I’m listening to Prince right now. My whole family is listening to Prince right now, real loud. I’m devastated. I’ve used that sentence a lot today. It sucks. That’s the other one I’ve used. Today we lost another Icon. A musical genius. Absolutely not terms that I throw out without serious consideration. I know I won’t get much argument. As geniuses go, he was a pretty obvious one. He could play. He could play guitar, piano, drums, bass, sing, dance, act…what else do you need to be entertained? He could write. Music? Check. Screen plays? Check. He famously told his record label when they signed him in 1979, “don’t make me an R&B artist” because he wasn’t. He transcended. He elevated. He inspired. He was held to no genre, he was held to no rules, he was held to no convention. That’s the main reason he became one of my primary inspirations; he loved and embraced music as the wild, willowy, all over the place, woman that she is. He was not an artist that just stayed at the “prime rib station” of the musical buffet. He hit the whole thing…enchiladas to egg rolls baby!
I discovered Prince (like Columbus “discovered” America) at 1999. That was my first exposure. I was transported. I was dumbfounded. I was hooked and I wasn’t even a musician yet. Hadn’t even picked up a guitar yet, but somehow I knew that this was important, different, transcendent. I sat in the floor of my bedroom and listened to the 1999 album over and over. I studied the liner notes, the lyrics, the images. I listened. I researched. He had other albums! I quickly bought Controversy, Dirty Mind, Prince and For You. He never missed with me. I could (and still can) listen to (and sing) every album, all the way through and never get bored or skip a track. Soft And Wet, Bambi, When You Were Mine, Sexuality, Little Red Corvette, Let’s Go Crazy, Sign O’The Times…they're all in my DNA. I’ve absorbed them. I’ll sing ‘em to ya if you want.
As my daughter has gotten older, I’ve yet to really expose her to Prince because a lot of the early stuff can lean “adult”. She listens to lyrics and asks questions. “I knew a girl named Nikki…” Head, Sister, Erotic City… These are songs I’ll probably never be ready to discuss with her. I want her to know how important he and his music were to me. I credit (rightfully so) Jimi Hendrix with my desire to learn to play the guitar but Prince was there in the here and now, saying to me, through the speakers and the movie screen; “whatever you dare, you can bring about. Just be you.”
Prince sang; “Am I black or white, am I straight or gay…” He had bands with men, women, black, white. He played music and showed through his actions that music was ours, not just a segment of us but all of ours. He sang a song about oral sex and wrote one of my favorite songs about God, called oddly enough, God. One foot in the sacred and one in the profane. Pretty much how we all live but he owned up to it. He pushed buttons. All of them. YouTube his GRAMMY performance of Gett Off to see some button pushing. While you’re at it, YouTube his performance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert soloing on While My Guitar Gently Weeps. He was one of a kind, an original, a genius, an Icon.
I met Prince once. I have a friend who was once a radio programmer, he had passes to a Prince concert and a meet and greet before the show. Turns out it was a round-table discussion of radio programmers and DJ’s to ask how artists could get music played without a major label. The circle included every programmer and DJ in the greater Cleveland area, as well as George Clinton and Najee. As we went around the circle introducing ourselves and stating our job title, I , having no job title or reason for even being in the circle, had that “cotton-mouth, sick-to-my-stomach” feeling. When it came to me, I said “my name is Scott…” Prince laughed “he, he”. I saw him one night at Paisley Park, DJ’ing and watched him leave in a purple Dodge Prowler with his soon to be second wife. I saw him perform in Atlanta, Knoxville, Cleveland and Nashville. I watched Purple Rain twice the day it hit theaters. I bought the VHS the day it as released and wore it out. I’ve owned multiple copies of every video, CD and bootleg (sorry Prince) that ever existed. I was NEVER disappointed or let down. He delivered every time. I have friends and co-workers who have interacted with him intimately and some have less than favorable stories and opinions of him but even though I would laugh at their stories, for me, he remained above the fray.
My favorite memory is Buff and I going to see Prince in Knoxville, TN. We had 2nd row seats that quickly became “stage-edge seats” when everybody rushed the stage. We spent that night, literally on the edge of the stage, 5 feet away from a master. He looked at Buffy while he sang and when he danced in front of us and she was thrilled and never forgot it. She told our daughter about it tonight while we discussed his importance. (Yes, I was cool with him singing to my girl from the stage, but I would have kicked his ass if he tried to hit on her:)) I remember the band stopping at one point and Prince was dancing in front of us and I could hear his heels clicking off the stage. I’ll never forget that. I’ll never forget him and what he did for music, for society and for me. When I’m tempted to play it safe, I listen to Prince and go the other way!
Thank you Prince Rogers Nelson for giving your gift to the world. RIP