My sister, Trina, writer and music editor for High Voltage, gathered herself amidst her grief and took to her keyboard to do homage to one of the towering influences in both our lives.
Because even after calling her to commiserate over the bad news, frankly, I couldn’t. And big thanks to her BFF, Timothy (Hodge Podge), for the extra kick in the butt.
(reblogged from High Voltage Magazine)
“Writing’s not your job: it’s what you do.” Timothy said over the phone.
“How am I supposed to write when I can’t even see?” I half-ass jokingly replied while I struggled through the heavy veil of tears that would not stop welling up. You see he, like a few others, had called out of concern after it was confirmed that Prince Rogers Nelson had died. Christopher Tracy. The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. Joey Coco. Skipper. Alexander Nevermind. Symbol.
His name was Prince and he was funky. And he was 57.
Part of me felt some journalistic obligation to take the importance of this particular artist’s existence – a man I’d never met – and form them into coherent words but I was struggling. Too soon. Too much. Plus, I couldn’t see. And I knew that everybody and their grandmother would be at their keyboards writing what would surely be the DEFINITIVE tribute or memorial compared to my noise in the echo chamber. But Tim thought otherwise. And my brother, John (also a writer), suggested that even if it’s not made public, it might be cathartic. Okay.
By the time Tim had called I’d been refusing to look at any text messages, let alone answer any calls, but when his name appeared on the screen it felt like 1983 all over again. He’s been many things to me over the years: classmate, friend, ex-boyfriend, fellow service member (his Marine Corps to my Army), person I’d lost contact with only to reconnect. And he was there during those formative Prince years during high school.
“You’re the girl who turned me on to Prince and I remember thinking, “This girl is crazy!’” he laughed, on the phone. “Only to go ‘This dude’s a fucking genius. I like this!’” I could almost see his face saying that. Now it was 1983 all over again.
Yes, Prince’s career defining movie and its soundtrack, Purple Rain, came out in 1984. But a mere three years earlier I’d discovered Controversy and – like a good little music fan – I back peddled my way from Dirty Mind (1980) to Prince (1979) to his very first and singularly impressive album, 1978’s For You. The very first song and title track, alone, is a STUNNING feat of a cappella harmonization. Every single instrument, vocal, handclap, finger snap, you name it that is heard on every of that album’s nine songs belonged to Prince. And he was only 19 or 20 years old. Between albums For You and Controversy, I grooved to funky songs of devotion (“Just As Long As We’re Together” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover”). But there were also songs about incest and oral sex (“Sister” and “Head”), songs about a lover on the down low like “Private Joy” (FUN FACT: that tune went on to be covered by LaToya Jackson. Not kidding.) and all mixed with finding his socio-political footing (“Ronnie Talk To Russia”). Words were strung together to form lyrics the likes of which I’d never heard before and soul, rock, blues, pop, jazz, and R&B were all having sex together and making extraordinary music babies. By the time Prince’s behemoth double album, 1999, rolled around in 1982: holy shit, the mind was blown.