There are few artists whose passing has brought a tear to my eye, but I will confess that Prince is one. Just past midnight on the day we all learned he was gone, I found myself surfing social media trying to get to sleep. As I sat and read what everyone was saying, I was moved but the stories and feeling of collective loss. His death had hit me hard through the day, but a single meme just caught me and tears fell for a few moments.
You see, I grew up with Prince music layered into my life and he’s absolutely an artist that framed a period of my life. For me it was my high school years and for a long time, I was a Prince kid. Like many, I stumbled upon him when “Little Red Corvette” was making a splash on MTV. 1999 was his fifth studio album and it quickly led me back to explore Controversy and Dirty Mind. The tracks I found there coupled with those deeper cuts on 1999 just spoke to me as it felt like he was saying things I had not heard before growing up in a small town in southern Ohio.
Even then, Prince was breaking expectations of what it meant to be a star and going about his career in a self-determined, quirky, quiet and at times wonderfully androgynous way that was out of step with what was expected of the icons of rock at that time. I remember when Purple Rain arrived, how the music just sat he down in my seat with a kind of awe. “Let’s Go Crazy” became my anthem, “Darling Nikki” taught me that talking about sex was not just okay but fun and each track that followed just seemed to build upon itself leading to the ultimate end, “Purple Rain”. For me, Prince became the ultimate iconoclast who defied being classified within a single musical genre and consistently fostered, refined and evolved his sound (and by influence the sound of others) with the skills of a savant.
I hunted down his interviews, gobbled up his music looking for meaning in-between the lyrics, collected every album and entered high school just as Purple Rain was at its peak of popularity. Back then, I was a soccer kid and I remember our team (the New Boston Tigers) playing “Let’s Go Crazy” before each game to pump us up before we took to the field. It was a decidedly 80s kind of moment that I still think back on it with a smile.
I’ve had dreams where I was performing with Prince on stage, never ceased playing his music over the years and missed seeing him in concert more than once (had tickets to a cancelled show during the Black Album tour as just one example). In the end, I never got the chance to see him perform live which I deeply regret.
Look for Ginny and I to have a lot more to say on episode #227, coming this Wednesday to the Charlie Tonic Hour.