We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life…
For those of us of a certain generation, the funeral-like organ intro and solemn baritone intoning at the beginning of the song ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ can immediately transport us back 30 years.
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
If given a school assignment to memorize a portion of a poem, we’d moan and complain and never remember a single stanza. Yet decades later, we can still easily recall every syllable of this song.
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night
It becomes almost like the soundtrack of your youth. Certain songs evoke instant memories.
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
Many of you reading this are reading these italicized lyrics in the voice of music icon Prince. (If you weren’t before, you’re certainly doing it now).
In this life
You’re on your own
And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor
Prince died on Thursday (adding an interesting subplot to what happened to be my birthday) at age 57. Tributes continue to pour in, with others far more eloquent than I offering insight to his unique genius and impact on the world.
While you always understand the aforementioned soundtrack is finite, it’s still a jolt to realize your youth isn’t forever.
People get older. Legends die. This year alone, Glenn Frey (of Eagles fame) and David Bowie passed away. Childhood slipping away…
We’re all excited
But we don’t know why
Maybe it’s ‘cause
We’re all gonna die
I have several specific memories of Prince, spanning three decades, a tribute to his staying power (one of the reasons we probably all assumed he’d be around forever).
The first time I ever saw him was on Saturday Night Live. Odd little dude. Didn’t really give it much more than a passing thought.
But strains of ‘Little Red Corvette’ playing in the background every day as we approached the familiar Herd Road/Bell McKinnon Road schoolbus dropoff point in Duncan proved a game-changer.
The odd little dude was putting out some interesting tunes.
Prince also provided my first exposure to a special kind of censorship.
I had gone to Duncan Radio and Electronics and purchased a 45 (remember those?) of ‘Let’s Go Crazy’. I also picked up a few of the little yellow things that you stick in the middle of the smaller records.
Did you know those are called “adapters”? I didn’t, until a few days ago.
I got home, fired up the old hand-me-down home stereo (complete with the 8-track slot) and listened to it a few times.
My Mum heard the din, came upstairs and asked “what’s that you’re listening to?”
“Prince. ‘Let’s Go Crazy’.”
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door
A few days later, slightly bored after having listened to the song 347 times, and not yet having purchased the entire ‘Purple Rain’ album, I figured I’d listen to the B-side, ‘Erotic City’.
Well now. Back in those days, naughty words weren’t exactly inserted into every tune. So when I had this particular song cranked, the reaction from Mum was a little different.
“What are you listening to????!!!?”
“Prince. ‘Erotic City’.”
“You can’t listen to that. That’s disgusting. Throw that away now.”
“But he’s saying ‘funk’…”
I never did throw it away, just used more discretion from there on out. I often wonder what Mum would have done if she ever listened to my NWA stuff.
Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let’s go!
My most shameful Prince anecdote came a couple of years later.
Blinded by a surge of testosterone, I somehow allowed a couple of lovely young ladies to convince me to dress like the Purple One for a lip sync contest. They would be (bandmates) Wendy and Lisa.
They did me up right. Purple coat. Pencilled-in ’stache. A borrowed electric guitar.
My inner monologue was an interesting argument.
“You are a freaking idiot.”
“Yeah, but they’re really cute.”
“They are. But you’re still an idiot.”
I was terrible. I did get a couple of folks holding up their lighters (as opposed to today’s cellphones) during ‘Purple Rain’ but that was likely out of pity.
We didn’t win. I never did make any inroads with “Wendy” or “Lisa” but there was one significant silver lining – no pictures of said incident appear to exist.
My last funny memory involving Prince came in 2011. He played a concert at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, and myself and my son’s Prince-obsessed mom weren’t going to miss it.
A stark reminder of my own advancing age were some of the other audience members.
All kinds of 40-something ladies somehow stuffed into purple spandex pants that hadn’t seen the light of day since the ’80s. And shouldn’t have seen the light of day.
Old, fat guys dressed in garb that I would have needed a bunch of booze to even think of sporting decades earlier.
And the topper… a bus load of folks from a seniors care home, walkers and all, unloading out front to come in and get their funk on one last time.
And get their funk on they did. It was the single-most impressive musical display I’ve ever seen.
For pure personal enjoyment, nothing will
ever surpass young, liquor-fuelled me taking in AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses back in the day.
But in terms of pure performing and musical skill, I have never seen anything like Prince – and never will again.
Hang tough children
Take me away!