Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Beautiful One

I owe most of my thirty year plus appreciation of Prince Rogers Nelson, who passed away this week, to a guy named Richard Holt.  He was a high school classmate, a fascinating guy who was as interested in obscure literature as he was playing varsity football.  We had some great discussions.  Most memorable about him was his enthusiasm for the Purple One.  I very clearly recall him wearing his Walkman to class, absorbing the just released Around the World in a Day, the follow-up to the soundtrack smash Purple Rain.  Holt was a true blue fan, quoting lyrics not only to the hits everyone knew but also songs like "17 Days".  He even wrote "don't let the elevator get you down" in my yearbook.

I learned of Prince's death last Thursday when my audiology assistant rushed into the kitchen and breathlessly relayed the news.  She is 23, and unrepentedly dismissive of all things '80s but even she recognized that a true light had been snuffed out of the world.  I had a similar feeling in my gut as when I learned of the passings of Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and far too many others.   Fifty-seven years old. Dafuq? (as a friend likes to say).  I don't know the details.  I have ideas.  Anyone would about a fairly young musician.  Doesn't make it any less brutal.

Prince was unique: wildly successful on the charts yet always doing his own thing. He didn't really sound like other R & B/soul acts.  The early records were minimalist funky and quite dirty at times.  Prince would record some blushingly risque tunes like "Erotic City" and "Sexy MF" throughout his very prolific career.  His guitar prowess came into view during Purple Rain.  He seemed as if channeling Hendrix.  Find some YouTube clips; the guy could shred.

I have countless memories associated with Prince's music.  He was virtually the soundtrack to my high school years.  I had another friend at that time who was quite obsessed with him.  She lent me the unfortunate UNDER THE CHERRY MOON film he made, a failed attempt at mid century European art house (though it was stylish). The PURPLE RAIN movie was far from great itself but was a good showcase for the artist's music and was well shot. Anyway,  Brenda and I were on yearbook staff together and had endless discussions the man who would one day change his name to a symbol, then reconsider years later.   When I connected with Brenda on Facebook many years later she told me that she did not listen to Prince anymore as she was now a devoted Christian.  Many conservative folks with this belief system saw a problem with loving the Lord and appreciating Prince.  I did (and do) not.

Check some of the lyrics:

"I'm your messiah and you're the reason why."

"I'm going to a better life, how 'bout you?"

Those are the more obvious ones.  I feel Prince had a very strong connection and relationship with God, though the very present sexual elements in his music muddy the thesis.  Or maybe not.

Mr. Holt is not on Facebook.  I did chat with him several years ago through the Classmates site.  He still liked Prince, he said, though was more into world music as he had traveled quite a bit before settling down.  I wonder how he felt on 4/21/16.

R.I.P. Beautiful One

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