That title was kind of a gimme, am I right?
But Sinead O’Connor’s cover of that song revealed what a stellar songwriter Prince Rogers Nelson was.
Look, I am a white suburban kid; my music inputs ranged from hard rock to basic rock to classic rock. However, once my brain had been opened up by the punk and the new wave, and then my circle of friends was expanded by going to college, I was open to new sounds and ideas…
And the idea of this Prince guy was probably sent into my brain by some stupid rock music article. But when I had a few extra Ameros, visiting the local Over-sized Supermarket in a poor cow-town college town, they had 2 (TWO!) copies of “1999” and I bought one. I really wonder who bought the other (although I know the store may have sent it back). It was a white boy, barf ‘n’ boogie environment, and new wave funk really did not fit in….but in one house, it did. It fit in between REM and the Thompson Twins and Elvis Costello and the B-52s and Boomtown Rats and Wall of Voodoo and U2 and so many others….my musical mind had been blown wide open….
I have been able to see two different shows at First Avenue. One was an epochal show from Soul Asylum with one of my personal favorites the Figgs opening, and I got ROARING drunk; the other was a tribute to Big Star’s Third album, which featured many Milwaukee musicians and where I got paleo as drunk as I was the previous time, Both times, I simply reveled in being in a legendary dive….
I moved to Milwaukee. The music scene was blowing up. Femmes, R&B Cadets, Jim Liban, EIEIO, Snopek ….and I was going to college. But I had some connection to a dick that was booking for the college, and he needed to provide some big dudes to hump cases. We did. Art of Noise, Bruce Cockburn, Iggy Pop….
But none of that matters. I spent much time in and around music, local and touring. Even though I sold my Les Paul to stay in college, I stayed involved, and still go see bands often (the Big Gig is upcoming!) Music has been a huge part of my life, stretching all the way back to when I bought my first record player.
Prince was great from the first time I ever heard him, playing that copy of “1999” for bemused room-mates.
Prince has created genius-level music.
Prince demolished the ideas of gender. He performed while wearing feminine clothes, and had lesbians in his band.
Prince demolished the idea of genre. I defy good friend Zelmo to tell me what pigeonhole Prince belongs in.
Prince did “Starfish and Coffee” on the muppet show.
Prince told a corporate music shitheads to fuck off, by changing his name. Then he continued to flip them off by performing under a different name….
Prince once offered a song to the Violent Femmes, which they declined as too sexual…
Prince did whatever the fuck he wanted, when he wanted to. He was the most talented person I have seen in my lifetime, and the had, as far as I can tell, the most integrity.
Prince continued to support the local music scene, at every level. in a notable reference, Field Report says he came out to see them play….
I have a FaceHell friend who posted wondering why we spend so much time and effort when famous people die. But it’s not like a Kardashian, or Reagan; Prince accomplished much, and hardly ever compromised, and opened up spaces for people to be weird in their own way, to define themselves in their own way. It isn’t unrelated that at those times, I pierced my ears (3 times), and cut my hair short, and grew it long, and colored it blond and red and wore stupid clothes with red Converse high-tops. The answer to your question, Peter, is not that we idolize these people (although we might!) but that the things they did moved us and were important to us and they seemed like friends, because like friends, their work supported us and kept us going when times were hard. Losing them is hard, because now we have to face life without their help, and use our own meager talents to keep up their legacy and their work, and we fear we are not worthy. And we will miss, painfully miss, all the work they could have done in the future.
I will miss that I never took advantage of the opportunity to see him play. Friends, go see a band you like right now, because there is no guarantee that you will ever see them again; it’s why I survived a heart attack a year ago so I could see the Mekons play in Mineral Point; there are no damn guarantees.
I DO yammer on, don’t I? So here is my finale. I like Prince and have loved him, and he is much respectable as a musician and artist in every way. It is perfectly fitting that landmarks around the world were illuminated Purple.
We didn’t deserve him in the first place, and we are so much the poorer for losing him.
Also, and I have linked this elsewhere, but do you want more proof of his genius?
At the end, he turns and as much as says “that’s all I have to say about THAT” and not having a mic to drop, drops his guitar into the audience. As I have said many times, looking sadly down at the sausages at the end of my hands….”why can’t you guys do that?” He taught himself…
Prince taught me a way to love funk, hip-hop and R&B, made me love musicians that are so talented they can cross every genre, and to love people who are genuinely and honestly weird….
You have been a man who changed my life….Imma miss you Prince. But the rest of us, we’re not through yet….
That’s the best I can do. Sorry, man….
EDIT. With the other shit that 2016 is raining down, I just loved the: