Prince: beyond genre, gender and race
Prince: beyond genre, gender and race
A view from Chris Clarke

A tribute to Prince: goodbye to this fabulous Roman candle

We seem to be living in a time of unprecedented creative death, writes Chris Clarke, chief creative officer, international, at DigitasLBi.

We are orphaned almost weekly in the news. That is at least a part of what hits us when we find famous deaths in our feeds, on our TVs and in the papers. Our mothers and fathers are dying. It's us next.

Some deaths come soft and sad, others are like bombs to our culture. The loss is horrific. What they have done remains. It’s what they haven’t that we are cheated of.  

It’d be crass to list the losses of 2016 in order of importance, but for sure Bowie had more to offer though his legend was intact, Zaha Hadid was just hitting her prime, Victoria Wood was every bit as good as Alan Bennett and doubtless would have gone on creating into her 80s. 

Then Prince, A gut punch and a kick to the softest bits.

Like the Iraqi woman who would change what a building could be, like the white boy from Brixton who would rip up the insane apartheid of American charts like he ripped up the conventions of gender. Prince, like Bowie, was a force above culture, beyond genre, gender and race.

Would his legend be the less if he hadn’t appeared out of nowhere in London the year before last, looking like Gaddafi and gigging people’s houses. Likely not, maybe yes.

This is the marketing press so what can we learn about what we do? Isn’t it the same thing again and again? Prince mocked corporate culture with a symbol and got mocked himself for the pain. He broke the rules of music marketing as relentlessly as he played and created.

He had what all the best brands have. Purpose, drive and fearlessness. These qualities poured soulfully into his music means Prince is mourned now around the world and his music will be heard forever. Who will care if your brand dies? 

Corporate culture works very hard to round off all edges, to make the world as dull as an office cubicle. Artists like Prince remind us that eccentricity and defiance are what counts.

An artist like Prince teaches us to make our time on earth count, to let our madness out. For the man who never gave up the funk, for the man who once ordered his manager to bring him a camel at 4am, this famous bit of Kerouac is the fitting epitaph. 

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"