Every single music lover has one special artist. That person who speaks to them deeply, an artist who has a song for every emotion and every feeling a human being is capable of. For me, that person was Prince. Today, my hero has departed this plane of existence.
At about the time I entered junior high, I discovered Prince’s The Hits / The B-Sides collection. Like the people who actually grew up during his reign in the 80s, I discovered an artist with a talent so immense that his B-sides collection just sounded like more hits. Hit after hit, for artist after artist. It was absolutely stacked in ways that I couldn’t comprehend. From that point on I did what any obsessive teenager does – I scoured the internet, local record stores and everywhere I could to get my hands on more of Prince’s music.
If I open my music library right now, I have a genre called Mplsound. As in, Minneapolis-sound, a genre of music he created. A type of music that combined the best things of so many genres into an insane pop-funk-rock-dance-R&B hybrid. That genre listing of Mplsound contains 6,712 items as of this very second. That is close to 7,000 tracks. Live versions, alternate versions, things people stole from his vault and published online. And I have devoured all of it, searched high and low for a new show or a new bootleg to listen to. I’m sorry I listened to material Prince never wanted released, but I couldn’t help myself.
In 2009 I had the opportunity to go and see Prince at his Paisley Park complex. After a grueling 12 hour drive from my home in Oklahoma, I arrived at Paisley Park. I entered the hallowed halls of His Purpleness, overwhelmed and excited and unable to really process what was going on. I took in everything. The motorcycle that Prince and a soaking wet Apollonia clung to in Purple Rain sat in the corner. I asked a security guard if I could sit on it – he never answered but his eyes told me the answer was “no fucking way, weirdo.” It was a chilly October night in Minneapolis and hundreds of people had been waiting for Prince to come out on stage. And he did, in spectacular fashion. I can’t really remember specifics, but I remember his shoes – because they lit up like ones I had when I was a child. Except they were far more fabulous than any light up shoes I’ve ever seen, because… well, because it’s fucking Prince.
And then the music started. It’s hard to remember specifics, now, but the hits were there. New material was there, too, and all in all, that night Prince played 37 songs. Thirty-seven songs pulled from every corner of his discography. Thirty-seven songs forever seared into my brain as a memory of one of my favorite days to ever happen. He even covered the Jackson 5, paying tribute to Michael Jackson, who at that time had only been gone for a few months. I remember you slowing down Purple Rain until it sounded like nothing more than a heartbeat, connecting every single person in the room. It was an incredible night, the kind of memory that becomes faded with time but never forgotten, one that will trigger an overwhelmingly positive feeling in my brain and heart if I ever need one.
I have worshiped Prince’s 39 studio albums. I can name every member of the Revolution or the New Power Generation in chronological order. I have studied the content, the music and the person behind both of them. I have studied guitar tabs both as a budding guitar player in my teens and even today as an adult, as I try to even gain a speck of the talent Prince had on the instrument he used to channel his soul. It’s not possible, for any other guitar players out there.
I could probably write forever about the impact Prince had on me as a music listener, and I’m sure many of you feel the same. But the truth of the matter is, there are never enough words. There weren’t enough words for Michael Jackson and there weren’t enough for David Bowie. There damn sure aren’t enough words for the Purple one. There will be a million thinkpieces and a million obituaries but at the end of the day we are all feeling the same. In shock. The age of 57 is too young for anyone to leave this planet, especially for someone who never really seemed of this world in the first place.
So to keep it simple, thank you. Thank you to the sexy dancer, the irresistible bitch, the skinny motherfucker with the high voice. Thank you to the symbol, TAFKAP and to the Purple Yoda. Thank you, Prince.