In the last decade, we’ve lost enough icons | from the United States | to where it’s not as shocking when the news breaks. James Brown, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Natalie Cole, Bobbi Kristina Brown, B. B. King, Robin Williams, Prince, Abe Vigoda, Phife Dawg, Cathriona White… It used to be that when an icon passed away, fans mourned for months. Now, before the week is over, the breaking news of that celebrity’s death is all but lost in the ever mounting rubble of world perils. We are losing our most talented icons in a hurry.
It’s almost as if we are witnessing the dawn of a new era in which everyone from the previous is expected to punch out early. More of our celebs have died far before their old age. If you’re a music lover you may have heard of Prince. The Minnesota born and bred music legend whose talents dwarfed the likes of Michael Jackson, though his fame was not as riveting. I might catch some criticism for that statement but it’s true. Michael Jackson was far more famous than Prince though many comparisons were made between the two.
Where one created a safe haven at “Neverland Ranch” the other did the same at “Paisley Park.” Upon face value, both modeled a similar hairstyle, dressed code and genre of music. Where Michael would be crowned the “King of Pop”, many music lovers would come to be influenced by Prince without even knowing it. Undisputed, Michael had the more golden voice. He could dance his socks off with a mesmerizing stage presence.
That’s no news. Michael was also a musical genius who wrote some of the most marvelous anthems of the 20th century. His fame overshadowed many more talented superstars. Prince, however, though confident, was a multi-talented musician who could play, arrange and produce his own music by using several live instruments that Michael only dreamed of playing. His talents were not just in singing, songwriting, and dancing but bravely in the mastering of various instruments that set him apart from any musician who sings and dances.
Prince was revolutionizing music while making a subliminal statement with his dress code. He could dream up a sound and cause enhanced instruments to be manufactured. But, let’s be honest, Prince’s most under appreciated gift was his fashion. He had a sense of style that was far ahead of its time. What is this style of dressing that James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince and others wore? The permed hair, the shirt with frail on its collar and sleeves, slim bell bottom pants, platform shoes. At one point, some people mistook it for androgyny. As if these musicians were cross dressers.
By the early 19th century men’s fashions had also undergone a radical change. The coat still finished in long tails at the back but was cut higher in front. The waist-length square-cut waistcoat showed beneath it. The lining of the shoulders and upper chest of the coat was sometimes quilted to improve the fit. In the early 19th century some dandies wore boned corsets to give them a small waist. Gradually men adopted long trousers rather than knee breeches. Trousers became increasingly fashionable in the first quarter of the 19th century. At first they were only worn for day and informal dress but by the 1820s they were acceptable for evening wear. Breeches continued to be worn at court.” – Victoria and Albert Museum
As I looked back in history, I made an interesting observation. I asked myself, ‘how did the affluent and stylish men dress back in the day?’ My research led me to the Victorian era when men wore makeup and wigs. It dawned on me that, men initially wore tight pants, shirts with frail on the collar and sleeves. Prince and Michael were not cross dressing. They had put their spin on the fashion sense from the Victorian era. It is almost as if they were aware of a level of class that our generation had lost.
Each and every one of us was born helpless. Every one of us will experience that moment when we take our last breath. Our skin will rot and fall from our bones and many will not be remembered long after their brief time on this earth. We came into this world poor, helpless and innocent, no matter how wealthy or powerful we become, we won’t take any of that with us when we die. All we can do is change the world. We can help others, build, move and change things and we can inspire others to do better. Prince used his awareness and his talents to make subtle statements.
As a black man in a racist time, he proclaimed majesty. He borrowed style from the 1800s and modernized it. Like black abolitionists and other affluent African Americans like W. E. B. Du Bois and Prince Hall for example, who dressed in this same style. Of course, not with the flair of a 20th-century musician but the style goes back. When it comes to Prince’s music, my favorite song is, “Let’s Go Crazy”! Everybody and their mother were touched by “Purple Rain’s” haunting chime. Of course who was not entranced with “Little Red Corvette” and “When Doves Cry”? *