In late 1977, Prince spent some astonishing percentage of his original advance from Warner Bros. — possibly over 100 percent — on studio time at the Record Plant, sessions which yielded up nine tracks for an album, prosaically titled For You. (No, not 4 U. Too early for that.) He might have ponied up for a few instruments, but he didn’t overspend on studio musicians, as the Personnel list on this album is dazzlingly simple:
Prince — all vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Orr bass, bass synth, singing bass, Fuzz bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, Mini-Moog, Poly-Moog, Arp String Ensemble, Arp Pro Soloist, Oberheim 4-voice, clavinet, drums, syndrums, water drums, slapsticks, bongos, congas, finger cymbals, wind chimes, orchestral bells, woodblocks, brush trap, tree bell, hand claps, finger snaps.
That’s it. If nothing else, you could assume that Prince, then nineteen, knew exactly what he wanted. But then, Prince always knew exactly what he wanted, and he wasn’t above hectoring the record company to get it.
Perhaps by 2009 he was feeling the strain. He told Tavis Smiley:
It’s a hurtful place, the world, in and of itself. We don’t need to add to it. And we’re in a place now where we all need one another, and it’s going to get rougher.
“In this life,” he’d said in “Let’s Go Crazy,” the opening track to Purple Rain, “you’re on your own.”
While we mourn, we know the afterworld will be cheering his arrival for the next few eternities.