04-22-2016 12:47 PM
“Don’t Worry. I won’t hurt you. I only want you to have some fun.”
I first became introduced to Prince and his music in 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.
What’s your Prince story?
04-25-2016 11:59 AM
I first became familiar with Prince when the Controvery album came out. This was in the day when kids would gather together with a stack of albums and list to them. He played Controversy. I didn't love it, but I liked it. A year later when 1999 came out and I heard Little Red Corvette I got hooked. I grabbed up Dirty Mind and copied Prince (self titled)
I even got a bunch of pins. (it used to be a thing where you would buy little pins of your favorite music stars and put them on your Jean Jacket)
When Purple Rain came out it was common for Prince to just show up at First Avenue once in awhile on a week night unannounced and just play a set or more. So we randomally hit First Avenue 4 or 5 times in a vain hope of seeing him. Turns out one night we were there and the next night he showed up. Chagrin.
I upset some people on facebook. I wrote that it is sad that we have lost 2 musical genisus in 2016. Of course the other is David Bowie. Some people got upset that I did not include people like Maurice White, Glenn Fry, Paul Kantner etc...
Too me a muscial genius is someone who could and did do it all from composition, singing, arranging, playing producing and at a level that far exceeds what many others can do. I rank such people as Motzart, Beethoven as such people.
I will admit I didn't have a lot of interest in most of the music he produced in the last 20 years. But he still stands as a genius in my mind.
04-25-2016 12:04 PM
Oops, just remembered a favorite store.
I had a girl friend and we were umm listening to records. I cannot remember the exact song but I think it was on 1999 and in the back ground there is a womans voice screaming "Oh my God help me help me" Or something like that. My girlfriend jumps up and freaks out. Turns out that about 6 months ago she was home alone at night listening to that album that she heard that. She thought it was somebody outside screaming for help. she turned off the music and grabbed a kitchen knife and went outside to help. Could not find anything. She started the album back up at the beginning and bam, same thing.
When she was with me and heard it same thing, until I explained it was part of the song.
04-26-2016 01:30 PM
I didn't arrive in the Twin Cities until 1990. By then Prince's star was at the absolute apex of its ascent. While I occasioned First Avenue in my early days here, Prince did not appear. It's unsurprising I think; his celebrity would have turned the crowd into a terrifying mass.
I think your definition of musical genius is fair and could easily extend to luminaries like Maurice While and Keith Emerson in particular who were brilliant musicians, performers, and producers in their own right. Earth Wind and Fire's 40 year run is largely attributable to White's innovation and leadership. Likewise Emerson's skills with a keyboard are both legendary and singular. Each influenced the musical landscape in their eras and beyond.
With that said, there are always Mozarts and Salieris in any generation, those who are blessed and burdened with the gift of genius, and those who are merely talented beyond the ken of most others. That Bowie and Prince lived in an era where their genius could be recognized and celebrated across the world simultaneously and for decades during their lifetimes is unprecedented and spectacular. We are privileged indeed to have shared their time, basked in their glory, and been transported by their extraordinary abilities.
Over the weekend I listened to some of Prince's later work, albums he released after his heyday in the '80s and early '90s. I, like you, have really considered this later period to have been more of failing on Prince's part to produce the kind of hits that made him a star. But I now have to reconsider that position. I found myself just as moved by albums I have only listened two once or twice as the early records I know front to back. I don't think it was Prince who let me down so much as I had perhaps moved on myself. Like so many other artists gone to the By-and-By, I have failed to appreciate him in his time as fully as I might have. So I will appreciate him when he's gone, and consider myself better for having let his joyful noise wash over me.
As ever, I'm grateful for the conversation.