Ok, I’ll admit it, I cried a little when Prince died. Not like a baby – just a few sniffles. I purchased a copy of the “Purple Rain” soundtrack on iTunes. I’ve listened to it several times since. I’ve looked him up on Wikipedia to learn more about his career. I even sang “When Doves Cry” at karaoke not too long ago.
I am not obsessed with Prince. There’s more to it than that.
In 1984, when “Purple Rain” was released, I was 9 years old. That album, as you know, is some heavy stuff. For me, though, 9 and 10 years old is that age where music really starts to shape our formative years. Madonna was a Boy Toy. George Michael was all pop and white teeth. Duran Duran had us wondering what in the hell “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” meant. Cyndi Lauper, well, she was just so unusual.
It was a big deal when Prince died because it felt like a part of my childhood had been taken from me. I’d lost enough as it were: did the universe really need more? But people die all the time. It just…happens. So why the shock?
Our connection with music, I know, is inimitable. It is intrinsic to our being. I don’t even really need to ask why we’re upset when a musician dies because, ultimately, they’ve left a huge mark on our lives. We don’t think they have until they’re actually gone, and that’s why we’re left with a slice in our soul.
My point is this: when Prince died I was immediately drawn back to 1984. My dad had left the year prior. My mother, my sister and I lived in a small apartment not too far from where I live now. We didn’t have a lot of money. My friends Chris, Christine and Jimmy, all who lived downstairs and across the lawn, were my best friends, my escape. We thrived on Transformer cartoons. I stayed the night at Chris’s apartment more than my own. We watched too much MTV, ate horrible food. School was on the other end of town and I had to take the city bus, or walk if my mother didn’t have the 50 cents needed for the fare. It was a dark time, looking back, but I was just a kid so I didn’t know any different. It was bad, but it was also good. The music, all of it, helped ease that burden. Prince’s passing brought me back there all over again.
It’s like the song, “Purple Rain,” I guess. I read somewhere, during my newfound interest in Prince, that the title held a certain meaning. Something I hadn’t known. Even as a kid I always wondered what it meant: “Purple Rain.” It was such a clear yet devastatingly visceral reason: when the sky rains blood, blue and red make purple. Purple rain.
It sort of gets you a little bit, doesn’t it? The bad and the good – the red and the blue – still wind up making something beautiful.
I’ll tell you, though, I’m all about nostalgia, but when Madonna goes, I’ll be revisiting more than just 1984, and it will be overwhelming.