The beautiful one

My earliest music memory is hearing “Purple Rain.” I was 3 when it came out. I can’t picture exactly where I was when I heard it, most likely in the trailer we lived in at the time, but I do remember it coming through the radio, making its way into my tiny ears and rearranging my still forming brain in the process. It must have been so different than anything else I had heard at that point, to be able to captivate something so young and directionless. Maybe it was the way the song built, on and on and on, to that mountain of a moment when it feels like heaven itself pours down on anyone listening. Maybe it was the imagery of purple water as I was just learning my colors. Maybe it was that howling singalong at the end. Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me the reason, because it’s something that’s more than a song to me. It’s almost part of my DNA. In fact, compared to most any other song that I’ve heard countless times throughout my life, I’ve never tired of it. It’s never lost its effect. If I were to play it right now, turned up to its maximum potential, I’d still get chills. I do every time.
Years later, when I was a bit older, around 14, The Gold Experience came out under his symbol moniker. My friends and I thought “Pussy Control” was the greatest thing we had ever heard, obviously as a middle school age boy would. We would play it loud, giggling the entire time. When I went to college, my roommate and I were trying to decide what the perfect first song to play in our newfound freedom should be, and for some ridiculous reason, “Pussy Control” was the chosen song. Before we even unpacked our bags, we made sure to set the stereo system up first, threw in the disc, and blasted his feminist anthem. I’m sure it was less than a minute before our RA was standing in our doorway, half out of breath from his rush down the hall and yelling at the top of his lungs for us to “turn that shit down!” Prince almost got us kicked out of the hall, which would have made this story even better.
Last year was a hard year on my family with our house flooding twice. The first time, the worst occasion, put a couple feet of water in our home after a major snowmelt. We spent 15 hours getting everything up or out of the house before the river forced us out. We knew that life would be different for quite a while, but, at the moment, the only thing that was on our mind was the just-announced Prince show at the Louisville Palace. There was nothing we could do until the water receded, so we cleaned up, drove to the Palace and felt ourselves be obliterated by one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. We knew we’d have to deal with reality eventually, but, for three hours, we sat at the feet of a god and lost ourselves in his funk and roll.
Prince was an artist that transcended generations, styles, cliques and genres. I may have met people who weren’t Prince fans, but every single one of them had at least one or two songs that they would freely admit to loving. Beyond his genius ability at melody, he was also our greatest-living guitarist, capable of any style and able to out-shred anyone that was up against him. His Super Bowl halftime performance alone could put him in the history books. Plus, he was the definition of sex personified. Go ahead and throw on “Black Sweat” or “Darling Nikki” for just a tip of the taste.
So forgive me if I don’t want to write a Prince tribute, because I don’t want to say goodbye. It doesn’t even feel like an option. Not like with Bowie, whose death was unbelievable just because I never believed he was of this planet to begin with, but because saying goodbye to Prince means I have to say goodbye to a piece of myself. When it came to this thing we call music, he was every bit of it. And that imprint is in all of us and what we listen to today.