass), as in his singular, searing and singing tone, his instantly recognizable “trademark.”

Adventure Lives! “The Grip” and “Metamorphosis,” both recorded live on the same date have been reissued on this “In Concert” CD.

The back of “Metamorphosis” with some of it’s early reviews. Exhilarating & ground-breaking, I say.

Mr. Blythe retained that adventurousness on his first Columbia records, “Lenox Avenue Breakdown,” and “In the Tradition,” both very good, leading to his masterpiece, “Illusions,” which alternated a classic acoustic Jazz Quartet, featuring John Hicks, with his more adventurous electric group,l which included guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer, cellist Abdul Wadud and Bob Stewart’s tuba, on a record that I don’t think anyone quite saw coming. Coming smack dab in the middle of the fusion/jazz purist war started by Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” in 1969-70, here was a record that had a foot in both camps at the same time, which was unheard of. Then, he was increasingly forced by label pressures to “go commercial,” and his subsequent Columbia releases proved more and more disappointing, especially after “Light Blue,” his Thelonious Monk album. Later, Arthur Blythe recorded for ENJA, Contemporary Records, and others, with mixed results. But, live, in concert, or in a club, remained a great place to hear him, and his unique sound, one of the most powerful on the Alto of his generation, a power matched by his inside/outside style, which made him comfortable in any musical setting (like Jack DeJohnette’s “Special Edition” Band), and a presence that struck me as being defined by grace, even though he was a large man.

“Illusions” One of the great Jazz Albums of the 1980’s.

More recently, I’d heard rumors of illnesses, including Parkinson’s, but hoped he’d finally get a chance to be himself and fully realize his unique musical vision. Those chances seemed both rare and elusive. Now? To my mind, he leaves us under-appreciated, which is complicated to change because of the external factors I mention that effect his discography. I hope that future diligent Jazz lovers will explore his records, and keep his legacy alive.
*- Soundtrack for this Post is “My Son Ra” by Arthur Blythe, a staple in his live performances, it appears on both “In Concert,” and “Illusions.”

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A Tribe Called Quest- From Linden Boulevard To…Forever

When Q-Tip suddenly announced there would be a new, and final, album from A Tribe Called Quest coming out on November 11, you could have knocked me over with a cotton swab. Even after reading his hand written note a few times I still couldn’t believe it.

Did ANYONE see this coming? What would it be like? Afterall, one of it’s core members, Phife Dawg, passed away on March 22, as I mourned.

But, there I was November 15th, when I was finally able to get my hands on a download, and the experience was surreal. It reminded me of seeing “Eyes Wide Shut,” Stanley Kubrick’s unexpected last film, finished just before he died, on the day it opened, July 16, 1999. I was in the first row, and I’ll never forget the opening- on the huge black screen, big white letters appeared-

TOM CRUISE

then

NICOLE KIDMAN

and, finally

A Film By STANLEY KUBRICK

A chill ran up my spine. Oh My God…Another Stanley Kubrick movie, TWELVE YEARS after “Full Metal Jacket” in 1987! Forever my personal favorite director, I NEVER expected to see another film by him ever again, and here it was…

I’m not making any comparisons here between Stanley Kubrick and ATCQ other than to say they both occupy large places in my heart, and to say these unexpected final works had a similar shocking effect on me. What would they add to the canon they’ve already created? What new would we learn? For me, Tribe had more “Jazz” going on than any other group I’d heard that wasn’t an actual “Jazz Group,” even though Q-Tip, himself, played this down after people started calling them “Hip-Hop Jazz.” It’s in there. Yes, they had a lot of a lot of things going on, it was the way their lyrics flowed like a solo, with the same freedom, the same unexpected, thrilling turns, the interplay, and, Q-Tip’s voice has a “Jazz” edge to it. I hear bits of singers like Eddie Jefferson,  and even Billie Holiday in Q-Tip’s style. Beyond this, in terms of production, lyrical content and their approach, Tribe stood apart and alone, as far as I was concerned. While they addressed serious topics, like date rape, drug dealing on “Everything Is Fair,” and even the music biz tell-all, “Show Business,” on the sublime “The Low End Theory,” nothing interrupts their flow, and the music overcomes all. If there was an overriding “message” I took from A Tribe Called Quest? That was it.

From “Low End Theory” on, I followed each one up with seeing them live. I even drove to Asbury Park, NJ to see them in a small bar. There were so many people there, people were standing on the seats of the booths that ran along the wall. I was among the row of people standing on the narrow curved shoulder of those booths, with my head inches from the ceiling. I also saw them on New Year’s Eve at the Palladium, with Leaders of the New School and DeLa Soul. The amazing thing about that gig for me was that Tribe performed with a live band! I had always dreamed of hearing Tribe with a live band of improvisors.

“My pops used to say it reminded him of be-bop.”

Yeah. That’s it. That’s what I mean.

“I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles”1

Yeah.

Seeing their name on a new album, again? It’s on 5 previous albums that are seminal to quite a few people’s lives. Each one was an event, a cause for marathon listenings and discussions, about the lyrics, the style, the tracks, the cover…all of it.

Here it is- “We got it from Here…Thank You for Your service.” Available direct.

And now, EIGHTEEN YEARS after ‘The Love Movement” came out in 1998 (which isn’t considered their best album in anyone’s estimation that I know of), that same “Eyes Wide Shut” feeling returned. I put it on, shut my wide eyes and listened….

First up? “The Space Program.” It starts with a sample from a pretty obscure “blaxploitation” film called “Willie Dynamite,” from 1974, that says-

“I’mma deal with a bigger insult,man
It’s comin’ down hard
We’ve got to get our sh*t together”

Hmmm….Auspiciously setting the stage right away. This sure isn’t “The Love Movement.” Then, Q-Tip AND Phife take over-

“It’s time to go left and not right
Gotta get it together forever
Gotta get it together for brother
Gotta get it together for sisters”*

I was in shock. I didn’t realize that Phife had lived to work on this. It was downright eerie hearing him, especially singing that verse, and then solo, with the line

“Gotta get it together for dead niggas…”*

Whoa…

Yeah. But now they’re talking about ‘forever.” As in “Gotta get it together forever.” Has anyone in any form of “popular music” said that since Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song“? That’s pretty serious. Between “The Space Program,” and especially on the following, “We The People,” I’ve never heard Q-Tip sound more serious. But wait. This is just getting started. After verses by Q-Tip & Jarobi, here’s the chorus, with Q-Tip rapping the lines not in parenthesis, which are sung by a chorus-

“(Move on to the stars)
There ain’t a space program for niggas
Yeah, you stuck here, nigga
(Move on to the stars)
There ain’t a space program for niggas
Yeah, you stuck here, nigga
(Move on to the stars)
There ain’t a space program for niggas
Yeah, you stuck here, nigga
(Move on to the stars)
There ain’t a space program for niggas
Yeah, you stuck, stuck, stuck
(Move on to the stars)”*

As I said, Tribe hasn’t been heard from since 1989, though Q-Tip has on his excellent solo albums (“The Renaissance” is especially highly recommended.), as has Phife on his (and word came down this week that his second solo album will be released posthumously!). But someone who has been heard from during their absence was the great Gil Scott-Heron, who died on May 28, 2011, and who some call a founding father of rap. He released the amazing “I’m New Here” in 2010, which was remixed by Jamie xx as “We’re New Here” and the posthumous “Nothing New,” in 2014. But, back in 1970, Gil Scott released a record called “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” that included the track, “Whitey On The Moon.” This was during the Apollo moon landings that began in July, 1969. Here are it’s lyrics-

“A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey’s on the moon)
I can’t pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still.
(with Whitey on the moon)
The man jus’ upped my rent las’ night.
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
I wonder why he’s uppi’ me?
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon?)
I was already payin’ ‘im fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,
Junkies makin’ me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin’ up,
An’ as if all that shit wasn’t enough”

Lyrics by Gil Scott-Heron and Published by Carlin America Inc.

It’s hard for me, anyway, not to think that Q-Tip and Tribe have heard it2, but they’ve taken the possible influence of Gil Scott’s classic into a galaxy far away. With all the talk by Elon Musk, and others, about going to Mars, Tribe have a point. A cynic would respond that those who don’t have the money to fund their trip to space will get there the same way those who didn’t in the past did- by taking the jobs those with the money don’t want to do. Still? It’s a song I can hear becoming an anthem years down the road. Along with “Whitey On The Moon,” it’s the second blues song of the space age (“Space Oddity,” “Rocket Man,” or “Subterranean Homesick Alien” notwithstanding.).

It’s also quite a departure for Tribe. They’ve never made a “statement” as blatant as this.

And? It isn’t the last one here.

The song ends with another movie sample, this one from “Willy Wonka,” featuring the voice of the late Gene Wilder saying-

“A small step for mankind
But a giant step for us
Oompa, loompa, doopa dee doo
I’ve got another puzzle for you.”*

The “A small step…” line is of course the first line uttered by Neil Armstrong on the moon, and as for Oompa, loompa, Urban Dictionary’s #10 definition of this references Donald Trump, who has also been referred to by this name by Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert & SNL…This goes right into the second track, “We the people…,” which brings the emphasis back to earth, and right up to the moment.

“We don’t believe you ‘cause we the people
Are still here in the rear, ayo, we don’t need you.”*

And it gets more intense from there, culminating in a chorus that led the Village Voice in their cover article on Tribe to call this the “Soundtrack for the Trump-ocalypse.”

Village Voice, November 22, 2016 cover. Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Consequence, and Jarobi clockwise from upper left

 

Damn.

Here’s their official music video for it, which is sitting right at 2 million views as I write this-

Along the way, right in the middle of it, don’t miss this instant classic verse from Phife, that contains respect for women that Hip Hop rarely gets accused of showing-

“”Dreaming of a world that’s equal for women with no division
Boy, I tell you that’s vision
Like Tony Romo when he hitting Witten
The Tribe be the best in they division
Shaheed Muhammad cut it with precision
Who can come back years later, still hit the shot?”*

 It’s obvious, at least to me, that Tribe weren’t happy with the way “The Love Movement” stood as their final work. Phife is quoted on wikipedia as saying, circa 2007, about a possible Tribe reumion-
“Man, we was only 18–19 when we first got started. [When] We broke up we were still like 28. Now we are 35–36. It’d be real different being in the studio. It would be real interesting to see where Q-Tip is. It would all be on a much higher level. But we are all into such different stuff from way back then.”

Different in almost every way it is. Whereas previously they left grand political and cultural statements to Public Enemy (“Fight The Power,” etc),  and others. Not here. They’re saying it all for the record, on a record that is going to stand alongside their other albums and show anyone who listens what they were really all about.

Forever.

Then again, there could be something else at work here. It could be “maturity,” that being 18 years older brings, as Phife said. It could be that it is, indeed, “comin’ down hard” now, perhaps as hard as it ever has. Or, it could be the influence of that other “D” word.

No. Not him.

Death.

The loss of, and respect for Phife is all over this record. On genius, Jarobi White was quoted as saying of him- “Doing this album killed him. And he was very happy to go out like that.”

What more could possibly be said?

“Lost Somebody” is one attempt to put some of it into words. Jarobi in Verse 2-

“Never thought that I would be ever writing this song.
Hold friends tight, never know when those people are gone.”*

Before the chorus comes in-

“Have you ever loved somebody?
Way befoe you got to dream?
No more crying, he’s in sunshine
He’s alright now, see his wings”*

Respect, and love, for Phife is constant and endlessly a part of this record, even when his voice isn’t heard. I’m not going to do a track by track of the whole album. We’d be here a very long time. Check it out for yourself. I will say that other highlights for me include guest spots by Andre 3000 on “Kids…,” a no pulled punches, straight up dispelling of the the imagined hip hop (or “star’s”) life, which includes the already famous line, “Kids, don’t you know how all this sh*t is fantasy?”*) is just amazing on a track that is already garnered significant buzz. Elton John, a sample of who’s “Benny & The Jets” forms the basis for “Solid Wall of Sound,” a unique, sonic marvel, which also includes Jack White’s guitar, before Elton winds it up with a new verse written for this record, and Abbey Smith on the addiction ode “Melatonin.” Like Tribe at it’s best, these tracks get under your skin and stay there.

It’s under my skin. That play count, on the right, is mounting a month in.

There are riches galore. It’s always an unexpected joy to hear Phife here, especially when paired with Q-Tip, his childhood friend, as it is to hear Busta Rhymes, who Tribe made famous. Another surprise- Q-Tip’s playing (on keyboards, bass, and/or drums!)  and fresh production carry the day throughout, pushing the production envelope the way classic Tribe did, which, as Questlove once said, we expect from Tribe.

Finally, there’s the title. “We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service,” which Phife, apparently, came up with. The band says they don’t know what he meant by it. The best guess I’ve heard so far(*) is that it’s a dedication to President Obama. Then again? The album’s release date, November 11 is, also, Veteran’s Day! Then, again? That’s one of the things I’ve missed so much these past EIGHTEEN years. Discussing every detail of this record and hearing all the different interpretations there are about it.

PostScript- On Saturday, November 19th, Phife was honored with having the intersection of Linden Blvd and 192 Street in Queens, NY named in his honor, which you can watch here.. R.I.P., Phife. Linden Boulevard, which Tribe immortalized, may never be better represent, represent-ed.

Thank YOU, A Tribe Called Quest. For YOUR Service.

*-All Lyrics, and starred insights are from “We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service” by A Tribe Called Quest are quoted from genius.com, with nary a publishing credit anywhere to be found.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

  1. Both quotes from “Excursions” by Ali Shaheed Jones-Muhammad, Malik Izaak Taylor, Kamaal Ibn John Fareed of A Tribe Called Quest,  Lyrics Published by Universal Music Publishing Group.
  2. Check out Q-Tip’s excellent vinyl collection here. I’ll bet $1. “Small Talk” is in it.

Leonard Cohen, Chelsea Hotel #November 11, 2016

dsc_0406p2nh

If those paving stones could talk…The scene in front the Hotel Chelsea, currently covered in scaffolding, this afternoon after the passing of Leonard Cohen yesterday.

Here’s an iPhone video I shot outside of 222 West 23rd Street, world famous as the Hotel Chelsea, which Leonard Cohen helped to immortalize in no small way, through his songwriting, and his presence in Suite #424-

Leonard’s “Bird On A Wire” performed live by a couple who were “just passing through,” something that adds even more to it being a fitting tribute to Mr. Cohen, and the spirit of the Hotel Chelsea he helped foster.

Leonard Cohen's wall plaque is now behind the scaffolding, making it very hard to get a shot of.

One for the road. Leonard Cohen’s wall plaque is now behind the scaffolding, making it very hard to get a shot of, though folks were able to leave tributes nearby.

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UPDATE- As seen on Saturday, November 12

UPDATE- As seen on Saturday, November 12

I’ve got a good deal of personal history there, myself, these past 25 years, though none that directly involves Mr. Cohen. The Chelsea is the figurative center of the Chelsea Neighborhood, and was immortalized most recently by Patti Smith in “Just Kids,” which also took place before my time in the area. None the less, I have a ton of respect for all that went on there, and the amazing group of people who occupied the place, including my late friend, Storme, who I recently wrote about. Certainly Mr. Cohen is right up there with any of the others in terms of bringing to the Chelsea the cachet that made the place, the area, and the City a mecca for countless thousands of people- then and now.

Outside Academy Records, one of Manhattan's top Record & CD Stores, tonite.

Outside Academy Records, one of Manhattan’s top remaining Record & CD Stores, tonite.

In the basement of The Strand Bookstore tonite. Yes, the basement where Patti Smith once worked.

In the basement of The Strand Bookstore tonite. Yes, the basement where Patti Smith once worked.

I don’t know what the place is going to become now. I doubt it will retain much of it’s former energy. It’s another sign of the times. An era is slowly ending right before our eyes. Another place that was once a focus point for seemingly boundless creativity, filled with people who inspired each other, the world around them, and beyond, that now must be found somewhere else in town. While there will never be another Leonard Cohen, I look forward to the next generation of Musicians, Writers, Artists and Poets who’ve been inspired by him and all the others.

Hallelujah. There are some big shoes to fill…

More on the legendary Leonard Cohen at the Hotel Chelsea (which sits one block west of the recent bomb blast) can be found here.

R.I.P. Leonard Cohen.

*Soundtrack for this Post is “Chelsea Hotel, #2,” by Leonard Cohen. Thanks to kitty for reconnaissance assistance.

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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

Happy Anniversary To Me- Looking Back On Year One of NighthawkNYC.com

Today, July 15, is the first Anniversary of my first Post! It remains a good introduction to me, this site, and what has come after. Approximately 80 Posts have followed so far- about one and a half per week. One year is a good time to take a breath, look back and celebrate getting this far. So? Join me and raise a glass!

East River, NYC. July 4, 2016

CHEERS! Fourth of July Fireworks, 2016, East River, NYC

First, and last, THANK YOU! one and all for taking the time to stop in and read what I’ve written this past year! Thank you, especially, to Lana, who pushed me and pushed me until I started this Blog. I hope you’re happy now! I appreciate all the comments, corrections, suggestions and emails I’ve received very much as well. After all? Without you? I’m talking to myself. And, frankly, I get tired of doing that.

Looking back, this Blog has been quite a bit more work than I anticipated (though Magda tried to warn me), which surprises me because I’ve done this before- This is my 4th Blog (the other 3 are past tense).

"That shape is my shade, there where I used to stand." Steely Dan, from "Deacon Blues" quoted in my first post. The Nighthawk- hard at work.

“That shape is my shade, there where I used to stand.” Steely Dan, from “Deacon Blues” quoted in my first post. Hard at Work at “Nasreen Mohamedi,” The Met Breuer.

One post required 100 versions before I was happy enough with it to put it up, and a few others have been revised over 80 times prior. Believe it or not, NighthawkNYC has become close to a full time pursuit at this point. That wasn’t part of my initial plan for it, so how did this happen?

“Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream”*

While I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at Art these past 15 years especially, I spent triple that time this past year. I should reiterate that while I usually do quite a bit of research on whatever topic or show I’m writing about,

This shot was not staged.

This shot was not staged. Don’t try this at home, lest your house looks like mine.

I don’t read what anyone else has said about the show, sometimes even after I’ve finished writing about it. I’m aware that many writers see a show once, maybe twice and write about it. Most of them have deadlines to meet. I’m lucky. I don’t. I can spend as long as I need until I feel happy with a piece (My Post on the New Whitney Museum has been over a year in the works. I just hope I finish it before they go and build a newer one!) As I’ve hinted, I have a habit of basically moving in at a show I’m taken with. I’ve hit a dozen visits a number of times and this is for a show that may run 8-12 weeks. My thanks to all the security guards and employees who were at first like, “Him? Again??”, of these shows I’ve haunted. I like to “live” with the work so to speak and this is the only way I’ll ever be able to do that. Also, most good sized shows contain 100 to 200 works. They take time to study on any than a more than cursory level. Let’s face it, Good Art doesn’t yield all of it’s secrets in one viewing. And I, for one, especially value Art that says something different to me, or that I see something else (or new) in it with each viewing. IMHO, THAT is the Art you want to hang on your wall! Be it an original, for which we should all be so lucky, especially at today’s record prices, or a reproduction.

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As far as your mail goes, my Music Posts consistently generate more of it than my Art Posts, something that caught me by surprise, especially given the record numbers of people going to see Art. My Post on Patti Smith’s show “18 Stations” garnered the most interest. (Meeting Patti Smith, The Met’s Sheena Wagstaff, Artist Richard Estes, and others, were unexpected personal highlights of this past year. Another reason to ALWAYS have a camera on you.) I also got suggestions of shows or topics. While I always appreciate suggestions, it’s harder to answer if I will or won’t write about them. A certain amount of what I write about is dependent on the reaction I have to it. Most of the shows I see, frankly, leave me cold, and so you will never see them here. So, a show, musician, etc. that hits me and really speaks to me is where I begin. Yes, there have been other things besides Art & Music, here, too. What I call “Life.” They will continue. Along with “Life,” unfortunately, there have been WAY too many R.I.P. Posts this year, something I hope we are finished with for a long time. Beyond all of this, yes, there is a lot of freedom in being able to address people and/or things that I’d like to be able to talk about that I feel strongly need to be heard or seen. Ahhhh…such are the joys of paying all the bills, and having total freedom, even down to, finally, being your own editor. Also, it seems there is ALWAYS something unexpected going on that pulls me in it’s direction. Well? This is why I live in NYC, after all, right? Still, I am going to make a conscious effort to address Artists & Musicians I’ve been lucky enough to know, as well as more overlooked Artists (when I say Artists, I mean The “Arts,” not only the visual Arts, that are within my interest and experience). We shall see if the world of NYC Culture allows me to do that, or not. (I say this knowing that Moma is planning a B I G 2017.)

It goes without saying to anyone at all familiar with NYC that NO ONE could ever hope to see, hear or experience EVERYTHING that goes on here, even after so many irreplaceable cultural venues (especially live music clubs) have been lost over the past 20 years. Still? Even today, if I did nothing else but constantly go from one thing to the next, slept on the subway and buses and ate on the go 24/7, and wrote and shot this on my iPhone, It would still be impossible. It’s literally going on here from 9am until 4am seven days a week, at points in all 5 Boroughs, and beyond. Even if I were only to focus on The Met, which now also includes The Met Breuer, as well as the Cloisters way uptown (which I could get to via mass transit if I needed to, but it’s really a half-day trip all told), and focused on all their shows (about 25-30 at any given time), their concerts, lectures, special events, and on and on…it would be close to impossible for me. So? I have to be selective and choose things that speak to me and that I think more people should know about, or already have an interest in, and that I have some connection with, if possible. All of that being said, I have no immediate plans to leave Manhattan. Crazy, right? (Yes, I will probably hit Brooklyn, again at some point to be determined.) But leave the City? I’ll never say never- I almost went to Amsterdam for “Late Rembrandt,” and had a thought of going to Holland for the Jheronimus Bosch 500th Anniversary Show. But, after all the thinking about it, I realized that I am not a fan of travel. My life’s dream was to live in Manhattan and even though I know the world is full of great Art and Music, I’m content staying right here. Heck, It bugs me more that I still miss great things going on right here every single year!

On the other hand? We shall see how long this goes before I run out of things to say, or things to photograph. Hopefully, that won’t happen soon.

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July 4, 2016 Fireworks Photos taken at Kitty’s Party. Thanks, Kitty, for the Party & your support!

And now for some news for Year 2-

I have been photographing Musicians since the 1970’s, including quite a few all-time greats, and recently I have begun looking through those shots and finding out that some have survived, and some have not. I stored most of my early digital photos from 1998-2000 on removable media- remember Zip and Syquest Drives?- that have since became obsolete, and so the cartridges they were on wound up in recycling because I no longer had any way to read them! The lesson in that is that no computer file format is likely to last for long, so be careful how you store your files less this happens to you. Some of my photos taken on film have been found, so I’m hoping I can share some “vintage” photos as time goes on, in addition to digital shots taken recently. Beyond this, progress is being made towards the re-release of my music projects. I hope to have more news on this, too, soon.

In the meantime, please keep those comments, suggestions, feedback, and especically, those propositions coming! As those who have written to me know- you’ll hear back from me.

And, again, Thanks for reading this, or anything I’ve Posted here.

“I saw a film today oh boy
The English army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book
I’d love to turn you on”*

Have a great Night,
Kenn/NH.

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NighthawkNYC Version 2.0, with my alter ego, “Oof.”

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “A Day In The Life,” by John Lennon & Paul McCartney, from  The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s,” published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group.

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com
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Why Muhammad Ali Is “The Greatest Of All Time”

I hate boxing.

The only time I’ve ever watched it was when Cassius Clay, and then Muhammad Ali fought.

Why?

I have no idea, really. As a kid, he was just cool. Audacious. A poet.

“Float Like A Butterfly
Sting Like A Bee.”

Ok!

Then? He became

More.

He took it all to another level. First, he transcended losing. “I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.”

Then he transcended boxing.

Then he transcended sport.

Then he transcended politics.

Then he transcended national boundaries.

He was someone who had been to the mountaintop. He had survived everyone trying to bring him down- 61 in the ring (winning 56 times, beating guys named Liston, Frazier and Foreman), those who controlled the ring, the government, Parkinson’s disease, and on and on. All the while, he remained true to himself. Though he was ill for much of his later life (Hey? it was a miracle he survived those fights, right?), when I saw him on TV doing this or that, it was like seeing a vision. He struck me as something of a Bodhisattva, a being who, though he has achieved enlightenment, forgoes nirvana out of compassion in order to save others.

Why?

I believe Muhammad Ali was a Bodhisattva of the human spirit- indomitable, endlessly creative, a believer in himself, his courage, his cherished values. I have a feeling that whenever people saw him at these things, it was a reminder to those who remember- a “man who overcame so much, and he’s still standing,” moment, and he was a touchstone for those that didn’t remember. A living legend. A lesson, and example, for us all, incarnate.

“For what is a man, what has he got
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he trule feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way.”*

After all, isn’t the the ideal, the supreme accomplishment in boxing? To be the one left standing at the end?

Here we have the ultimate boxing metaphor in one human life. We have a man who transcended everything there was to transcend in life. And, in the end, he was still standing.

Muhammad Ali remains undefeated- in life.

 

(Get well soon, Sv.)

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “My Way,” by Paul Anka and Claude Francois as performed by Frank Sinatra. Published by Chrysalis Music Group, Inc.

This Post was created by and originally Posted on www.nighthawknyc.com. Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com
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The Miracle Also Known As Prince

I’ve written about Prince twice since he passed. The first time was a spontaneous reaction to the news, a kind of “I can’t believe it” experience that I’m sure many others had. The second consisted of my notes made while listening to his final performance online before it was pulled. During this time since his tragic passing I’ve been listening to his music pretty much non-stop, and as the dust surrounding his passing still fills the air, some clarity begins to emerge on the scope of Prince, the Artist, what he accomplished and left us.

That clarity is that it’s becoming clear that we only have part of the picture.

As I said regarding Miles Davis, I’m not going to get into whether he did drugs (his lawyer says he didn’t, that “no one ever saw him high.” Then again, who’s going to invite their lawyer if they’re about to do drugs?), or his personal life, but looking at the rest, I think as time goes on people are going to, sadly, look back at Prince with absolute wonder.

HOW was it possible he was great at so many things?

As a Songwriter- He released about 45 albums thus far. We all have favorites, the hits therein are voluminous. Then there are the album tracks, which I wonder how many have listened to, the B-Sides, etc. As great as they are, to think they tell the whole story of Prince’s legacy, or that we have even heard Prince’s “greatest” music may be a bit shortsighted, though, in my opinion. I (manually) counted 1,286 songs he composed listed here. I sure haven’t heard close to all of them. I have 75% of his albums. But, even if I had every single one of them I still won’t have heard all of what he’s written and released. Why? Because there are (many) songs he wrote for, or gave to, other artists, there are songs he released only through his own New Power Generation Music Club (NPGMC), songs he released only online, and on and on. He once mentioned that only the hard core fans have found and heard some of the gems buried in the deep cuts. And then? How many classics are among the unreleased tracks sitting in his vault? In 2009, he told Tavis Smiley that the number of “finished” and unreleased tracks in his vault was “a thousand.”  That was SIX years ago! Their final number may equal, or surpass, the number of released songs.

I remember the day Jimi Hendrix died in 1970. Even though he was only 27, not 58, when he died, the shock was absolutely seismic and similar. To this day, worthwhile albums of previously unreleased music Jimi made during the approximately 8 years of his musically active life (3+ when he was recording under his own name) are being released by his estate. Prince performed live from January 5, 1979 through April 14, 2016- over 36 years. I’m sure he recorded before January, 1979, and he created Paisley Park, a state of the art recording facility, where rumor has it he worked for 154 hours straight shortly before he passed. I bet that wasn’t the first time he did that. Being brilliant is part of it. The rest is working your butt off. So? How much material is going to be seeing the light of day indefinitely into the future? Consider this- there are already more Prince bootlegs than there are of any other artist, with the possible exceptions of Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, The Beatles, and ?. Take a look at this list. One company, Sabotage Records, alone, has released over 450 bootleg CD’s! And this was in spite of the fact that Prince didn’t allow photography or recording at his shows (My take is that he, the perfectionist, needed to control what the public saw and heard that much, and wanted it to be perfect. And? He didn’t like being ripped off.) Since Prince is now no longer alive, I wonder what will happen to his archive. Perhaps, he left instructions regarding if/how it should be released, or not. For an Artist who fought Warner Brothers so hard for his creative freedom, I find it hard to believe that he didn’t make arrangements in case of his passing. As I write this, they, apparently, have yet to be found. If he didn’t, it will more than likely be up to whoever the court gives control over his estate to decide what to do with it. While I for one would love to hear what else Prince created, if it does get released, like the ongoing Hendrix material, it will be tinged with the sense that it probably won’t reach us as the Artist envisioned it, IF they wanted it to reach us at all.

This is what I meant by saying there is only “some clarity” of the scope of what Prince accomplished. We have the work he wanted us to have while he was alive. Assessing even that is no easy task. 1,800 songs is a lot of listening. I could think of worse ways of spending your time. (Like never hearing Prince, for one.) He said repeatedly that all he wanted to do was play music. Well, he also liked girls, and was very, very spiritual (religious?) and a deep thinker who loved intellectual dialogue. Still, he reminds me of a lot of musicians I knew- a studio rat, as we used to call them. They lived in the studio and would spend as much of their life there as they could. Prince was the ultimate studio rat. He built his own so he could have access to it all the time.

We may have only begun to see the fruits of that.

Then, think about some other things, while you’re at it-

First, as a guitarist- To my ears, he was one of the greatest guitarists since Hendrix. I think he was underrated. Eddie Vedder, apparently, thinks he was the greatest. 1 “Greatest” is impossible to prove, and meaningless, I think. I prefer “one of the greatest,” and leave it at that. The classic rock term “Guitar God” certainly fit him and he wore it with the same kind of style and panache that Hendrix did. But, how good was he? To get the opinion of someone who really knows, (since I was a bassist and producer before I wrote for a national music mag for 4 years), I asked a man who IS a Guitar God right now, and someone who is also a world class multi-instrumentalist, who’s boundless talent makes him the closest I’ve come to meeting an actual “peer” of Prince’s- NYC Blues Hall of Famer, Dave Fields (continually blowing minds over at davefields.com and on tour world-wide) about Prince’s guitar playing. Dave, who has been playing guitar since he was 13, told me- “I know I’m going to get in trouble for this but being that I’m a guitarist through and through… I was less excited about his guitar playing. His solos were firey but most importantly his rhythm playing was truly divine.” Ok. So, let’s say Prince was an extremely talented guitarist, but while many lived their musical lives focused solely on becoming a “Guitar God?”

Not Prince. He was a complete musician.

He played “a thousand” instruments (according to what he famously told Dick Clark on his first TV appearance at 19), and he played them well enough to RECORD WITH PRINCE! Yeah, I know what I did there, but listen to his records. Listen to the level of musicianship on all of them. Yes. Actual musicianship- people actually playing instruments. Yup, it’s feeling like it’s becoming a lost Art now. In fact, when Warner Brothers signed him they had only heard a demo on which the teenaged Prince was playing all the instruments and doing all the signing. They didn’t believe it, so they went to a studio and had Prince recreate a track for them, doing it all, until they were finally convinced! So, after he signed, Prince was good enough on many instruments to play on his records. If you don’t think that’s a big deal? His bands always consisted of top musicians. One, songwriter & producer, Jimmy Jam, said after Prince passed, “He out-talented everyone by so much.” On Prince being a perfectionist to the 9’s, Mr. Jam said, “As a boss, he was very demanding, but you never minded that because he was never more demanding on you than he was on himself…He made everybody better at what they did. He’d take [Terry Lewis’] bass and play it and then say ‘play it more like this,’ and then he’d hand the bass back to Terry [who would] play it like Prince, but you’d realize he taught you something, and you’re the bass player!” I asked Mr. Fields about being a multi-instrumentalist, and how he, and perhaps Prince, got to be so good at more than one instrument. “If you can play what you hear, you’re ready to play on records!” Dave Grohl, who also played all the instruments on the Foo Fighters Demo that got them their record contract, and who Prince covered during his unforgettable Super Bowl performance, calls him the greatest musician he ever heard, here.

So, we have Prince the songwriter. Prince the guitarist. Prince the musician. Phew…We’re done right? Ha.

Mr. Jam touches on Prince, the Band Leader. Before you downplay that, think about this. Prince had bands that consisted of 4 pieces and bands consisting of upwards of 20. Those are two totally different animals to rehearse, let alone choreograph for, which Prince did, something rarely mentioned. And, what about those ever interesting setlists? One “curse” of being a star for that long is that people expect to hear you play your hits and that can get tiring and boredom can set in. Sometimes, Prince didn’t play them. Looking over his set lists, something that is a frequent topic of conversation among his concert goers, as I said in reviewing his final concert, I get the distinct feeling he was out to please himself/play what he felt like playing. But, of course he played his many hits more often than not. If you listen to concerts from different points over the course of 35 years, you’ll quickly see that he continually rearranged (how a piece of music is adapted for performance) even the biggest of his hits, to keep them fresh for the audience, and for himself and his band. (I don’t recall hearing a lot of complaining about the new versions. Only when he didn’t play his hits.) Regardless, and on every tour he gave (almost continually over 35 years), he choreographed everything, he ran everything, and it was all done, in the finest James Brown2 tradition, on a dime.

I saw James Brown twice, once, indelibly, in the 1960’s at the Apollo Theater, in his prime. I think even “The Godfather of Soul” would admire this-

Ok. So, NOW we’re done?

Um? No. You saw it, but I haven’t even mentioned it, yet. Prince was one of the greatest performers I’ve ever seen. That includes in the movies. That includes on stage. You name it.

Done, now?

Not quite. Very few have talked about his flexibility as a vocalist.

Music changed a lot between 1979 and 2016. Yet, when you listen to him sing, from any period, it doesn’t sound dated like a lot of music from the 1980’s does. In fact, to my ears at least, I can’t put a date on it. Part of that is because as a Producer (and no one ever mentions what a great producer he was), he is continually creating so many new sounds that no one else was using, his music doesn’t have any dated elements to it because he never fell back on cliched sounds, like so many others have. And? It’s always, instantly identifiable who’s singing. No one else sounds like Prince. He’s obviously influenced by the entire legacy of 20th century singers- in R&B, Jazz, Rock, Soul, you name it. He’s taken all of that while creating his own sound and style. Listen to the range of his voice. Listen to the power of it, even from what I heard on his final concert. It was great to hear him sing without a band so you can actually appreciate how great a singer Prince was. It is the strength of his voice during that last show that stays with me, even on a non-professional recording.

In what might be the greatest compliment I’ve ever (yes, ever) heard, Miles Davis called Prince “The New Duke Ellington of Our Time” in his autobiography. Miles is Mount Everest for me, and there are very few who’s opinion, which was very rarely given, carries more weight with me, and Duke is commonly considered the greatest composer and bandleader in jazz history. I try and not think about this, but for me, Prince was, also, the culmination of the entire history of popular music going back to Buddy Bolden and the birth of jazz. Miles’ comment is, also, revealing to me. It means that Prince got to be Prince because his eyes and ears were open. He heard and saw what those who had come before him did. He went to school on it better than most people who go to an actual school do on whatever they’re studying. He studied all of it. He learned a heck of a lot of it. Then, he made it his own- he created his own sound, his own style, and (also under appreciated, I think), his own look, his own fashion. Yes, Prince’s contribution to fashion, especially men’s fashion, is never discussed and one of the most overlooked aspects of his talentS.

He got there out of his love and RESPECT for what had come before that he loved, and he loved it so much he worked incessantly, right up to the moment he passed to be it. He was giving back to all who influenced him by continuing their legacy.

At the moment, he seems to be the last one in that glorious line. Was he the last great musician? I sure hope he’s not. Prince believed in nurturing new talent. He promoted Esperanza Spalding, among others, so we shall see. He also promoted great Artists from before him that he felt deserved more attention, including Chaka Khan, Larry Graham (of Sly & The Family Stone, and Graham Central Station) and Maceo Parker, James Brown’s great alto saxophonist. Dave Fields summed this up telling me, “It’s in that mutli-instrumentalist way that part of me identified with… I’ve used his vision as a blue print for my own career.” Pretty high praise coming from someone as talented as Dave Fields. It also gives an indication of something else to add to the list- his influence. It’s already incalculable.

But, as a musician who tried to sing and play at the same time and knows how hard that is, Prince was singing, and was virtually the only soloist, for ALL of his live concerts, which would run over 2 hours (AND THEN there would be the inevitable “Aftershow,” which would go for who know how long!) So? Live, in concert- He was playing at an extraordinarily high level. He was dancing as well as any musician ever has, sometimes while holding a guitar, and he choreographed his shows. He was leading a band of up to 20 pieces in a show involving split second timing for up to 2 and a half hours. He was performing (mostly) his own music. He was virtually the sole lead singer throughout. Night after Night after Night. He was recording and producing his own records and the records of others.

My first question is- HOW do you get to be THAT good at ANY TWO of those things? Getting there at one gets you a career.

My second question is- WHO ELSE is/was THAT good at any 4 of those things?

Oh!

I left out the groundbreaking Artist Prince was. “Purple Rain” was the shot over everyone’s bow, taking things to another level, when it came out, even after his classic “1999” two years before. 30 years later, I see it going to go down as one of the greatest musicals we have. (Also not mentioned was that though he didn’t direct “Purple Rain,” Prince directed 3 films, one of which, “Sign o’ the Times,” I consider a classic.) But, he never stood still. With every album, we got something new. Maybe the crowds didn’t follow him at every turn, but that never swayed him. The music is still there waiting for them to find it. He knew (and often said) that he was about the music, and that his devoted listeners would listen to everything he did, and show up at his concerts. Maybe his “changes” weren’t as “different” as Miles Davis’ albums were, but they were different enough to show he was continuing to grow and not standing still. And? As I listen to them now? They don’t sound dated! In fact?

They seem to get better with age.

Ok. So? I haven’t answered why Prince was SO great at so many things. Talent, dedication & a LOVE of music, having something you’re dying to express combined with work, work, work, work gets you a lot of the way there. You’re born with some of the other part. As for the rest? The closest I’ve been able to come is…to admit it.

Prince was a Miracle.

I have a feeling that IF what’s in the vault gets released one day (and no, of course, I haven’t heard it yet) that it, too, won’t sound dated, will contain both “hits” and new classics, and people will marvel, once again, at Prince3

I also have a feeling that that is going to continue for many, many years to come.

I’m glad I was living at the same time he was, and I got to experience him in person a few times that I’ll never forget.  I Wish U Heaven,” Prince.

The soundtrack for this Post is “I Wish U Heaven,” by Prince Rogers Nelson from “Lovesexy.” Listen to it now and tell me if it sounds like it was recorded in 1988 to you-

Comments are off, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome them, thoughts, feedback or propositions. Please send them to denizen@nighthawknyc.com

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  1. A large music magazine, who will remain nameless, has Prince at #33 on their 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Times. Guitar maker Gibson.com has him at #14 (“Often overlooked as one of the all-time great guitarists.”) Time Mag has him at #10. I care not for such lists.
  2. Prince said that his father put him on stage with James Brown when he was 10.
  3. I’m not addressing it here, but I want to make it clear that Prince was much more than a Musician. By all accounts, he was a whole person, who’s intelligence, spirituality, sense of humor and humanity touched many. Being that he was such a private person, as was his right, the scope of what he did socially, as a humanitarian or a philanthropist is not known well enough to comment on, though that he was all of those things is known. I hope that we get a fuller picture of that, too. Our sense of loss will only grow, accordingly.

“Piano & A Microphone”- Prince’s Final Performance

As the speculation surrounding Prince’s death continues, whatever it’s tragic cause turns out to be, I prefer to focus on what he created and left us.

14 days ago, as I write this, Prince gave what turned out to be his final performance, alone on the Fox Theater, Atlanta stage with only a piano and a microphone. “You have to try new things. With the piano, it is more naked, more pure,” he said announcing his “Piano & A Microphone Tour.” Unlike 2002’s “One Nite Alone…” 64 date World Wide Tour, during which he was accompanied by a small band that included bass, drums, keyboards and 2 horns, this one was really Prince, Alone…solo. It began with a  Tour Preview show at Paisley Park on January 21, before moving clear across the world for 6 dates in Australia (review and great picture here) and New Zealand, with 2 shows on each date. Leg 2 began with shows in Oakland, CA on February 28 & March 4, After that, the tour was scheduled to continue with shows in Montreal and Toronto. But, before heading to Canada, he stopped in NYC on March 19th to announce that he had signed with Random House to publish his Autobiography to be titled, “The Beautiful Ones,” scheduled for release in the fall of 2017. He then did a surprise 30 minute set at “Avenue” in Chelsea on 10th Avenue and 17th Street, which included “All The Critics Love You In New York,” and “When Doves Cry,” a personal favorite. It would be his last NYC appearance. I didn’t hear about it until after it happened. It wouldn’t have mattered, though. Admission was by invite only.

DSC_0451PNH

That Bird Has Flown. Avenue, NYC, April 30, 2016. Yes, the bird, not a Dove, was really there. I couldn't tell if he/she was crying.

That Bird Has Flown. Avenue, NYC, April 30, 2016. Yes, the bird, not a Dove, was really there. I couldn’t tell if he/she was crying.

From here, it was back to the tour, as I said, to Montreal, on March 21, and finally Toronto, on March 25, before moving on to the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA, for what, tragically, turned out to be the last concert he would ever give. (Here’s the poster for the show. Here is a shot of tickets.) As with the earlier shows, there was an early and a late show on April 14, rescheduled from the original date of April 7. Though I hope Paisley Park professionally recorded it1, someone in the audience recorded it and made it available on Soundcloud. It has since been pulled, but not before I got a chance to hear it. I cycled it a few times, and thought I’d share my notes on what I heard here. Someone also posted a phone video on Instagram of what he says is the late show “Purple Rain,” which would be the last song he ever performed. I saw that, as well, before it, too, was pulled.

When I heard he was planning a “Piano & A Microphone” Tour, I was hoping to get a chance to hear him here in New York, as, for me, the idea of Prince performing sol is a natural. He’s a consummate performer, and it would have been a rare chance to experience more of his incredible talents beyond his brilliant guitar playing. He even had Yamaha make him a Grand Piano in a custom specified shade of purple, which was recently delivered to him, and that he never got to use on tour. Sadly, that chance won’t be coming, so I was even more curious to hear this raw recording from his last show. Here’s the set list for the last show, with the notes I made listening to it, and expanded since, including my attempts to transcribe what he said between songs-

Intro- Atmospheric synth pad background which is hard to hear over the screaming as Prince enters. Title unknown.

“When Will We Be Paid”-(a Staples Singers Cover) – An Amazing performance. Prince’s voice sounds as strong and as dynamic as ever, which is much more noticeable with only a piano backing it. A fascinating choice to open the show! This song is nothing less than a History of African Americans up through 1970, when it was written. It includes the lyrics-

“We have given our sweat, and all our tears
We stumbled through this life for more than 300 years
We’ve been separated from the language we knew,
Stripped of our culture, people you know it’s true. Tell me now…
When will we be paid for the work we’ve done?”

How unexpected. How bold. Talk about a shot over the bow. This is Prince, the teacher, singing wisdom, and he wears it so very well, with a powerful edge in his voice.

Ends with rhythmic clapping. Somewhere, The Staples are very proud.

Prince apologizes for the cancellation and the show being pushed back one week.

“The Max”- Definitely not a song I’d expected to hear performed solo. It appears on the Symbol album by the New Power Generation in 1992. It segues into-

“Black Sweat”- From “3121,” Prince’s 31st studio album, 2006, Prince vamps on it, dropping the piano out once in a while as it becomes a clap along, and then he actually solos on the piano before it abruptly ends.

:Girl”- A B-side(!) from about 1982, and one that appears on his The Hits/B-Sides compilation. Another unexpected choice, as the whole set is thus far, almost 15 minutes in! A really beautiful and unique song. It contains the now haunting lyric-

“Girl, I guess I finally realized
Keepin’ you close to me it would keep me alive”

“I Would Die 4 U”- A Hit! The “Purple Rain” classic opens with a beautiful balladic piano intro. Prince asks the audience to sing the chorus. right away. Its has a nicely slightly laid back energy. Segues into-

“Baby I’m A Star”- He teases it on the piano, then abruptly stops. The crowd goes nuts. He continues in a similar tempo to the record, alternating lines with the audience. “Take My Picture. No. Don’t take my picture.” Towards the end, Prince shows off his piano chops. Nice. Then he breaks into a rapped discussion I couldn’t make out. He vamps over a nice groove as the audience claps along, and ends it by saying what sounds like “Cha Cha Cha.” ?

“The Ballad of Dorothy Parker”- From 1987’s “Sign O’ The Times.” At first, it’s a stripped down vocal feature, before melting into a solo piano vehicle.

Prince says “Relationships. No matter what we try to do. Sometimes they fall apart, you know?” Then goes right into-

“Dark”- from 1994’s “Come.” An interesting choice. A nice song, easily overlook among so many diamonds. It contains-

“Like an innocent man that’s on death row
I don’t understand what made you go
And want to leave me baby
Leave me in the dark”

Big applause.

“Indifference”- Unreleased, and seemingly recent, perhaps dating from 2014. Another unusual choice. It seems that this setlist is about pleasing only Prince, and die-hard fans who love “deep cuts.” “You and me alone, in a quiet place,” sound like it’s closing lyrics.

“Eye Love U, But Eye Don’t Trust U Anymore”- From “Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic,” 1999. See “Indifference.” Another unexpected song, and another one, about a failed relationship. Crowd members were screaming “I Love You” before this song started. Prince didn’t reply.

“Ok. I think I got it out of my system. Maybe Not.”

“Little Red Corvette” Segues into- “Dirty Mind.” Very interesting to hear with just a piano. This segues, somewhat unbelievably into The Theme From Peanuts(!), “Linus & Lucy,” during his piano solo, before going back to “Little Red Corvette,” which is another song about a failed relationship.

“Nothing Compares 2 U”- HUGE Screams when it begins. I, too, am so happy he did this! Yup, another song about….you know. Is it possible that some people still don’t know that Prince, and not Sinead O’Connor, wrote it? This performance has a nice gospel feel to it, and he actually solos, before bringing the vocal back.It ends with him leading the audience in singing it. “Are you having a good time? Me too.” God, I wish I’d been there.

“Thank you, Atlanta. Good night.”

Encore 1

“I was just checking. I want to see how serious you are. What I want to do right now is we’ve got to have a conversation with ourselves. Every once in a while you’ve got to have a conversation with yourself.” Right into-

“Cream”- From “Diamonds And Pearls,” contains the lyric-

“You’re so good
Baby there ain’t nobody better (Ain’t nobody better)
So you should
Never, ever go by the letter (Never ever)
You’re so cool (Cool)
Everything you do is success
Make the rules (Rules)
Then break them all ’cause you are the best”

Sounds about right.

He changes it to “Look up in the air, it’s your piano.” then solos. Back and forth with the crowd, with Prince wailing in excellent gospel vocal form. Again, you can’t hear any “flu like symptoms,” even on this audience recording.

“You are serious about this I see. Have a seat, we’re going to have a family meeting. Let me talk to my sister right quick.”

“Black Muse”- from what turns out to be his final studio album, the terrific, to my ears, “Hitnrun Phase Two,” released in December. Another song about Black History, but this time, looking forward. It’s his “answer” to “When Will We Be Paid, that opens the show, and contains this lyric-

“Long ago 2 men held one of us down
Another took a whip and made a terrible sound
Baby watched her father falling down to the ground
That was you and me.
Black Muse can eye share with you
Just came this morning and it’s mighty good news
They tipped the hour glass
Now everything is passed
It’s true.
They gave the world back to you and me
The faces on the mountains and a dirty sea
A trillion dollar bill and no currency
Still we believe
Black Muse we gonna make it thru
Surly people that created rhythm and blues
Rock and roll and jazz
So you know we’re built to last
It’s cool.. it’s cool.. it’s cool..
(Black Muse)
A new day is dawning
Black Muse
A new day is dawning
Black Muse”

Wow.

“How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”- The B-Side to the single, “1999.” Amazing how many people in the audience know it and sing along! “I hear you singing, but you got to tell me why,” he says. An overlooked classic. And yes, another failed relationship song. Ends with the audience singing the title, and Prince responding, “I know why I don’t call, what about you?” And, “I don’t call cause that deep voice brother be answering the phone. You know, the one with the big shoes under the bed. I aint going to try to fight up in here. Little brothers like to run. And go get somebody. Then come back. That fella with the big shoes under the bed.” It continues back and forth until he says, “How we gonna get out of this groove?” Ha!

Rhythmic chants of “Prince…Prince….Prince….” Almost 4 minutes later…

Encore 2

He says, “Relationships. There’s so much instability (or incivility?) on the planet now. I don’t believe in it anymore. I believe people can get along. Even if it’s something we need to study. (inaudible) I believe we can get along.”

Vamp intro with Prince singing, beautifully, lyrics I can’t make out, before going into a ballad version of “Waiting in Vain”, a Bob Marley Cover, then he segues into “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” again, as a gospel ballad, with a beautiful downward chord progression underpinning. It goes back and forth with a line from Bob Marley, then a good piece of “If I Were…” He’s absolutely wailing on it (sorry), reaching into Ray Charles territory. Stunning. Then, he stops and says-

“Did anybody see that movie “The Way We Were?” (loud cheers) The one where Robert Redford broke up with Streisand? Well, she went home and called him on the phone, cause that’s the only friend she had. He was the one that hurt her. The only one she could talk to was him.”

He continues singing…”I don’t want to wait in vain for your love…” Prince doesn’t get more intimate and powerful than this, even though he’s singing and playing in a virtual whisper.

“Thank you, Atlanta. Good night.”

Another 3 minutes of ceaseless screaming go by…

Encore 3

“Sometimes It Snows in April”- From “Parade.” Sung quietly, gorgeously over a beautiful piano arrangement. A show stopper, even without the irony it has now. How poignant in retrospect. It was hard to listen to this after the fact with dry eyes. Amazingly, the audience listens and resists singing along. The lyrics-

“Tracy died soon after a long fought civil war,
Just after I’d wiped away his last tear
I guess he’s better off than he was before,
A whole lot better off than the fools he left here
I used to cry for Tracy because he was my only friend
Those kind of cars don’t pass you every day
I used to cry for Tracy because I wanted to see him again,
But sometimes sometimes life ain’t always the way

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last

Springtime was always my favorite time of year,
A time for lovers holding hands in the rain
Now springtime only reminds me of Tracy’s tears
Always cry for love, never cry for pain
He used to say so strong unafraid to die
Unafraid of the death that left me hypnotized
No, staring at his picture I realized
No one could cry the way my Tracy cried

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad
Sometimes, sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last

I often dream of heaven and I know that Tracy’s there
I know that he has found another friend
Maybe he’s found the answer to all the April snow
Maybe one day I’ll see my Tracy again

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
But all good things, they say, never last

All good things, they say, never last
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past2.”

“Thank you.” Right into-

“Purple Rain”- Starts it quietly, but the crowd knows right away, and they’re into it, torn between listening to him perform it for them, and joining in. After one verse/chorus, it segues into- “The Beautiful Ones”, which is hard to hear him sing due to the non-stop screams. It gets two verses and choruses, before a beautiful segue back to “Purple Rain” as a slow beautiful ballad, which he gives a big, slow ending, reapeating the last line, “I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain,” 4 times. Then, he goes right into-

“Diamonds and Pearls”, which he asks the audience to sing. After one chorus, he modulates back into a very gospel “Purple Rain”- “Let love guide you to the Purple Rain,” is the last line he sings before the wordless falsetto ending.

The tape fades out. It’s over.

Just amazing.

From listening to only this (the late) set, his song choices are very striking, often very surprising. They speak to the comfort level he has in this solo environment to try things. It’s certainly not how he’d program a setlist with a band at all. I guess I’ll always wonder about how many of the songs in this set relate to relationships, failed ones at that, as much as I’ll appreciate his social conscience. Then again, we learned early on about Prince and duality, right?

According to setlist.fm, this was the setlist for the early show. It included  Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”, which coincidentally, I had chosen as the Soundtrack to my Jackson Pollock Post on April 11! He also performed David Bowie’s “Heroes,” and the Peanuts Theme, again. I haven’t heard the early show, but it’s tempting to take both shows as one big one. Taken as a whole, It’s kinda hard to think that they weren’t designed for an album or video release (hopefully both). Their minimal overlap, with rarities in each seem designed to also please hard core fans who were lucky enough to attend both shows, the cheapest tickets for which were $100.00 each, face value. Who knows? Maybe as with “One Night Alone…” he was planning a tour best of album. Regardless, it shows that Prince certainly had a deep understanding of his catalog, a continually open ear to what others were doing3, and finding great songs, that were great choices to cover as a result. It reminded me of how much he surprised people during the Super Bowl when he covered Foo Fighters. I love that about him- that continually open mind to a good song.

Earlier shows on the tour contained about 2 covers per set. “Linus And Lucy,” and “Waiting In Vain” by Bob Marley seemed to be staples, “Heroes” and “A Case of You” appeared a few times, and “Use Me” by Bill Withers appears. He also performed songs he wrote for Vanity 6, The Time, and Madhouse, but didn’t record himself. In Oakland on March 4, and in February in Australia, he performed “Over the Rainbow,”” Stand!” By Sly & The Family Stone, Ray Charles’ “Unchain My Heart” and Martika’s “Love.Thy Will Be Done.” Looking over the setlists for all of these shows, there is a surprising amount of variety among them. Absent from the list of covers he performed (admittedly, the tour was cut short, so who knows what else would have been played) are anything by Michael Jackson (I’m not surprised), Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, or Miles Davis (all of which would have been great). I saw a report that he was rehearsing George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” which Miles did record on his “Porgy & Bess” album. That would have counted in my book.

If you’re wondering, I didn’t hear any signs of illness or decay in this set. Not even a cough. No long pauses between songs, except the encores. Yes, sitting at a piano may be a bit less strenuous than jumping around for 2 hours, like he did with his bands, but he is the only one singing (and playing) and his voice is clear & strong throughout, even at whatever distance whoever recorded this on non-professional equipment. It seems to even get better during the encores. Though this was part of a tour, and Prince was nothing but obsessed with every detail of his shows, this show has something of a one-off feel to it. It feels much, much more casual than I’d ever heard Prince before. Thought it no doubt wasn’t, it feels unrehearsed. It feels like anything could happen. But, it also feels like he was in control, every single second. Like always.

I read a report that Prince said Atlanta was the best show of the tour. No other recordings of other shows have turned up yet, as far as I know. Years ago Elvis Costello toured with only pianist Steve Nieve and a subsequent CD set of all the shows was released. Looking at these setlists makes me hope something similar happens for them. Let’s hope we get professional recordings of these very special performances that would have been “historic” even if he had gone on living for many years, one of these days. So we can all wonder- “Why all the songs about, and the mentions of failed relationships?”

Afterall, Prince’s music lives on, and will continue to do so. So, it would make a great addition to his canon, and legacy.

Lyrics quoted in this Post- “When Will We Be Paid” as performed by the Staple Singers, appears on their album, ‘The Very Best Of The Staple Singers” on Stax Records. Authors and Publishers unknown. “Waiting In Vain” by Bob Marley, from “Exodus,” is published by Blue Mountain Music, Ltd.
All other lyrics are by Prince Rogers Nelson and published by  Universal Music Group.

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  1. which it appears they did given one track has now been released to Tidal subscribers
  2. I’ve heard some say it should read “passed,” as in passing love around.
  3.  Like Lady Gaga’s piano segments in her concerts, perhaps?

The Artist Known As Prince

“Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time”*

He was the most talented musician of his generation.

He grew up on equal parts of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. Now, he’s a legend right up there with them. He never stopped growing, evolving and exploring, and I hope that while people will play his classic hits, they’ll also check out the great albums they may have missed. He recorded 46 studio albums by my count 1 They are all worth your time, right up to the last two- “Hit n Run Phase One” and “Hit n Run Phase Two,” released last fall and winter.

One thing I especially admire about Prince was his enduring commitment to using real bands, including horns, with everyone actually performing their parts. He was something of a last holdout for doing things that way, something he learned all about from James Brown & The J.B.’s, who’s tightness is legendary, and Duke Ellington’s Big Band, who’s musicianship was, too. Prince knew that there is nothing like the sound of real musicians, playing real instruments, really well, and the respect he had for it never left him. Yes, he used synths, but you can still hear real instruments on almost every album he made, sounds the real thing brings that can’t be duplicated by machines. It sounds so strange to say it, but in these times of auto-tune, digital synths and samplers that can mimic almost any sound you can make, it’s actually become a lost art. Prince was a throw back to “the original old school” way of doing things, and so, was the continuation of the whole legacy of live performance that extends back past Little Richard to the birth of jazz.

And? Oh by the way, did I mention he was one of the best performers ever? Especially among those who actually play an instrument. It’s hard enough to play great (there aren’t many guitarists since Hendrix who played better, maybe only John McLaughlin), let alone play great, sing great, dance, put on a show, and oh by the way, lead a band at the same time. How many are there who could do all of that really really well?

His concerts were electrifying. They were true shows, the way James Brown & The J.B.’s was a show. Prince’s show kept changing, from the very early “Dirty Mind” days, to the “Purple Rain” peak, to the end of the Revolution and bigger and bigger bands, like those I saw at Radio City (with the New Power Generation in March, 1993) and Madison Square Garden in October, 1988. The opening at the Garden was unforgettable. The arena was dark. The band was on a circular stage, that seemed 20 or so feet off the floor.  The round stage had the band in 4 sections, like the first two cuts of a pizza, that allowed a cross walkway between. Check out Prince’s entrance. While the band played, a white Thunderbird drove in from the side of the hall. It circled the stage. You couldn’t see in. All you could see was a white opaque light where the windows were, and it’s two white headlights lit the way as it circled around. Finally, the car started to rise up on this X frame, eventually reaching the height of the stage.

All of s sudden, it’s door opened and Prince hit the stage, in a full run, his guitar wailing. Yes, Prince came running out of the car (don’t ask me how), and ran across the stage, which was 20 or more feet off the ground. All of a sudden he lunges forward, landing on his knees, leaning back, guitar wailing, SLIDING across the stage! Somehow, in the dark, he stopped- right at the edge of the stage.

Oh my god!.

He was looking up at the ceiling as he slid! He just had a sense of where that edge was.

THAT’S the level of perfection Prince got from James Brown. The rest of the show was great, but after that entrance?…WHAT could top that?

One trip to Florida, I hung out at his club “Glam Slam” on Miami Beach. What a place! A state of the art Dance Club & Theater. It had his bike from “Purple Rain” in the lobby.

And then…there was that time at the Limelight here in Manhattan. Sunday night, I think, and the club was packed. Earlier that evening, I had been walking on 6th Avenue and was standing on the corner right in front of the club when a fancy car came and made a turn in front of me. I glanced at the driver’s window, and it was Prince! Ok, there are tons of celebrities in NYC, but Prince? We glanced at each other as he slowed to turn. A moment frozen in time. I just happened to go to the club that night. And there he was. Nothing announced. He was just hanging out, sitting in the roped off Mezzanine by himself, where the organ had been, opposite where the altar had been in this former church, as hundreds and hundreds danced under him on the main floor, leaning back in a throne like chair, with his legs crossed. He didn’t perform. He was just a “presence.”

Still? That night? It sure felt like it was his world, and we were all just living in it.

IMG_4321PNH

Glam Slam, Miami T, and a 1993 Act 1 Tour T

It’s funny what things come to your mind at times like this, that have happened far too often already this year{2. Pierre Boulez, George Marin, Phife Dawg, Zaha Hadid and David Bowie…]. I’m sure it’ll go on for a very long time, such is what Prince gave us. For instance, his last album, “Hit n Run Phase Two” features the powerful anthem of the moment, “Baltimore,”

“Absence of war, you and me
Maybe we can finally say
Enough is enough, it’s time for love
It’s time to hear
It’s time to hear the guitar play, guitar play”^

which strangely reminded me of “Machine Gun” on Jimi Hendrix’s “Band of Gypsys,” the last album released during his lifetime. A strange, but telling, coincidence about both of their social consciences.

As great as his records are, there is the live Prince, the consummate showman. It helps to “bring him back.” I’ve always loved his concert film “Sign O The Times,” but check this out if you want a reminder- The ultimate “Purple Rain?”

Right now, I’m thinking that he is now up there with the greats- James, Jimi, John Lennon, Duke Ellington, David Bowie, you name them. They have one heck of a band up there. Imagine the fun they have jamming together. It might be something like this performance of a song they probably play often up there, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” at a concert in 2004 to honor George Harrison, who’s up there, too, at the Rock Hall of Fame, a place I don’t believe in. Nonetheless, in a one-off band with Tom Petty, Stevie Winwood, George’s son, Dhani (who may not have yet recovered), and others, Prince suddenly appears on the side of the stage, then proceeds to steal the show in one of the most famous “guitar” songs of all time.

Tonight, that guitar isn’t the only thing that’s weeping…still.

“But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world

A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night…”

*-Soundtracks for this Post are “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince Rogers Nelson, from his defining album “Purple Rain” and published by Warner Chappell Music, Inc, and “Baltimore” from “Hit n Run Phase 2” written by Price Rogers Nelson and published by Peermusic Publishing.

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  1. under his name, that is. That doesn’t count all the side artists he worked with. The Time, Morris Day, Madhouse, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Shiela E, etc.