For a previous generation, Buddy Holly’s death was coined in song as “The Day the Music Died.” Prince’s death today marks an equally huge loss for my generation and in the evolution of alternative-based music.
When Prince exploded onto the scene in the early 1980s, I was running WUOG-FM in Athens…the student station. We were proud pioneers of the “college radio” wave that started in small music centers such as Athens, where B-52s, R.E.M., Pylon, Widespread Panic and many others emanated. Frankly, “new wave,” as we referred to it then, was lily white. Yes, we were breaking all kinds of new progressive music that wasn’t getting played on radio, including now mainstream artists such as U2, Police and Talking Heads. But, there was no denying, this was not a genre where artists of color were involved.
Until Prince. When Prince came onto the scene, we embraced it immediately. No questions. In the back of my mind (remember this was the deep South in 30+ years ago), I kept thinking, does anyone notice or care that Prince is black? I know we didn’t, and I never heard one disparaging comment. All I saw were people dancing like crazy whenever Prince came on our radio station.
Prince quickly became the Michael Jackson of Alternative music. Prince brought together Alternative and Pop, and made it cool. He was BY FAR the most popular artist we played. And then he crossed over to Top 40, made movies, made more records, and never stopped being cool.
My generation lost their Buddy Holly today. “This is what it sounds like when doves cry.”