Where does one even start when discussing someone like Prince? His body of work, and life in general, was so massive and expansive that it’s a bit overwhelming even thinking about trying to write about it. In fact, this is probably the seventh time since his death that I’ve tried to sit down and write something, anything, about Prince. His art means a lot to me and his body of work is staggering. 39 (!!!) full length studio albums, 136 music videos, 104 singles. That’s insane to even fathom. To put that in perspective, Bob Dylan had over 2 decades of recording before Prince released his first album and Dylan only has 37 studio albums. Needless to say, the man was prolific. It’s also rumored that he has enough unreleased material to be able to release a new full length album every year for the next century. But that’s all just statistics that you can find anywhere. I wanted to write something personal over losing someone whose music has become incredibly important to me.
I’m basically a new comer to the world of Prince. I haven’t been listening to him my whole life. Yes, I remember watching his music videos on MTV as a kid and he’s always kind of been in the ether of my life, but I wasn’t actively listening to him. Like everyone else, I was familiar with his major hits like When Doves Cry, Kiss, 1999, etc, but my introduction deeper into the music of Prince came from three things: Jonah Matranga covering The Cross, Ween covering Shockadelica, and Kevin Smith discussing him at length, especially the 1989 Batman soundtrack. The covers by both Jonah and Ween became absolute standouts in my world. The Ween one being goofy and basically making the second half of it their own, and the Jonah cover being unbelievable heartwarming and personal. I would listen to both of them all the time. On top of that, the more and more I listened to Kevin Smith’s podcast and the more I heard him talk about Prince, I knew I had to dive in.
Now, the obvious move would have been to start out with something like his greatest hits or Purple Rain. But the first full Prince album I sunk my teeth into was the aforementioned Batman soundtrack. I was hooked immediately. It’s weird and counter intuitive to the dark and gritty take that the Dark Knight’s first foray into serious film was going for, but it works so well. Songs like Partyman, Batdance, Lemon Crush, and Scandalous are poppy, sexy, grandiose and everything else Prince was known for. And most of all, the album was fun.
After becoming obsessed with Batman, I started to immediately devour his ‘classic’ albums. Prince, 1999, Around The World In A Day, Purple Rain, Sign O’ The Times, Emancipation. I fell in love with all of them. I’ve spent the last 5 years basically living off of Prince’s music. There hasn’t been a full week that I haven’t at least listened to The Hits/B-sides compilation. I listen to I Wanna Be Your Lover and Little Red Corvette every single morning when I leave work. Prince has become a part of my DNA and one of the things that I’ve bonded with people over. I could talk endlessly about his guitar playing at the end of Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad or how I Would Die 4 U is an absolutely perfect song. Or how I get chills at the scream he uses on If I Was Your Girlfriend (“Sometimes I trip out on how happy we could be, PLLLEEEEEAAAASSSSSEEEEE”). Or how much his cover of I Can’t Make You Love Me effects me on a deep, emotional level.
On the day Prince died, I woke up to text messages, tweets, and direct messages from people offering me condolences like I had lost a member of my immediate family. It was weird and wonderful and actually incredibly comforting. I had never met the man, or even seen him perform live for that matter, but his impact on my life had been so big that people knew I was going to be devastated. And I was. I was in complete shock, as most of the world was. No one really saw it coming. Everyone on my Twitter timeline was sharing stories and their favorite songs that whole week. It was wonderful and therapeutic and beautiful to see how many lives Prince had touched with his music. It was especially great to see the usually serious and stoic metal community come out and talk about how much Prince inspired them or how much they loved his work. Hearing stories of practically every band playing shows that week opening with Purple Rain (shout out to Mutoid Man for the best version I heard) or seeing a band like Noisem paying respect was great. But the thing that finally sent me over the edge and made me tear up and cry was seeing the video of the massive crowd of people celebrating his life and work in Minnesota. It looked liked blocks had been taken over, with every light being turned purple, and everyone singing along to Purple Rain. It hit me hard just how much he resonated with people. His songs were the soundtracks to millions of peoples lives. I can’t even imagine how many awkward sexual awakenings happened to his music videos. Or how many dance parties 1999 or Let’s Go Crazy have been played at. The sheer magnitude of the lives he had made better through music is awe inspiring.
If anything comes from his death, I hope that a new generation of people discover his music and check it out. In my opinion, he has at least 4 perfect albums (Purple Rain, 1999, Controversy, and Prince) that should be heard. I envy the people that get to experience his work for the first time now. It’s a journey into musical genius that is unrivaled. Prince was on a whole other level. He wasn’t weird, he was unabashedly himself and turned that into an exceptional musical career. He was constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of popular music. There will never be anyone else like him and the world is a lot less magical without him in it.
This is a video for Prince’s cover of Bonnie Raitt’s song I Can’t Make You Love Me. It has been on constant rotation for me since Prince left us. It’s one of the most beautiful renditions of an already beautiful song that I’ve ever heard and it makes me equally happy and sad while listening to it.