Music in the 1980s was often a segregated experience. In an almost reflexive response to the dominance of funk and disco in the ’70s — which culminated in mass record burnings — radio was bifurcated between black and white, R&B and rock. MTV was the voice of a generation and, Michael Jackson notwithstanding, almost entirely white.
And then came Prince, who looked like Little Richard after a week long stand in a harem. High heels and blousy shirts and a pompadour that wouldn’t quit, always covered in sweat, his mascaraed lashes concealing his doe eyes like boudoir drapes. His music came from the well of funk, but he infused it with a synth-shimmy and Hendrix-ian guitar thunder.
He was outlandish and outsize, pansexual and biracial at a time when black artists simply weren’t, when the aura of black masculinity was both a yoke and a badge of honor. He was a misfit when there weren’t black misfits on a stage that big.
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