I found out that Prince died on Thursday morning. I was working in my restaurant and a customer told me the news. I was absolutely shocked. Prince hadn’t seemed to age in about fifteen years. He seemed to be the picture of health to me. Many people are thinking about retirement at age fifty seven but Prince seemed like a person that still had a lot of passion and things to accomplish.
I grew up listening to Prince’s music. I remember when “1999” was a hit and it seemed so far off in the future. I was eight or so. I did the math and figured out that I would be twenty four in 1999. I couldn’t even imagine myself at that age or what the future would be like. Now I’m forty one and the year is 2016 and 1999 and being twenty four is a distant memory.
In the 1980s there was an urban legend that if you played a Prince record backward you would hear a satanic message. I couldn’t resist giving it a try. There was no message to be heard, just unintelligible words and ugly sounds. I failed to summon the devil or any demonic spirits in my bedroom. I can’t remember if I was relieved or disappointed.
“Purple Rain” was released when I was in the fourth grade. I didn’t see the movie until many years later but I became familiar with it from my classmates. They reenacted scenes from the movie on the playground and quoted the movie whenever they could work it into a conversation. I do not remember when I actually saw the movie for myself but I thought it was awful. The plot was weak and Prince was actually a terrible actor. But the soundtrack was fantastic. The movie was the star.
I remember when Prince decided to have a concert tour in the early 90s. He came to the FOX theater in Detroit and I tried desperately to get tickets. I think tickets went on sale at 10:00 a.m. I arrived at the Harmony House at the local mall in the town where I lived at around 10:05 a.m. and the clerk told me that tickets were already sold out. I was shocked but I was not going to be denied so easily. I spent the rest of that day desperately trying to win tickets from the radio station. I never got through so I gave up.
I’ve seen Prince in concert twice. Both times it was in Kansas City, MO. The first time I saw him at Municipal Auditorium downtown with a lady that I knew from my job at the time. I wore a purple bobbed wig, a purple tank top and jeans. I have a photograph of that ensemble somewhere but I haven’t taken the effort to locate it. It was pretty sexy if I must say so myself. Take my word for it. The second time I saw him at Kemper Arena with my mom.
After missing out on the chance to see him in Detroit I jumped at the chance to buy tickets to a Prince show. Both shows were fantastic. He was a true musician and a purist. His shows were simple. His act didn’t involve magic tricks, pyrotechnics, or a dozen back up dancers. I was just him and his incredibly talented band.
There is a Facebook meme that has been circulating that asks what your favorite Prince song is. I was up until 3:00 a.m. Friday morning listening to his songs on my mp3 player. I can’t decided. I really can’t. But I think I’m leaning toward “Raspberry Beret”. I’ve always liked those lyrics.
I admire Prince’s creativity and passion. He was incredibly accomplished and was ahead of his time. He was 5’2″, wore high heels, ruffled shirts but had more masculine swagger than many, many men. His music was sexy without being vulgar. At least he wasn’t vulgar to me. Prince seemed to be a man that loved, admired, respected and valued women and that makes the difference between sexy and vulgar.
Prince will be missed but we will have his music forever. If the world survives another few centuries I wonder if his work will be among the ranks of Mozart, Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. I hope so, his music is a sign of our times (pun intended).
“Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last.”