I’ve debated the idea of writing a Prince tribute since I found on Twitter of his passing. It isn’t necessarily that I didn’t want to, but I haven’t written anything at all in quite some time. Life has had me in a bit of a creative funk; my desire to do anything that requires energy waning by the month. I also didn’t want to write a tribute during a time where countless, although entertaining reflections flooded the internet and my social media timelines. I was content with reflecting, and enjoying reading about how Prince affected the lives of many others. I was also immersed in reading stories and interesting facts about him, both known and unknown. I understand that time is of the essence, and to some a tribute at this time may not be timely, poppin’ or relevant. Most people have moved on, and that’s cool. I usually march to my own beat anyway. So without further ado, here are my own personal thoughts regarding Prince Rogers Nelson, known to most of us as simply “Prince,” and the day the world turned purple.
“Purple is the most powerful visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy. Purple symbolizes magic, mystery, spirituality, the sub-conscious, creativity, dignity, royalty – and it evokes all of these meanings more so than any other color.” Color Matters – The Meanings of Purple
My introduction to Prince…………
The first Prince song I remember hearing was “1999,” the opening title to his 5th album and breakout album of the same title. Although the album predates my birth, I have a mother who is a fanatical Prince fan. I recount the stories about her having his poster on her ceiling, her karaoke sessions pretending to being Sheila E. singing aside her Prince, and just being totally smitten. Therefore, I was lucky enough to have been exposed to Prince early on. I honestly don’t remember how old I was, I just remember being afraid and confused at the same time, because hey the world is going to end when 1999 arrives, yet everyone is partying AND celebrating! My reaction was much like my 8-year-old son’s during the line “We’re all excited, but we don’t know why. Maybe it’s ‘cuz, we’re all gonna die..” in “Let’s Go Crazy” from the Purple Rain album. That’s a lot for a kid to take in lol.
Nevertheless, I’ll have to admit my mother has shaped and created the foundation for my musical palette quite some bit. I began to appreciate the times she would sing and dance to songs like 1999, I Wanna Be Your Lover, the whole Purple Rain album (which became my favorite), Raspberry Beret, Kiss, Adore, If I Was Your Girlfriend and countless others. Then, she’d throw in some of his protegés like Morris Day and the Time with Gigolos Get Lonely Too, and Sheila E. with Glamorous life and A Love Bizarre. I wouldn’t join in on the dancing because I was shy then, but I would sing and nod to myself. My love for Prince’s soul/rock/synth pop sounds only grew I matured, along with my appreciation for true musicianship. My favorite sounds of his have always come from sick bass lines, electric guitar riffs, and those Linn Drum claps and kicks heard in so much of his early music. Interesting random bit: I used to own a keyboard and taught myself to play a few notes and tunes by ear, but unfortunately my growth musically was thwatrted in its own tragic tale which may (or not) be told another time.
As I previously stated, my appreciation for Prince as an artist not only grew as I matured, and my respect for him as a musician was solidified as I began to appreciate music. Music is powerful on a physical, metaphysical, and spiritual level. It heals, expresses, evokes emotion, and puts us in harmony with all creation. Each note carrying a vibration that influences a different part of us and our environment, it’s even said the world was created by The Creator by sound.
As a musician, it seemed Prince was very careful with his gift and took his platform seriously, as he guarded himself as a vessel of this ability to influence the masses heavily. Sure, some of his earlier music was risqué and questionable to many, however we have to remember everyone goes through cycles. Prince wrote his first song at 7, mastered the piano and many other instruments at an early age, and signed his first deal at 18. There was bound to be a time where he “let his freak flag fly,” followed by a need for refinement and greater understanding of life and responsibility. Plus, Prince was bullied as a child and self-admittedly was extra on purpose as a self-proclamation that even “misfits” have a space in this world.
I admired Prince as a person as well, even with the limited personal information known regarding his life. It seemed that no matter what people said, he was true to himself. He also guarded his energy fiercely, protecting his body, image, as well as his music. He was very selective of who he worked with, and made it very clear of artists he respected and those he didn’t (I’m looking at you Madge). His craft he respected, and didn’t appreciate it being abused or shared at will by anyone but him. Heck, I remember being frustrated when he pulled all his music from YouTube and anywhere else on the internet. I’m even reconsidering removing my boycott on Tidal due to the fact that his whole catalog rests there for their subscribers to appreciate. I also respect that Prince was what we considered “woke” these days, warning us in so many ways about the evil powers that be that currently run the world. A devout Jehovah’s witness, Prince understood his spiritual responsibility to those he influenced as well. He seemed to be deeply spiritual, and it isn’t difficult to understand even why he revered the color purple as much as he did. It seemed as if everything he did, especially in his later years had some sort of spiritual significance.
Very aloof, yet humorous and oh so shady, he managed to carry this mystique about him that persisted until his death. I don’t think too many people knew the real Prince Rogers Nelson, and I believe that was strategic. It wasn’t until he died that everyone started popping out of the wood works with stories and accusations of which I’m sure, people wouldn’t be so brave to tell if he were here to defend himself.
My Favorite Prince Song…………
After learning of his death, many on social media began to reflect about Prince, what he represented, and of course his music. An interesting yet simple question was posed: “What is your favorite Prince song?” At the time, the question was difficult to answer, because I love so many of his songs for different reasons. Most of the songs of his I love can be played back to back without tiring of them. I’d never really thought about a favorite, because honestly there was just too much to choose from. For example, I love the guitar solos in Computer Blue, I love the feel to songs like Let’s Go Crazy, I love the arrangement in Darling Nikki, I love the energy of Adore; each song moves me in a different way. However, no song moves me emotionally like “I Would Die 4 U.” I literally get choked up and at times moved to tears. The spiritual significance and description of The Creator’s love for his creation is heavy. So, if I had to choose a favorite, it would be that song for those reasons.
Random fact: It is said that Purple Rain the film was inspired by Prince’s earlier days touring with Rick James, and their resulting feud. Looking at Morris’ Day character in the film compared to Rick James, I can TOTALLY see this.
The Day the World Turned Purple…………
April 21st, 2016. I was already having a bad day. I was tired and cranky, and something about work was on my last nerve. To take a break, I scrolled through my Twitter timeline to see what was going on in these streets, since it seems that’s where I get all my news from these days. Power of social media. Anywho, I came across a tweet from Charlemagne that read “No, not Prince,” or something like that, followed by similar tweets on the timeline. I knew Prince was sick and was hospitalized briefly days before that day, so whatever was going on didn’t sound too good. TMZ broke the news first, but I wasn’t ready to accept a possible death. So I waited, went and asked a co-worker if she knew what was going on, and then an official statement was released. Prince was found dead in his Paisley Park estate.
I’ll have to admit, I was shocked. I wasn’t moved to tears at the very moment, but I was shocked. Disappointed even. Partially because all the greats seem to be falling at a fast rate. I called my mother, who was completely devastated. She in turn decked herself in all purple in honor of her favorite artist. I really was unable to listen to any music at the time, as I had to wrap up what turned into a busy work day. When work was over, I got in my car, and turned on the Purple Rain album. I was listening to Computer Blue, and said to myself “Prince was bad on this guitar,” something I’ve probably said many times. Was. Then it hit me. In what world do I live in where I’m having to say the words “Prince was.” Then, I finally cried on my drive home.
I spent the day listening to Prince and watching a tribute on MTV with the boys. I browsed social media, read countless stories and personal reflections regarding Prince. It all seemed surreal. Prince was really gone. I along with others revisited many stories told about Prince through Questlove, Charlie Murphy, and others. I observed many people changing their profile pictures, dressed in purple, all to observe and honor the life and music of Prince Rogers Nelson. Pictures of city skylines lit in purple popped up everywhere as entire metro areas payed homage. It was crazy to see how many respected his legacy. Theaters across the country began to show Purple Rain as tribute to him and his fans. It even seemed as if the universe was in observance, as the sky reportedly turned purple in some places across the globe. It was beautiful, yet sobering at the same time. I don’t think people worshipped Prince, but respected who he was as a person and musician. So many identified with him through his music; he was the soundtrack to the life events and stories of billions. I’ll never forget the day the world turned purple, because it was a reminder to appreciate what you have while it is still accessible to you.
I know there are many rumors regarding Prince and how he died. Reports of prescription medication fuel accusations of drug abuse and overdose. What people who will do anything for a story feel to realize is, he was in a lot of physical pain. Maybe emotional as well. As someone who has toured and performed a great portion of his life, dancing and jumping off speakers, I’m sure his body was subject to wear and tear much greater than the average person. He didn’t walk with a cane for fashion purposes only, even though because he was Prince he made it look cool. He had problems with his hips before, and as he was on tour during the time of his death I’m sure he was in pain. Medication doesn’t seem like a far-fetched need at the time. Prince was 5’2″, and being in great pain as some said he was in, I could see him popping pain pills as he was traveling and touring to increase his ability to perform through said pain. As a vegan, and someone who valued his body (he didn’t even have tattoos), I have a hard time believing he had an addiction problem. However, I didn’t know him personally so I can’t speak to that. What I will say is he had just lost his mother, and one of his greatest loves, Denise Matthews. You never know what he could’ve been dealing with.
Also, people don’t understand how much creatives feel. As much of a creative person and musical genius Prince was, I’m sure his emotional and spiritual sensitivity was on a higher plane than most. Sensitivity to events around him, sensitivity to the current state of the world, I’m sure he felt it all. I’m sure that’s what drove him to constantly create music. You can hear traces of him being ready to transcend in some of his later music. Whatever the case may be, I choose to remember Prince’s legacy. I choose to remember the music, the social consciousness, and the overall impact he had on the music industry. I choose to honor the influence he had on my musical preferences, remembering and honoring his undeniable talent. My only regret is not seeing him perform live. He was one of the, if not the greatest musicians, artists, song-writers and performers we’ve ever had the honor of witnessing. So to me, it doesn’t matter how he died as those details are minimal compared to the powerful legacy he left behind that will last for ages.
Rest in Power, Prince Rogers Nelson
June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016
“Mr. Nelson, Mr. Nelson, can you hear my voice?
Sir, we know you’re a little bit groggy
And you’re probably going to find it hard to speak
But don’t try to talk or process too much now
We just want to let you know that the medication you were given
Has put you in a suspended animation for quite some time
Well, in fact, about 45 years
But where you are now
Is a place that doesn’t require time
That saying, you are completely safe
And we are here to help you……” Clouds – Prince