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'Prince was the absolute antithesis of Michael Jackson'

Heike Mund / rbApril 22, 2016

The music world is shocked by the sudden death of singer and guitarist Prince. The exceptional musician was very different from his peer, Michael Jackson, but what defined him as an artist?

Prince in Las Vegas, Copyright: Reuters/S. Marcus
Image: Reuters/S. Marcus

The music world is shocked by the sudden death of exceptional musician Prince. He was a brilliant guitarist, gifted singer, highly creative songwriter, outstanding composer and even his own producer.

Uwe Kronefeld from the German Rock and Pop Museum in Gronau told DW what it was exactly that made Prince such an exception in the international music world.

DW: Mr. Kronefeld, with Prince's death yet another music genius has died - at age 57. As an icon he has made history in the music industry and shaped it decisively. But did he have his own special style?

Uwe Kronenfeld: No, Prince was someone who mixed and blended the most diverse music styles. This was completely new and innovative in the 1980s. From simple ballads to completely new electronic sounds, Prince amazed and at the same time fascinated his audience. Prince was always full of surprises and expressed that in his music.

Michael Jackson performing on stage Copyright: Phil Walter/Getty Images
Some people saw a lot of similarities between Michael Jackson and Prince but music experts don't agreeImage: Getty Images

Nowadays, it is perfectly normal in the music industry to mix music styles. What was it like when Prince started as a musician in 1978? Were there rankings in the rock, pop, jazz and pop genre - something like a "class society"? Either you did one or the other but you didn't mix them?

The 1980s were certainly dominated by synthesizers and pop music. And Prince extended that by blended funk with hard rock and jazz accents. He built entirely new musical soundscapes and put the whole thing together in an incredible performance on stage as well. This was new and extremely eccentric.

To what extent was he a solitaire as an artist?

He was solitary and unique, at least in the 1980s. He was not even copied and that was certainly out of a certain respect for him as an artist. One just simply could not copy what made him so special.

Parallel to the rapid career of Prince, Michael Jackson also became known in the world of international pop music. How did the two distinguish themselves as musicians and music icons of their time?

Prince was the absolute antithesis of Michael Jackson. Jackson was styled and made perfect pop music. On the contrary Prince always came up with something new and surprised with his music over and over again. He mixed a heavy metal solo with a gentle ballad.

Prince was considered a musical genius when his first album came out in 1978 ("For You"): At seven, he had learned to play the piano at 13 he could play guitar and drums perfectly. What was so special about his debut album?

RIP Prince 1958 – 2016

He didn't let any other musicians into the studio for his productions he only allowed that during his live concerts. And this complete autonomy in music production, where he recorded every instrument himself, was special at that time. There is a saying among musicians: Multi-instrumentalist can do everything, but nothing completely right. This is not true for Prince. He was a perfectionist.

Prince was also considered a pop chameleon. His stage performances, similar to David Bowie, were rather androgynous. To what extent did he play with the role of the sexes?

I've never seen it that way. For me, Prince has always been a man wore very extravagant and provocative stage costumes, which were very beautiful. There was a German music show called "Rockpalast" in the 80s where one of Prince's performances was broadcast. He was wearing a pair of pants that barely covered his butt. That was a huge scandal in German television at the time, but that was how Prince was.