Last Thursday the world lost one of the most unique and innovative artists in music history. Prince was more than just another R&B singer or hit maker, he was a beacon of human sexuality and an all around musical genius.
I first discovered Prince as a pre-adolescent MTV watcher. It was the early 80’s and while my parents would not have approved I was enamored by the sheer magical qualities of his music and imagery. Far before I understood my own sexuality and what sex was I found his flamboyant ways incredibly intriguing. For me it must have been similar to people seeing Little Richard, Jagger, Bowie, or Mercury for the first time. Such huge talent mixed with an androgynously fabulous persona that challenged the very fabric of morality, sexuality, and gender. Prince was simply Prince, and no one could touch his enormous presence.
As I grew up Prince was often my “guilty pleasure” as my other friends never understood him. The widespread homophobia and general misunderstanding of sexuality amongst most adolescent men kept my love for his essence from fully blossoming. I had at least three copies of the Purple Rain soundtrack that I wore out as well as owning it on vinyl as well. To this day, I have every version, color, and single off that album that I could find. As I hit my late teens and early 20’s Prince was amongst my top five favorite as well as influential artists. I had dove far into his catalog, discovering gems mixed in the classics that played over shopping mall speakers and top 40 radios.
My friend Darrell who I met shortly after High School was a local DJ and co-worker at a record store. He might be the biggest Prince fan I know and his love pulled my own further. I also had several friends in New Jersey who I would watch Purple Rain with nearly every time I visited. Then in college my friend Tommy, who did a spot impersonation of the Purple One, had a radio shop with me in which we played a lot of his catalog. It seemed everywhere I went I not only met the casual Prince fan, but the dedicated nearly obsessed ones, knowing rarities, as well as discussing his guitar playing styles. I would listen to anything he recorded, wrote or produced just to see if he did anything new that I wasn’t ready for. It was always a mystery to what Prince was doing and why.
It seems like many in my generation latched on to Prince not only because of his music but his whole person. The style, attitude, and persona just drew in artists, musicians, and fashion people. Prince became a staple in pop culture with people such as Kevin Smith referencing him in his movies as well as the hilarious story he tells during his “An Evening With Kevin Smith” special. Then of course there is the famous Dave Chappelle skit about the time Charlie Murphy played Prince in basketball, to this day one of the funniest moments in television history. The pinnacle moments though for me were his Superbowl halftime performance and the 2004 Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony where Prince destroys the guitar solo on George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” while surrounded by his guitar playing contemporaries.
It is safe to say I am greatly saddened by the passing of this icon. When I heard the news I was literally having a conversation about what celebrity I would most want to have dinner with, it is and always was Prince. My fascination will likely only grow as there is bound to be hours upon hours of music and video released in the coming years. Among my heroes he was one of the last living ones and maybe the most mysterious of them all. In fact I loved Prince so much that “Let’s Go Crazy” was the song I walked out to at my wedding, not to be funny, but to include his music in my biggest day. To me there will never be anyone like Prince, it is just not possible, and for those of us who had the pleasure to enjoy his music and his spirit will continue to carry the flame he lit.