What I think about when I think about Prince

April 29, 2016

I’ve had my follow up to the dirty energy post, this one on education, filed to the side for a couple of weeks and I’ve just been too tired to edit and post it. Right now I have a post I just want to dash out without overthinking it though.

Prince died. I know you know that, it’s been on the news and if you’re on social media you’ve likely seen it stuffed through your feed. I feel somewhat ambivalent about the standard reaction now that once an artist dies suddenly everyone is a  fan. On the one hand it seems very bandwagoney but on the other hand at least these people are hopefully visiting some great music and really hearing it finally.

I was a casual Bowie fan and though I had some of his records and had streamed his new album a few times before hearing of his passing, I wasn’t affected like a lot of people I know and thus I didn’t write about it or post his (admittedly great) music online. Prince though…I was such a Prince fan and it is still a bummer now a week later thinking about it. Prince was great and his work was great and his attitude was entertaining and it’s such a shame to have him gone from this planet at such a still young age.

The other night on the Larry Wilmore show a panelist mentioned that unless you are a family member or friend who personally knew the artist you are really mourning something about or in yourself when you mourn their passing. I guess there is a lot of truth to that. When I think of Prince I do think of personal things and memories. I think of that first cassette single of his I bought–“Little Red Corvette”–which I played over and over while assembling model cars in my dad’s workshop when I was a kid. I think of “Batdance” (admittedly one of Prince’s lesser works) in the first Batman movie and how as it played in the movie it oddly became one of the  film’s highlights to me as a kid. I think of riding in my older brother’s car when I heard “Let’s Go Crazy” for the first time booming from his tape deck. Something about that intro sermon seguing into the first verse (complete with the simulated grunts the narrator hears over the phone line) struck me as borderline sacrilegious and dangerous–traits that in music appealed and disturbed me but that usually resulted in me needing to hear that music again and again. I think of bumming the money from my oldest brother to buy the Prince “Ultimate” discs from a used shop as 13 year old teen. I think of the slightly scuffed “Dirty Minds” LP that was shelved with my dad’s records for years and which was the core of my earliest vinyl collection–I spun it again the night he died and those sexy, edgy, funky, provocative songs took on an added layer. I think of playing “Purple Rain” to my middle-school friends as if I’d discovered something new–they preferred grunge and hip hop and I was a few years from appreciating either but I think some of them got what I liked in Prince–it’s just universally exciting if you let it be. I think of “Musicology” is early ’00s “comeback” album and its killer under-rated songs like the anti-war “Cinnamon Girl” and the “Million Days” ballad, both songs that made almost every mix CD I burned in my undergrad days. I think of that Superbowl performance in 2007–it was to me the only thing worth watching on the TV during the bowl as I’ve always loathed football and attended Superbowl parties for nothing more than the company, beer and food (and apparently the half time show) but it was such a powerful performance that people who didn’t even think they liked Prince were glued to the TV.

When I think of Prince I think of my lifelong love affair with music and I thank him for playing a huge role in igniting that. I think of his audacity, his boldness, his confliction, his embrace of the sacred AND the profane. I think of creative control and artistic right. I think of style, grace and genre-pushing, boundary shredding, God, sex, death, life, love, all that shit. I think of life.

Rest in peace, Prince.



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