I just woke up for my midnight feeding and started thinking about Prince. Again.
Of course, I then realized what kind of blogger, music nerd or writer would I be if I didn’t contribute to the outpouring of love and remembrance that is coming from everywhere to celebrate this man, Prince Rogers Nelson (it was his name)?
Not a very good one. So I decided to get all of this out now.
The way the world has responded to Prince’s sudden death has been staggering. From cities like Boston and Minneapolis to street artists in New York City to tributes from artists like Stephen King, Paul Westerberg and Kevin Smith to people like me (and about a bagillion others if you look on Facebook) should make anyone realize the magnitude of this loss.
Unfortunately, I think the generation above me and the one below me may be left scratching their head wondering what the big deal is. And that’s OK, they just didn’t, and don’t, have anyone that comes close to what Prince was and what a huge void he is leaving. Maybe they’ll get it, maybe they won’t. Either way, if Prince taught us anything, he taught us that their lack of understanding was OK. Hopefully they’ll just accept my opinion (and about a bagillion others) that this loss hurts.
You know, when David Bowie died, it stung. I was bummed but Bowie wasn’t really of my generation. He was kinda, but not really. I could look back and see what Bowie accomplished and recognize its importance and its brilliance, but if you’re not there for the happening, it makes it harder to feel it.
But with Prince, I was there. I felt it and it was fucking powerful; whether you liked his music you knew, you just felt that he was touched on a level unlike anything you had witnessed before (or since, really).
A lot of other writers have shared their own personal Prince stories and that seems only fitting at a time of loss, so I will share mine, in as much as it is one. I never saw him perform live, never met him so I only have the experience of a music fan.
I grew up in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio called Centerville (although I was born in Minneapolis and lived there for many years…I feel the need to point out for my own shallow and needy purposes). Now, Centerville was about as racially diverse as a David Duke family reunion (and only marginally less racist). In a high school of +/- 2500 we had maybe, maybe, five of six African-American students when I started and maybe, maybe, a dozen when I graduated ten years later (it was actually only four, it just felt like ten).
As a freshman at Centerville High School, Prince’s 1999 came out. And even before Purple Rain, this album was everywhere in our little white enclave. You heard it blasting from the cars at lunch, in the school weight room and in the locker room. Prince’s music transcended gender and obliterated any racial divide. And I am sure our pasty white community wasn’t the only one blasting out his royal purple badness back then.
In those days, I was into my classic rock phase. To publicly acknowledging myself as a Prince “fan” would have meant a social tar and feathering from my stoner classic rock clique. Hidden away from my friends, I would stay up late to watch MTV and hopefully catch the video for either “Little Red Corvette” (always relishing the line “Cause you had a pocket full of Trojans, so of ’em used”…yet now bewildered why anyone would carry around used condoms) or hear the opening crash of “1999”.
If 1999 was a monster, Purple Rain was Godzilla…on steroids. Stylistically, the albums are similar and the only real difference that I can reflect back and notice between them was that rock radio started playing Purple Rain (Radio was much different back then and Prince became rock and roll approved once rock and roll radio started playing him).
I finally felt safe to come out as a Prince fan.
For a solid 2.5/3 years, Prince ruled a large portion of teenagers cars, radios, tape decks and turntables.
If you wanted to rock out, Prince.
If you wanted to make out, Prince.
If you wanted to blaze out…well, you’d probably still be better off with Pink Floyd.
Over the years my tastes changed and while I would still consider myself a Prince fan, if I am honest, my fan years ended with my high school years. I became much more appreciative of the artist and was consistently impressed with his output, his songwriting, his range, his foresight, his tenacity, his pugnaciousness, his royal badass-ness. Prince was both of his time and ahead of his time.
Look, Prince sang “Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last” and I might argue that Prince was wrong on this. If you play “1999” at any party watch the guests heads perk up on that opening crash. I promise you, that party just got a little happier and is now gonna last a little longer. That is as true now as it was then and as true as it will be 25 years from now. That is the power of good music, that is the power of artistry and that is the power of genius, it’s timeless.
While we mourn the loss of life of the man and the artist, they are indeed not meant to last. The body is a mere vessel for the art. And Prince’s art, his work? That is meant to last. And it will.
Prince did what no other artist of our generation did, he transcended. He transcended gender, transcended race, transcended genre and in his death he transcends life. As all of this outpouring shows, Prince was more than a man or an artist or a genius. He was something else indeed.
Perhaps he was right when he said “I’m not a woman, I’m not a man, I am something you will never understand…I’m not a human, I am a dove, I’m your conscious, I am love, all I really need to know is you believe.“
Rest in peace Prince. We believe.
FURTHER LISTENING & READING: