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Music

The musician that Prince called "God"

@josephtaysom

Prince had an ethereal nature, an aura so monumental that it seemed as if he had been dropped down from another universe with supernatural powers tasked with saving music. With that in mind, it remains a strange idea to imagine that Prince himself felt similarly about other artists, even going as far to once refer to one inspiration simply as “God”.

A true enigma like Prince only comes along once every generation, and he continually kept people guessing who the true person behind his purple-tinted mask. Rather than talking in-depth about his personal life, he chose to do his talking exclusively through his songwriting, a decision that helped build a somewhat mystic ambience around him.

Everything about Prince was hard to comprehend to such a degree that even his music taste was challenging to pin down. Throughout his career, he did regularly speak with vigour about music, and more often than not, what followed came as a surprise.

Opening up about what he seeks from artists, Prince once told Mojo: “I crave great musicianship, and I don’t care who provides it. I’ve got no problems saying I dig D’Angelo. Or some of the things that Bjork does…the Cocteau Twins…Musicians, we’re family. I hope young musicians learn from me — my mistakes too — the way I learned.”

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The concept of genre was trivial to Prince. In reality, all that he cared about was a musician making him deeply feel something inside, and nobody did that more than Sonny T (Sonny Thompson).

Prince had known Thompson since they were teenagers in Minneapolis, and the pair stayed close for decades. They first played together on a demo recording of ‘Got To Be Something Here’ in 1976, a time when a young Prince Rogers Nelson contributed on the guitar and provided backing vocals on one of his compositions.

However, their careers would travel in different directions, and it wouldn’t be until years later that the bass player would be playing with Prince permanently. In 1991, Thompson joined Prince’s backing band, The New Power Generation, and his boss had nothing but superlatives to say about his wizardry on a four-string.

When asked the question of his favourite guitarist in 1994, Prince picked his bandmate and bassist, Sonny T, by saying: “I listened to everybody. My favourite of all time is Sonny T”.

Detailing further, he continued: “I thought Sonny was God. Sonny was my hero. A lot of what I do on guitar, I learned from him. I’d go over to his house and we’d play records and he’d show me things on guitar.”

Thompson was his mentor and someone who helped mould Prince into ‘The Purple One’. When the tables turned after he rose to fame, and the bassist’s career didn’t flourish in the same way, ‘His Royal Badness’ reached out to offer a supportive hand that helped the wider musical world realise his friend’s talent.

However, despite calling Thompson his “hero”, Prince still fired him in 1996, which proved that nobody was safe from his wrath. Today, Thompson anchors The New Power Generation, who have reunited for several tours since their former leader’s death to pay tribute to the man who brought them together.

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