I’m not the right person to be writing this post, and I wouldn’t have written one on my personal blog. I’m not a musical expert. I didn’t cyber-stalk Prince. I can’t tell you his favourite colour or the name of his childhood dog. I’m not really familiar with much of his music after Sign o’ the Times, which probably makes me the fakest of fake fans. But this is a throwback blog, and for a brief period in the 80s my friend Danielle and I were Prince-obsessed. For Christmas that year everything I got was purple – purple sweatshirts, purple sneakers, purple journal, purple hair accessories, and Purple Rain.
He was such a fascinating bundle of contradictions, wasn’t he? Incredibly sexy growly lower-register and then that crazy falsetto. Tight suits made of lace – it was a little like Jimi Hendrix and Liberace were sharing a body. Incredibly sophisticated lyrics that used 2 and 4 and U like twelve-year-old girls passing notes to each other – not to mention the obsession with… purple. Songs that veered between shocking filth (I was going to say Darling Nikki, and then went looking a little and to that I’d have to add most of the songs on Diamonds and Pearls, not to mention someone was talking about a Prince song about giving head, and I was trying to figure out if it was some complicated metaphor song, but no – it’s actually called Head) and sweet whimsical innocence (Starfish and Coffee, which I always loved even before I found out that he sang it ON THE MUPPETS in a skit that had A PRINCE MUPPET – you have to go to 4:58, I couldn’t find the one that started in the right place). One of my basic benchmarks for a celebrity that is a good egg is someone who doesn’t mind poking fun at himself – so, go Prince.
He just seemed great at doing his own thing. He wrote songs that were too dirty for the radio. He wrote a song called The Ballad of Dorothy Parker where he ordered a fruit cocktail. He wrote songs that you had to dance to. I had a corduroy raspberry beret. I danced to U Got the Look in a high school gym in Sault Ste. Marie on a debating trip. I went and saw Purple Rain and thought it was deep and meaningful. I went and saw Under the Cherry Moon and thought it was flaky and weird. Graffiti Bridge wasn’t even on my radar.
And yes, he was odd. He changed his name to a symbol and gave self-indulgently meandering speeches at awards shows. But he also did a crapload of philanthropic stuff and didn’t take any credit for it. And any time you saw him performing, he just seemed to be having a blast.
I’m not sad for me. One of the articles I read said that as long as an artist is still alive, you’re still the person you were when you first heard that song, and danced, or cried, or felt something too big to articulate. To me, that’s still true as long as the music exists. So I’m not sad for me. I’m sad for him, and his family and friends, and the music he never got to make. He punched a higher floor and I hope he’s in that world of never-ending happiness where you can always see the sun. We should all do a little partying like it’s 1999 in his honour.