I don’t think I’ve ever had, or will ever have, a celebrity death hit me as hard as Prince, who passed away at age 57 in his Paisley Park estate on Thursday, April 21st. I never met Prince, but his influence on my life was profound, his music literally the soundtrack to my life. If you were a teen in the 80s, I’ll bet that my experience mirrors your own.
The first time I became really aware of Prince the musician was when I heard the song Little Red Corvette. The sound was like nothing I’d ever heard before, being a 14 year old white kid from the Bronx. I bought his 1999 album from the record store two blocks away and listened to it over and over.
Then came the blockbuster, Purple Rain. That was it for me. I was sold. Prince fan for life. I saw the movie a half dozen times in the theater. I bought the album and wore the grooves out. Because we didn’t have cable or MTV, I waited every Friday night for Friday Night Videos on a local channel so I could watch the videos for When Doves Cry or Let’s Go Crazy. I fell in love with Apollonia. There were two issues of Cream Magazine featuring Prince that I carried around in my back pocket for an entire summer, rereading the articles constantly.
I was hooked into the Minneapolis wave of music – Morris Day and the Time, Vanity 6, Ready for the World, Wendy & Lisa and even early Janet Jackson. I dove into his back catalog, a string of funky-pop albums that started when he was 19 like For You, Prince, Dirty Mind and Controversy. Those early albums are full of so much raw energy and wild sexuality, it’s hard to believe they were written and performed by such a young man.
Even as I grew older and became a metalhead, Prince was still my go-to. No one’s music has meant more to me than his. Since his death, some local stations here in NY have been playing nothing but Prince songs, some I haven’t heard in a long time, deep cuts from Around the World in A Day or Lovesexy. Radio has been so homogenized, watered down and turned into corporate shilling for plastic performers, the wave of Prince classics has been a breath of fresh air. It makes me wonder, why the hell did you not play these songs over the past 15-20 years?
It also made me realize I know the lyrics to every Prince song from 1977 until about 1999 (right when my kids were born and priorities…ummm…shifted). I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve teared up several times over the past 24 hours, driving to Alphabet Street or Pop Life.
I’ve tried to come up with a list of my all time favorites. It’s almost impossible. There are just so many. It was rare that I disliked even 1 song on an album. But here are the ones that I could listen to on an infinite loop :
- I Wanna Be Your Lover
- Purple Rain
- Darling Nikki
- I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
- The Morning Papers
- The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
Literally, the list could go on and on.
I was lucky to see him in concert in the 90s. I tell people, it was the closest thing to a religious experience I’ve ever had. People of every age, race, creed and color were literally one that night, many with tears streaming down their faces as we swayed with the music. Prince played over a dozen different instruments that night, and played them masterfully. The man was a legendary guitarist. He could shred like no other and drop funk like Napalm.
There was a time I was going to get a tattoo of the symbol he became during his dispute with Warner Brothers. I think it’s time I did it.
Damn, I’m going to miss him. I don’t care about how he died. He’s gone, and can’t come back. But I’ll always have his music.
And let’s not forget that Vanity passed away earlier this year. I’m losing vital parts of the fabric of my soul, and it’s happening way too soon.