On Prince-His Royal Badness

Prince at Chicago's Auditorium Theater, 1982

Prince at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater, 1982

I saw Prince and the Revolution perform live at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit back in 1982 when he was just becoming the superstar that he is/was. I didn’t pay as much attention as I wish I did now. And last year I needed money so I sold all my records – including Prince’s Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain and Around the World in a Day albums – which adds to the already-deep sadness I feel today.

He wasn’t just a rich and famous celebrity to me. He was my 20s, when everything was fresh and new and the possibilities were still endless. He was my first marriage, which I thought would last forever and didn’t. He was funk and creativity and dance and confidence and genius and escape and magic. He was anti-corporate before anti-corporate was cool, a former slave who wouldn’t be quiet, an unpronounceable symbol for a time because that’s how he rolled.

He made race irrelevant and unnoticeable. He made me want to have swagger like him. He could say with a look what I needed a paragraph to convey. He could take a color – purple, of course – and make it his. If he wanted to use eyeliner and carry a cane and bare his ass in pants that didn’t seem finished, he did. If he wanted to captivate with his sensuality, he f*ck*ing did it and if you had a problem with it, the problem was yours. The neighbors in my first apartment building must surely have wondered why a heterosexual guy from the suburbs would play “Do Me, Baby” over and over again with the volume dial at 11. This little man was huge.

His oddness was part of his allure. He was a recluse but not in a monkey-carrying, Ferris Wheel-riding way; it was a genius-exploring- musical-boundaries-and-writing-songs-that-would-be-played-for-decades kind of way. He was “Darling Nikki” – my favorite Prince song – and “Diamonds and Pearls” and “Sign O’ the Times” and of course “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” but also “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Controversy” and “Little Red Corvette” and “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.” He was “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and “I Would Die for U” and “Delirious” and “U Got the Look” and “Raspberry Beret” and “Cream” and “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Kiss.”

I reference all of these songs not because I’m a lazy writer who needs to lengthen my blog post; they’re listed because each has such meaning, such “listenality,” such “Princism.” Each is noteworthy and more than funk or pop or story-telling. Each, in its own way, marks days and weeks and months and years in my life. I don’t remember what I ate for dinner last night but I remember where I was, who I was with and what we were doing when I heard each of these songs for the first – and second and third and fourth, etc. – time.

One of my all-time favorites, perhaps surprisingly, is not a Prince song, although no one who’s heard the version to which I refer – with Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, Billy Preston and others during a 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tribute to George Harrison – would argue with you if you said it was. Because he OWNS it. His truly indescribable guitar solo during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which seems so effortless and fun for him, is earth-shattering, musically, for me. It’s one of those songs (and videos) that I can hear and watch again and again and again, until the person I’m with begs me to stop or my head explodes, whichever comes first. The Beatles may have first recorded it in 1968 but Prince & Friends revive it, kick-start it, breathe new life into it and turn it into a monster, something with which you’ll instantly fall in love whether you’re a music aficionado or a casual listener.

As I shared in Facebook yesterday, I know there are important things going on in Washington and around the world right now. I know there is suffering and pain, politics and problems, hunger and taxes, and that the death of a rich and famous music superstar can become a distraction from what really matters. But Prince really matters to me. His music really matters, and his persona, and his untimely, way-too-young death (he was 57, only three years older than yours truly), and his memorable contributions to our culture matter. It’s always sad when people lose loved ones, when lives end, when the unexpected passage of celebrities shock us and remind us of our mortality. But this is a big one. This is huge. This is something to write home about, or at least blog about. This one really hurts.

Rest in peace and power, Prince Rogers Nelson, and thank you for adding dimension to my life and memories that make me smile and cry.

Originally published at What’stheDiehl

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Posted by on April 22, 2016. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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15 Responses to On Prince-His Royal Badness

  1. Bill Formby Reply

    April 22, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Good heart felt post. Prince will be remember for all of that and more. He was not the weird icon of Michael Jackson, though Jackson was indeed a great innovator to be remembered. Nor was he the leader of an entire genre like Elvis, who rocked the entire country with a great and powerful voice. Prince was like a stealth bomber hit the music world with shock and awe with his uncompromising creativity and flair. He took the pop and rock world and moved it to another another level. There were no trick monkeys or fun parks, only him and his studio at his home in Minnesota (yes, Minnesota, that great land of rock and roll). He was an innovator beyond comparison. Read the credits on his hit “Purple Reign”. He is the total piece of music. The composer, bass, piano, guitar, vocal, back up vocals, and producer.
    Prince was not a fake, he was the real deal. He was also a born and raised Minnesota boy who never left home and they loved him for it.

  2. jess Reply

    April 22, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…This guy was my life growing up, still will be. Listened to him and saw him in concert way too many times to admit. I have watched Purple Rain dozens of times too. Sex on stage and just personified for me the, embrace your weird it’s okay to do that style he had. If I had to name a favorite song I can’t, they are all just that good for me. My husband loves Darling Nikki and changes the words to be Darling jessi, he’s crazy like that.

    • Patrick Diehl Reply

      April 28, 2016 at 8:15 am

      “Darling Nikki” is my favorite too. I’m jealous that you saw Prince live so many times.

  3. Neil Bamforth Reply

    April 22, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Liked his 80’s stuff. Didn’t actually know he was still around. Sad though.

    • Patrick Diehl Reply

      April 28, 2016 at 8:16 am

      I like his older stuff the most too, Mr. Bamforth.

  4. Rachael Reply

    April 22, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I was not a fan, sorry to say, although I did like Purple Rain. Regardless my condolences to those millions who were fans.

  5. Timmy Mahoney Reply

    April 22, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    Never listened to ’80’s music. Elvis was dead. What was the point?

    • Patrick Diehl Reply

      April 28, 2016 at 8:18 am

      I’ll give you a dollar to reconsider, Mr. Mahoney.

  6. Glenn R. Geist Reply

    April 23, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Is there anything left of the word “bad?” a prancing 5 foot tall androgynous millionaire is bad? And sorry, sexy is the last thing that would ever occur to me in a male anyway even without the mangy facial hair.

    I agree the 80’s were a musical wasteland and the cars and hairstyles and clothes were pretty damn lame too. It’s true he was quite a performer but I’m no more attracted to jejune commercial pop music than I am to guys in jumpsuits and people who insist there’s something “spiritual” and utterly profound hidden in popular entertainment need to volunteer for that Mars colony – and soon.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      April 23, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      I rarely listened to ’80’s music, and don’t remember Prince except for Purple Rain which I happened to like. The rest of his music is immemorable, at least to me, because I was listening to ’60’s music in the ’80’s.

    • Patrick Diehl Reply

      April 28, 2016 at 8:20 am

      Can’t please everyone, huh Glenn? At least you’re not crotchety or bitter.

      • Michael John Scott Reply

        April 28, 2016 at 8:31 am

        LOL. Glenn, like me, can be crotchety, but bitter? Nah. He’s a good guy, just straightforward and practical.

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