This past Saturday my sweet husband and I were doing some yard work. While we trudged around the yard we were listening to Kono 101…you know one like it, right? A little station that plays “oldies” ??? Yeah well every single song is like hello, what happened to all this great music and when the hell did I get old!!!! I mean truly the 70’s and 80’s don’t seem all that long ago to me. And then the perfect song came on. It was a song that has reached way down deep into my soul from the first moment I ever heard it way back in 1984. I stopped what I was doing, threw down a broom or some other back-breaking tool, and jumped up and started dancing. Big Papa had gone around to the front yard and he returned to find his wife singing at the top of her lungs and dancing around wildly…. Had I known at the time what the week would bring, I probably would’ve been crying. But I’m glad I didn’t know. I’m glad I just danced and went a little crazy…
…and this how it went…. (Come on now…I wanna hear you!!!!!)
“Dearly beloved, We are gathered here today to get into this thing called life. Electric word life, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time. But I’m here to tell you…There’s something else
The after world
(AND you all know that little magical sound I heard right then, don’t you!)
A world of never ending happiness; You can always see the sun, day or night. So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills,
You know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
‘Cause in this life, Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life…
(COME ON RIGHT NOW, dance with me, you know that beat that kicks in right now!)
You’re on your own!
And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor…
If you don’t like the world you’re living in, Take a look around you
At least you got friends
You see I called my old lady, For a friendly word
She picked up the phone, Dropped it on the floor
(Ah, ah) is all I heard.
Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let’s go!
Let’s go crazy… Let’s get nuts
Let’s look for the purple banana, ‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!
We’re all excited, But we don’t know why
Maybe it’s ’cause, We’re all gonna die
And when we do (When we do)
What’s it all for (What’s it all for)
You better live now, Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door
Let’s go crazy!
Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let’s go!
I said let’s go crazy (Go crazy)
Let’s go, let’s go
Dr. Everything’ll be alright
Will make everything go wrong
Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill
Hang tough children
Take me away!
And so I sang. And danced. And if you had been there, you would’ve joined me.
And then just five days later the DOVES CRY! And I weep with them. The news of the untimely death of one of the greatest icons of my youth hit me with an unfathomable pain in my heart. Prince is the sound of my youth. His second album at age 20 went platinum at a time I was coming of age. And my cautious mother wasn’t too thrilled about him I can assure you. But Prince melted his sultry way into my world and it was love at first listen.
And then I saw him. My hungry eyes devoured him and my love affair with those flirtatious doe-eyed glances and that tight sexy ass began. His gyrations, his delicate hands stroking the guitar, his passionate moan, that falsetto followed by those deep velvet tones, and that scream, oh that Princely scream… It was almost more than my youthful teen soul could bear. I was swooning daily and in love with an erotic dream. And the music kept coming and coming and coming… He was relentless, I couldn’t have left him if I tried. Sure, I had bouts of Elton John and Billy Joel and my love of Led Zeppelin too…but Prince Rogers Nelson brought something more to the table than any of them could. He brought wild abandon. He brought guilty pleasures. He brought sex and Jesus all wrapped into one. And this little catholic girl ate it up and swallowed him whole. And he never failed me. My Prince set before me a table that I didn’t even know existed and served up plate after platter of delectable feasts fit for the goddess I was becoming.
It was a time when iTunes did not exist and the only way to get music was to save your $1 a week allowance for two months to go buy a cassette tape to throw in the walkman you had gotten for Christmas… or… you could simply listen to your boombox while doing homework with a BLANK cassette tape and wait. And wait. But it never took long. At the first strains of any Prince tune- always undeniable- I would quickly reach over and press those two buttons- the red record button and the play button… and so my bastardized collection of Prince tunes began. I carried around mix tapes and copied recordings from my best friend Renee. We found pictures of him in Teen Beat magazine and swooned when the Purple Rain movie was rated “R”. We analyzed his lyrics and had naughty conversations about characters such as Nikki, the little darling that she was. We dreamed of Little Red Corvettes and danced wildly at slumber parties to I Would Die 4 U and Baby I’m A Star. “Hey look me over, tell me do you like what you see!” Yes! We screamed, oh yes we love what we see! “Hey, I ain’t got no money, but honey I’m rich on personality.” Like he even needed to mention it? We already knew it was true! He was charisma personified…Had he formed a cult I think Renee and I would’ve set off running during cross country practice one afternoon and never looked back. We would’ve happily lived out our days, dancing side-by-side with Wendy and Lisa, mesmerized and hypnotized by his Purpleness.
But instead of running off to join Christopher Tracy’s Parade, we tried to act normal… Normal teenagers in adoration of an international star. Our reaction wasn’t premature either. His second record went platinum and he never looked back. From 1978 all the way through 2010 he delivered almost one album per year! YES! You read that correctly: THIRTY YEARS of albums! Prince was a phenom! (Just for the record-pun intended: no new albums were released these five years: 1983, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2005) And then sh’bam he popped back up with new albums in 2014 and 2015. Allow me to clarify, lest you not yet believe, brothers and sisters. This does NOT include greatest hits albums and stuff like that. There were bunches of those over the years too! Each one of those albums I mentioned was a whole new collection of all new songs. All written by him. Right. He was a genius. By the time I graduated from high school there were already nine albums, five of which held top ten record positions. I had saved enough allowance money and to own seven.
And then there was the movie. Purple Rain, released in 1984, and rated by our mothers as Raunchy, Rude and Reprehensible. It was semi-autobiographical and we wanted to see it oh so badly. We just had to get closer to our Prince. But in those days middle school girls couldn’t just waltz into an R-rated movie. And so we waited until it could be seen on late night TV. And even then we both got in big trouble when our parents found out that we had watched it. My own mom discovered us in mid-viewing… She came walking into the room and about had an apoplectic fit as she witnessed Prince gyrating against the stage floor while the two of us danced in our pj’s in front of the screen. I was quite sure that there was only one really “over the top” scene in the whole movie and that she had naturally walked in right in the middle of that one part. She was not convinced. (Yes, I own my own copy of that movie- you had to ask?) But I did learn my lesson well. My cousin Jacques and I would stealthily sneak off after the parents had gone to sleep to watch the Raspberry Beret video over and over and over again. We never got caught due to his lightning quick skills with the brand new remote control.
When I think of the history of my life, Prince is there, woven through it all. He is part of the culture I grew up in. We were afraid to fry our brains on drugs and terrified of the threat of global thermonuclear warfare. We saw our moms get jobs outside our homes and we first heard of a thing called AIDS. The globe started warming and they brought computer labs into our schools full of Apple IIE’s. And Prince was there for it all. There were Thieves in the Temple and we traveled Around the World in A Day. We wanted 7 mugs full of Starfish and Coffee and prayed that a cute boy would tell us, U Got the Look. And there he was in the background too, writing songs catapulting others to stardom including Morris Day and The Time. He wrote for Sheena Easton, The Bangles, Apollonia 6 and Madonna. Prince was everywhere and he could do every thing. He was a composer, a singer, a dancer and a musician. He was a producer, a choreographer, and he played over 27 musical instruments…and that was only on his FIRST album. The man was an icon and I’m not sure there has ever been another human being as wildly gifted as him. Prince Rogers Nelson, Nothing Compares to You. Nothing.
And so, I crank up the tunes and wipe these endless purple tears. I raise a glass to offer a toast to The Love Symbol. Here’s to my first real kiss from a boy while “When Doves Cry” blared from a nearby boom box. Here’s to my cousin and all the late nights watching Prince videos. Here’s to the waters of Lake Minnetonka and getting purified. Here’s to new friendships formed with young folks who almost “get it.” Here’s to my friend Renee who made a dream come true for me in July of 2004 in Hartford, Connecticut. I finally saw him in the flesh with my own eyes and I wept when he walked onto the stage. I had waited twenty years for that moment and it truly was a Beautiful One. And he did not disappoint. Middle-school me and grown-up me were still in love with a musical hero. An icon. A genius. And my world was rocked once again…
and I shall never be the same…