Franz Kafka: An Animated Introduction to His Literary Genius

Franz Kaf­ka — he wrote that sto­ry about the guy who turns into a bug, and lot of stuff about com­plex and implaca­ble bureau­cra­cy, right? What more do you need to know? Well, giv­en the endur­ing use (and abuse) of the adjec­tive “Kafkaesque,” the man’s work must tap into some deep­er real­i­ty of the human con­di­tion than our fears of wak­ing up trans­formed into some­thing gross and inhu­man or get­ting trapped in the pur­ga­to­ry of vast, soul­less, and irra­tional sys­tems. Here to explain a lit­tle bit more about that deep­er real­i­ty, we have this explana­to­ry ani­mat­ed video above from Alain de Bot­ton’s School of Life.

Kaf­ka, says de Bot­ton, “was a great Czech writer who has come to own a part of the human emo­tion­al spec­trum which we can now call the ‘Kafkaesque,’ and which, thanks to him, we’re able bet­ter to rec­og­nize and to gain a mea­sure of per­spec­tive over and relief from.” We find our­selves in Kafka’s world when­ev­er “we feel pow­er­less in front of author­i­ty: judges, aris­to­crats, indus­tri­al­ists, politi­cians, and most of all, fathers. When we feel that our des­tiny is out of our con­trol. When we’re bul­lied, humil­i­at­ed, and mocked by soci­ety, and espe­cial­ly by our own fam­i­lies. We’re in Kafka’s orbit when we’re ashamed of our bod­ies, of our sex­u­al urges, and feel that the best thing for us might be to be killed or squashed with­out mer­cy, as if we were an incon­ve­nient and rather dis­gust­ing bed­bug.”

You might expect any writer who takes those as his themes to have led a trou­bled life, and this video gets into detail about Kafka’s: the self-hatred of his youth, his unsuc­cess­ful rela­tion­ships with women, the ago­niz­ing dis­ease that kept him in pain, and every­thing else that shaped his writ­ing of not just The Meta­mor­pho­sis but the nov­els The Tri­alThe Cas­tle, and Ameri­ka, all left unfin­ished, to his own mind, in his short life­time. But in a way, his drea­ry life sto­ry ends well: “With­in a few years of his death, his rep­u­ta­tion began. By the sec­ond World War, he was rec­og­nized as one of the great­est writ­ers of the age.”

Acknowl­edg­ing the Kafkaesque in our world has become impor­tant to many of us, but accord­ing to this video’s view of Kaf­ka, you can’t ful­ly under­stand it unless you under­stand the writer’s rela­tion­ship with his “ter­ri­fy­ing­ly psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly abu­sive” father. “Any boy who has ever felt inad­e­quate in front of or unloved by a pow­er­ful father will at once relate to what Kaf­ka went through in his child­hood,” says de Bot­ton, who has him­self spo­ken pub­licly about grow­ing up in the sim­i­lar­ly dark shad­ow of his own “cru­el tyrant” banker father. But even if you did­n’t suf­fer in the same way, you’ll find some­thing to at least crack the frozen sea with­in you in the work of this writer who stands as “a mon­u­ment in Ger­man lit­er­ary his­to­ry,” and at the same time “a sad, ashamed, ter­ri­fied part of us all.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Fos­ter Wal­lace Reads Franz Kafka’s Short Sto­ry “A Lit­tle Fable” (and Explains Why Com­e­dy Is Key to Kaf­ka)

Four Franz Kaf­ka Ani­ma­tions: Enjoy Cre­ative Ani­mat­ed Shorts from Poland, Japan, Rus­sia & Cana­da

Franz Kafka’s Kafkaesque Love Let­ters

Vladimir Nabokov Makes Edi­to­r­i­al Tweaks to Franz Kafka’s Novel­la The Meta­mor­pho­sis

Franz Kaf­ka Says the Insect in The Meta­mor­pho­sis Should Nev­er Be Drawn; Vladimir Nabokov Draws It Any­way

Franz Kafka’s It’s a Won­der­ful Life: The Oscar-Win­ning Film About Kaf­ka Writ­ingThe Meta­mor­pho­sis

The Art of Franz Kaf­ka: Draw­ings from 1907–1917

The Ani­mat­ed Franz Kaf­ka Rock Opera

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

In Search of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Secluded Hut in Norway: A Short Travel Film

If you like phi­los­o­phy and road trip­ping, then you’ll want to put Wittgen­stein in Nor­way in your YouTube queue. Post­ed this month by Kirsten Dirk­sen, the short film takes through the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side of Nor­way, in search of the hut where Lud­wig Wittgen­stein exiled him­self from soci­ety from time to time, first start­ing in 1913. Dirk­sen gives this pref­ace to the film:

Over 100 years ago, philoso­pher Lud­wig Wittgen­stein went to the fjords of Nor­way to escape the schol­ar­ly world of Cam­bridge. His for­mer teacher Bertrand Rus­sell wrote, “I said it would be lone­ly, and he said he pros­ti­tut­ed his mind talk­ing to intel­li­gent peo­ple.”

Not con­tent with sim­ply mov­ing to the iso­la­tion of rur­al Nor­way- at the end of the Sogne­fjord (the deep­est and sec­ond longest fjord)- Wittgen­stein built his hut across the lake and halfway up a moun­tain from the near­est town (Skjold­en). Mea­sur­ing just 7 by 8 meters, the small cab­in dubbed “Lit­tle Aus­tria” (his native coun­try) became his home on and off through­out his life (his longest stay here was 13 months).

Wittgen­stein was flee­ing the dis­trac­tions and inter­rup­tions of a more social lifestyle and hop­ing to con­front only his own thoughts. “Who­ev­er is unwill­ing to descend into him­self,” he wrote, “because it is too painful, will of course remain super­fi­cial in his writ­ing.’” He wrote some of his most impor­tant work here (a pre­cur­sor to his “Trac­ta­tus Logi­co-Philo­soph­i­cus” and some of his “Philo­soph­i­cal Inves­ti­ga­tions”).

Today all that remains of his hut are its stone foun­da­tion and a very faint hik­ers trail up the moun­tain, though some Nor­we­gians are try­ing to change this. Artists Mar­i­anne Bre­desen, Sebas­t­ian Makon­nen Kjølaas and Siri Hjorth (in col­lab­o­ra­tions with the Wittgen­stein Soci­ety in Skjold­en and fund­ed by Pub­lic Art Nor­way) threw an all-expens­es-paid vaca­tion to bring fel­low Oslo res­i­dents to the ruin. Inspired by Wittgenstein’s argu­ment that “philo­soph­i­cal prob­lems arise when lan­guage goes on hol­i­day”, they are call­ing their art hol­i­day “Wittgen­stein on Vaca­tion”. For part one, they enter­tained their guests with a week­end of lec­tures, meals and a Wittgen­stein inter­pre­ta­tion at the site of his cab­in. We cap­tured some of the show on our own jour­ney to this dis­ap­pear­ing piece of his­to­ry.

Oth­er videos about sim­ple liv­ing, self-suf­fi­cien­cy, small homes, and philoso­phies of life can be found on Dirk­sen’s YouTube chan­nel.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!



Relat­ed Cours­es:

Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

Lud­wig Wittgenstein’s Short, Strange & Bru­tal Stint as an Ele­men­tary School Teacher

Lud­wig Wittgenstein’s Trac­ta­tus Gets Adapt­ed Into an Avant-Garde Com­ic Opera

Wittgen­stein and Hitler Attend­ed the Same School in Aus­tria, at the Same Time (1904)

How Ink is Made: The Process Revealed in a Mouth-Watering Video

As depict­ed above, ink mak­ing is as volup­tuous a process as mak­ing a high end can­dy bar. Hav­ing grown up around the print­ing floor of a dai­ly news­pa­per, I know that ink’s pun­gent aro­ma is the oppo­site of chocolate‑y, but my mouth still start­ed to water. Was it the com­mer­cial-ready clas­si­cal sound­track or hear­ing Chief Ink Mak­er Peter Wel­fare com­par­ing the pigment’s gooey “vehi­cle” to hon­ey?

I won’t be dip­ping my tongue in the ink pot any time soon, but the mul­ti­step four col­or process by which pow­dered cyan, magen­ta, yel­low, and black hues become press-bound ink proved far more sen­su­al than expect­ed.

Ink mak­ing in the 21st-cen­tu­ry is a com­bi­na­tion of Old and New World tech­niques.

The his­to­ry of ink and print­ing is very old indeed. The Chi­nese devel­oped move­able type around 1045 and used it to print paper mon­ey. The Guten­berg Press was up and run­ning by 1440. The rollers, vats, and mix­ing tools in use at the Print­ing Ink Com­pa­ny, Wel­fare’s fam­i­ly busi­ness, are not so far removed from the tools used by ear­ly prac­ti­tion­ers.

Work­ers at the Print­ing Ink Comp­nany use their fin­gers to test their product’s tack­i­ness, a pre­dic­tor of its on-press per­for­mance. Pre­sum­ably, you devel­op a feel for it after a while.

State of the art com­put­er pro­grams pro­vide fur­ther qual­i­ty con­trol, ana­lyz­ing for con­sis­ten­cy of col­or and gloss with an accu­ra­cy that eludes even the most prac­ticed human eye.

The results can be seen on every­thing from brochures to fine art prints.

via Coudal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Learn How Crayons Are Made, Cour­tesy of 1980s Videos by Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers

How Vinyl Records Are Made: A Primer from 1956

How Film Was Made in 1958: A Kodak Nos­tal­gia Moment

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Her play, Fawn­book, opens in New York City lat­er this fall. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

Frida!

In a pret­ty great gif. That’s all.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Fri­da Kahlo and Diego Rivera Vis­it Leon Trot­sky in Mex­i­co, 1938

Fri­da Kahlo Writes a Per­son­al Let­ter to Geor­gia O’Keeffe After O’Keeffe’s Ner­vous Break­down (1933)

1933 Arti­cle on Fri­da Kahlo: “Wife of the Mas­ter Mur­al Painter Glee­ful­ly Dab­bles in Works of Art”

Watch Tom Waits For No One, the Pioneering Animated Music Video from 1979

Tom Waits For No One, above, is sure­ly the only film in his­to­ry to have won an Oscar for Sci­en­tif­ic and Tech­ni­cal Achieve­ment for its cre­ator and a first place award at the Hol­ly­wood Erot­ic Film and Video Fes­ti­val.

Direc­tor John Lamb and his part­ner, Bruce Lyon also deserve recog­ni­tion for their taste in source mate­r­i­al. Singer Tom Waits’ “The One That Got Away” is about as cool as it gets, and the ani­mat­ed Waits is a dead ringer for his then-28-year-old coun­ter­part, with eyes and chop­pers slight­ly exag­ger­at­ed for max­i­mum effect.

The short was con­ceived as a demo mod­el. Lyon and Lamb hoped to con­vince Ralph Bak­shi, direc­tor of the fea­ture-length, X‑rated, car­toon adap­ta­tion of R Crumb’s Fritz the Cat, to use their new­ly patent­ed “pen­cil pre­view” tech­nique  on an upcom­ing project. The result is def­i­nite­ly more provoca­tive than the non-nar­ra­tive bounc­ing ball videos devel­op­ers would use to show off fledg­ling CGI tech­niques a decade or so lat­er.

A por­tion of raw footage below shows Waits and pro­fes­sion­al strip­per Don­na Gor­don—who had pre­vi­ous­ly appeared in John Cas­savetes’ The Killing of a Chi­nese Book­ie—slink­ing around a large­ly bare sound­stage. The crew amassed 13 hours of video that were whit­tled down to 5,500 Roto­scoped frames. These were indi­vid­u­al­ly re-drawn, inked, and hand-paint­ed onto cel­lu­loid acetate.

Gor­don, whose ani­mat­ed look appears to have exert­ed quite an influ­ence on the fol­low­ing decade’s car­toon femme fatale, Jes­si­ca Rab­bit, rec­ol­lect­ed that her co-star was “very nice, shy and qui­et” and that he smelled strong­ly of cig­a­rettes and booze.

Just as Gordon’s fan­ta­sy strip­per elud­ed the ani­mat­ed Waits, this inno­v­a­tive film failed to find dis­tri­b­u­tion, and with­out com­mer­cial release, it sank into obscu­ri­ty.

(I invite Waits fans to join me in imag­in­ing an alter­nate uni­verse, in which it becomes the great­est Sat­ur­day morn­ing car­toon ever, pro­vid­ing morn­ing-after com­fort to very par­tic­u­lar breed of hun­gover ear­ly-80s nighthawks.)

Tom Waits For No One will be added to the Ani­ma­tion sec­tion of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Tom Waits Sings and Tells Sto­ries in Tom Waits: A Day in Vien­na, a 1979 Aus­tri­an Film

Tom Waits, Play­ing the Down-and-Out Barfly, Appears in Clas­sic 1978 TV Per­for­mance

Tom Waits Makes a List of His Top 20 Favorite Albums of All Time

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

Sell & Spin: The History of Advertising, Narrated by Dick Cavett (1999)

“Accord­ing to a study pub­lished Mon­day by researchers at Duke University’s Cen­ter for Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science, humans expe­ri­ence the most intense feel­ings of hap­pi­ness when press­ing the ‘skip ad’ but­ton before watch­ing a video on the inter­net.” That comes from The Onion, whose satir­i­cal report­ing hits the mark as usu­al. If we know one thing about adver­tis­ing for sure, we know that we don’t like it — or at least we don’t like many of its cur­rent man­i­fes­ta­tions, so much so that we will­ing­ly engage in the arms race of down­load­ing spe­cial pro­grams to block them, which adver­tis­ers soon find a way to defeat, requir­ing us to find new eva­sive tac­tics, which forces adver­tis­es to cut anoth­er path to us, and so on.

How has it come to this? You can learn exact­ly how from Sell & Spin, the 1999 tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­tary above. “From ancient phras­es etched in stone to today’s cut­ting-edge mul­ti­me­dia com­mer­cials, sell­ing has always meant grab­bing atten­tion,” says its nar­ra­tor, the respect­ed talk-show host Dick Cavett. “The point? Mov­ing the prod­uct. The means? Tap­ping into desire — cre­at­ing need.” From the first known adver­tise­ment, a wine shop’s sign from ancient Baby­lon, to the eve of the high-tech 21st cen­tu­ry, Cavett and a host of adver­tis­ing experts tell the sto­ry of not just how adver­tis­ing became an indus­try in the first place, but how it became the huge, shape-shift­ing indus­try we regard today as both wild­ly cre­ative yet some­how sin­is­ter.

Even the most ad-loathing view­er will rec­og­nize many of the icon­ic exam­ples of this ultra-com­mer­cial art form of the thou­sands this doc­u­men­tary includes: Bur­ma-Shave road­signs, the smoke-blow­ing Camel cig­a­rettes bill­board in Times Square, the Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle tout­ing itself as a “lemon” on a whole mag­a­zine page, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”; mas­cots from Tony the Tiger to the Marl­boro Man (a sym­bol of free­dom, we hear, for post­war office work­ers shack­led to their desks) to the Taco Bell chi­huahua; and of course Coca-Cola’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing,” whose con­cep­tion the final episode of Mad Men fic­tion­al­ized by putting into the mind of its pro­tag­o­nist, 1960s Madi­son Avenue “cre­ative” Don Drap­er.

That acclaimed recent tele­vi­sion dra­ma both glam­or­ized and crit­i­cized the cul­ture of the 20th-cen­tu­ry adver­tis­ing indus­try, which may have oper­at­ed as cyn­i­cal­ly and oppor­tunis­ti­cal­ly as the busi­ness­es it worked for, but which nev­er­the­less craft­ed some of the most endur­ing words and images in our mod­ern cul­ture. But what of the “mad men” of today, charged with the thank­less (if often remu­ner­a­tive) task of com­ing up with those videos we get such a kick out of click­ing past? Sell & Spin shows us the very begin­ning of their work, tak­ing place on a now-quaint-look­ing cyber­space that had only just moved beyond Bur­ma Shave-sim­ple ban­ner ads.

“Nobody quite knows how to use it effec­tive­ly,” says Jay Chi­at of the inter­net toward the doc­u­men­tary’s end. As the co-founder of Los Ange­les’ for­mi­da­ble Chiat/Day adver­tis­ing indus­try, he knew the mechan­ics of the craft well indeed, more than thor­ough­ly enough to rec­og­nize both the medi­um’s poten­tial and the extent to which nobody had yet tapped it. How we all use the inter­net has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly since Chi­at died in 2002, but his words still ring true. It’s still ear­ly days for inter­net adver­tis­ing, and its mad­dest men (and women) — the ones who ful­ly reject the old indus­try com­mand­ment to “irri­tate your way into peo­ples’ con­scious­ness — have yet to arrive on the scene.

Sell & Spin will be added to our list of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the First Com­mer­cial Ever Shown on Amer­i­can TV, 1941

Eisen­how­er Answers Amer­i­ca: The First Polit­i­cal Adver­tise­ments on Amer­i­can TV (1952)

Before Mad Men: Famil­iar and For­got­ten Ads from 1950s to 1980s Now Online

The Mad Men Read­ing List: 25 Reveal­ing Books Read by the Char­ac­ters on the Show

Dig­i­tal Archive of Vin­tage Tele­vi­sion Com­mer­cials

David Ogilvy’s 1982 Memo “How to Write” Offers 10 Pieces of Time­less Advice

A Gallery of Mad Magazine’s Rol­lick­ing Fake Adver­tise­ments from the 1960s

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Delight in Prince’s Extraordinarily Poignant Cover of Radiohead’s “Creep

Prince didn’t cov­er a song, he pos­sessed it. He took over its limbs and made it do things it had nev­er done before—dance wild­ly down the aisles, scream, shout, and fall to the ground. When he cov­ered a song, it got reli­gion the way peo­ple only do in the movies. And if you had the priv­i­lege to see it hap­pen, you too became a believ­er in every word and note. As the pro­duc­er Fafu, a one­time mem­ber of his army of play­ers and techs, tes­ti­fied yes­ter­day: “I nev­er saw Prince make a mistake—in any­thing.” It may sound like a musi­cian who fits that descrip­tion would have to be some kind of robot; Prince was pre­cise­ly the oppo­site, the apoth­e­o­sis of what a human being could do with voice, gui­tar, and vir­tu­al­ly every oth­er instru­ment.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Prince’s all-pow­er­ful con­trol over his musi­cian­ship extend­ed to most oth­er areas of his life. He “was hard on peo­ple,” Fafu remem­bered, “I don’t want to paint an ugly pic­ture, but he was tough. You want­ed to please dad­dy.” He was equal­ly hard on peo­ple who dis­sem­i­nat­ed his record­ings and per­for­mances in unau­tho­rized ways. But in at least one case, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke fought back, forc­ing Prince to unblock access to Youtube footage of his 2008 Coachel­la ver­sion of “Creep.” And wow, are we glad he did. See it above (espe­cial­ly poignant is his gospel deliv­ery of the line, “you just want to have con­trooool.”), and be reborn.

Prince reminds us that every hard rock bal­lad since the ear­ly ‘80s owes him a roy­al­ty check, and that just one of his screams, one of his explo­sive gui­tar fills, even one of his preg­nant paus­es, had more pow­er and beau­ty in it than some entire albums. Prince didn’t have to want to be spe­cial. He just was.

As I shared yes­ter­day, he was with­out a doubt the most incred­i­ble live per­former I have ever expe­ri­enced, so much so that I gen­er­al­ly pre­fer his live recordings—bootlegged or otherwise—to his stu­dio stuff. Mil­lions of peo­ple feel like­wise, and thanks to one fan, we have the full audio of that head­lin­ing Coachel­la show. Hear it all here (and see the setlist fur­ther down)—the ridicu­lous­ly catchy funk/soul hits, the between-song inspi­ra­tional pat­ter, the soar­ing, snarling gui­tar solos, and the cov­ers: includ­ing “Creep,” “Come Togeth­er,” Sarah Mclach­lan’s “Angel,” songs by San­tana, The Time, Sheila E., and, no kid­ding, The B‑52’s “Rock Lob­ster.”

 

Prince Coachella setlist-image-v1

via Live for Music

Relat­ed Con­tent:

See Prince (RIP) Play Mind-Blow­ing Gui­tar Solos On “While My Gui­tar Gen­tly Weeps” and “Amer­i­can Woman”

Prince (RIP) Per­forms Ear­ly Hits in a 1982 Con­cert: “Con­tro­ver­sy,” “I Wan­na Be Your Lover” & More   

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Prince Plays a Mind-Blowing Guitar Solo On “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

Amidst all its oth­er unset­tling excess­es, 2016 has become a year of col­lec­tive mourn­ing as musi­cal icon after musi­cal icon pass­es away. The names begin to sound like a list of bat­tle­field casu­al­ties. Our lat­est loss was much more than a leader among men: he was roy­al­ty.

Prince’s death strikes me as a tragedy for so many rea­sons: he was too young, only 57. He was—as for near­ly every­one of my generation—a fix­ture of my child­hood, a fig­ure of impos­si­ble cool; his loss feels deeply per­son­al. Last­ly, Prince seemed so above it all—above all of the ugly, pet­ty crap the rest of us slog through every day, includ­ing death.

All pop stars seem like that to their fans.

But when it comes to Prince, it wasn’t just his for­ev­er young sex­u­al­i­ty that made me think he’d nev­er die, but the fact that he could do any­thing, and I mean any­thing at all as a musi­cian. He seemed to have no lim­i­ta­tions. Unlike many of this year’s lost stars, I was lucky enough to see him play. That show became the high water­mark by which I’ve unfair­ly mea­sured every oth­er per­former.

He played for three hours, then held an after­par­ty and played for two more. He tore through his cat­a­log, then played every­one else. Mem­bers of his band left the stage one by one, and Prince con­tin­ued, pick­ing up instru­ment after instru­ment. The huge­ness of the sound didn’t seem dimin­ished one bit when he remained on stage alone with his gui­tar at three o’clock in the morn­ing.

And that gui­tar, man.… Whether his trade­mark but­ter­scotch Tele­cast­er or series of unique, sig­na­ture instruments—he played like no one else: he made the gui­tar cry, sing, howl, wail, and launch into out­er space hys­ter­ics. His pow­er and con­trol were unmatched. Eric Clap­ton, when asked what it felt like to be the world’s great­est gui­tarist, sup­pos­ed­ly said, “ask Prince.” Apoc­ryphal or not, it’s believ­able. No gui­tarist can be any­thing but blown away by Prince’s prowess. Wit­ness his solo at the end of the 2004 all-star Rock and Roll Hall of Fame George Har­ri­son trib­ute per­for­mance of “While My Gui­tar Gen­tly Weeps” (top), wide­ly cit­ed as one one of the best gui­tar moments caught on tape, and as evi­dence for why Prince belongs in the top ten of world’s great­est play­ers. He’s accom­pa­nied on the stage by Tom Pet­ty (RIP), Steve Win­wood, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Har­ri­son.

I don’t think there’s any hyper­bole in say­ing that Prince may have been the great­est stage per­former of the past forty years, as a total pack­age: show­man, song­writer, and musi­cian. And though he dom­i­nat­ed cen­ter stage, he wasn’t too proud to play the side­man. Check him out above, for exam­ple, back­ing Lenny Kravitz on “Amer­i­can Woman.” But when it came time for Prince to take a solo (see him tear it up at around 4:50), it was like every­one else had left the stage.

Rest In Peace, Prince. As a gui­tarist, singer, and gen­er­al explo­sion of pur­ple amaz­ing­ness, he was in a class all his own.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Prince (RIP) Per­forms Ear­ly Hits in a 1982 Con­cert: “Con­tro­ver­sy,” “I Wan­na Be Your Lover” & More      

David Bowie (RIP) Sings “Changes” in His Last Live Per­for­mance, 2006

The Memo­r­i­al Ser­vice & Cel­e­bra­tion of “Lem­my” Kilmis­ter, Motör­head Front­man, is Now Stream­ing Live

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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