“Don’t Worry. I won’t hurt you. I only want you to have some fun.”
I first became introduced toPrince and his musicin 1979. Back then, fresh out of high school, I was a disco kid, frequenting the bars and drinking cheap 3.2 beer, occasionally getting my awkward teenage dance on. I danced like no one was watching -- to my eternal regret -- and one of the songs to which I shook my groove thing was “I Wanna Be Your Lover” by the artist who would become His Royal Badness the very next year.
I didn’t check in with Prince again for four years. My life had moved on from the disco days. I was married with a young child, living in the middle of America’s Heartland. On clear, still nights, we could tune the stereo to faraway radio stations, like the 50,000 watt rock behemoth in Oklahoma City, or the one in Los Angeles. It was on one of these nights, listening to New Wave songs on KLA I’d never heard before (and most likely would never hear again), that I heard “1999” for the very first time. My lovely spouse and I had a fight the next day because I blew eight whole dollars on the album of the same name. But I didn’t care about the spat; I was swept away by Prince’s music. No one sounded like him then. No one sounds like him now. No one will ever sound like him again.
After I picked up that first album, I was hooked. I was at the record store on release day for every one that followed after. I clamored as much for his full-length records as I did for his 45s, for the inevitable non-album track that would be upon the B-side of the 7”, sometimes an even better song than the A-side! I played them continuously, those records. I couldn’t get enough of them.
In my life, there haven’t been many artists I’ve felt that way about. Queen and Freddie Mercury were always at the top of my list, but Freddie was gone in 1991. With Prince having passed, my living idols are fewer; the musical stars in my universe are diminished. The future seems somehow bleaker and emptier than it did before. And considering the other luminaries gone just since the turn of the year, 2016 seems a bleak time indeed. It’s a time certainly for reflection, for mourning, and perhaps for celebrating the luminosity of an entertainer whose legacy will live on for generations to come, just like the stellar greats gone before him to sing in heavenly choirs, or to churn out solos in the Celestial Symphony. Prince left us with hundreds of songs, each one with special meaning to someone.
“Sometimes it snows in April,” Prince once sang. “Sometimes I wish life was never ending, but all good things, they say, never last.”
I heard the DJs talking on the radio this morning that everyone in the Twin Cities has a Prince story. They may not have met him, but everyone has a story. I’m not from the Twin Cities, but I’ve lived here for almost half of my life. Prince has been the topic of more conversations in that time than I can count.