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Remembering Prince: The Beautiful Ones Hurt You Every Time

If there's even a tiny bit of good news to be gleaned from Prince's untimely death Thursday at age 57, it's that he was so gifted that he always seemed more like a creature made of pure art rather than a flesh-and-blood human being. If you think he’s legendary on the day after he died, just wait until five, ten, 20 years from now. Even at 5 foot 2, he was a giant.

By late Thursday night, Facebook was so awash in Prince-related content it might as well have turned purple. (Google actually did.) Some people shared their favorite Prince memory, which more often than not was their first and involved furtively listening to his music just out of earshot of either a parent or teacher, or being lectured about the inappropriateness of Prince's music by said authority figure. Perhaps it was a good quote about Prince, like “Mick Jagger should fold up his penis and go home,” said by former Village Voice pop critic Robert Christgau. Some just thanked him for turning them on to Jimi Hendrix or Led Zeppelin. Someone else shared a photo of a Methodist church sign that quoted the opening lines of “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Prince is gone now, which is something to be very sad about. Musicians of his caliber do not come along, well, ever, and we seem to be losing them at an alarming clip this year. But before that he was here, brimming with music that, with every note, celebrated life. Electric word, life: it means forever, and that’s a mighty long time. That’s also how long Prince’s creations will last. Come celebrate him with us.

Prince was galactic — out of this world. His music was edgy, sexy, and sometimes completely in outer space. But I think what I will mourn most about his passing is the loss of a powerful black music leader. As Prince became an elder statesman of the music world, he developed a Teflon coating from his thirty-some years of giving no fucks and used that imperviousness for good. I loved hearing him speak out for #blacklivesmatter at the Grammys. I loved his commitment to young artists, warning them about the indentured servitude of record contracts.

In a music world stretched razor-thin by the margins of digital content, Prince resisted the shift, only offering his latest album on Tidal. He used his clout and legacy to light a path for a different way forward, one that honored artists and creativity over lucre. Now that Prince has crossed over into the astral plane, let's hope that enough people were inspired "to get through this thing called life" in the way that Prince wanted us to: with love, with integrity, and with an eye for the little guy.

As a born-and-raised Minnesotan, the absolute fabric of my life has been permanently dyed purple by Prince. Growing up near Lake Minnetonka (where I would regularly purify my body), each year of my life holds dear its own memories where Prince managed to be an ever-present fixture. In our collective Minnesota minds,  we have always had plenty to brag about, but Prince was our cake-topper and prodigal son.

What makes me the most proud as a native Minnesotan is how this 5'2" man from my often misunderstood (and most definitely underrated) state successfully managed to bring his messages and talent to the entire world, all the while never denying or compromising his influences and roots.
Prince's impact on music is undeniable, and much will deservedly be said about his insane level of ability, musicianship and talent. I can only hope that the world will equally reflect upon his influence in culture and the progress he has helped to ignite. Prince was an innovator that pushed the world think more deeply about love and sex and race and religion and heaven and earth and war and life and!!!

Prince changed the world through raw creativity and talent.  Just as much, he moved us all forward through his pure desire for peace, love, and understanding on the most organic level. His shocking departure leaves a bittersweet fingerprint on culture. RIP Prince, and thank you.

Prince was a person who leaves a huge artistic void now that he's gone. He is one of a small group of musical pioneers who took his fans on many journeys, trying his hand at different styles, and made it all work somehow. My own personal appreciation of Prince's music is rooted in his mastery of the guitar. He was one of those players who could rip out amazing magic on an electric, and make it look effortless. My favorite Prince guitar moment isn't even on one of his many albums, although there are plenty of  great ones on those, but is instead from a live tribute to George Harrison, in which an all-star group of rockers play the fallen Beatle's song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

While guys like Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne rolled out a note-perfect, but sedate version of the song, when it came time for Prince to play his solo, he made the moment and the tribute transcendent. That was the beauty and power of his playing, and while he had many talents, his guitar work is what made the man special to me.

Some of my fondest memories directly involve Prince’s music. He composed the soundtrack to Batman, the first movie I ever saw in a theater (the album also doubled as his 11th studio release). He played the Super Bowl halftime show (regarded by many as the greatest ever) the night Peyton Manning (for whom I named my first-born son) finally claimed his first Super Bowl championship. And I’ve damn sure gotten down on some karaoke while trying (unsuccessfully) to hit the high notes on “Kiss.” I’m certainly not alone in that department. Prince created music that created memories. He’s among the most legendary figures in pop-culture history, in part because he made something for everyone.

Over the course of his near 40-year career, Prince was all things -– rock god (“Darling Nikki”), pop hitmaker (“Kiss”), psychedelic tripper (“She’s Always in My Hair”), disco king (“Sexy Dancer”), and flat-out musical badass (“Purple Rain”). His contradictory ways made him cool. He was reclusive enough to have mystique but just visible enough to remain accessible. He dressed in sequin suits and zebra-pattern panties but maintained a unique masculinity. The dude was 5-foot-2 but could legitimately ball. Tragically, the world lost one of its greatest entertainers on Thursday. But Prince’s music, style and persona -– and the memories they created for so many people -– will live on forever.

No, those aren’t doves crying, that’s millions of Prince fans worldwide shocked by the news that our long-reigning favorite R&B/pop musician has passed. 2016 has no chill…somewhere in hell a demon is loosed, gathering up the best of musical souls, leaving our earthbound ears without a song to which to swoon.
Prince, maestro of the sexiest rank, leaves us with the greatest collection of coitus-inspired tunes. Conductor of copulation, master of androgyny, impressive showman and lyrical lover, he remains the quintessential evangelist of Funktown.

With a penchant for crushed velvet, eyeliner and glittery cowboy boots, the man’s visage was far beyond his physical frame. His countenance was arresting: dripping in art, swathed in color and poignant emotion. With sharp-tongued poetry that was seamless in its cadence, Prince’s words had the ability to slither inside your chest and coil around all your vulnerabilities:

Maybe I’m just like my mother; she’s never satisfied. Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold.

Prince was beautiful. Yet to love Prince for his image alone misses what was brilliant about him. He was quite simply a consummate musician. Something I recognized but didn’t quite understand at 11 years old —I wrapped my hands around my first Prince purchase bought with money I earned from chores. A single, no less, a tiny .45 of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” with B side “Erotic City.” It was 1985.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing we call, life…

What would be my inaugural Prince magical musical experience would follow suit for years. To appreciate Prince was to embrace a gorgeous cross-section of American music: funk, blues, R&B, jazz, pop and rock. Prince was without a genre, without a label and beautifully unique.

We will never forget you, Prince.

Blouses for the win. 

On Wednesday, I was asked what my favorite type of music is. I really don’t have one style of music that I can say is mine. Looking back, I believe the reason can be attributed to Prince. He was the first musician that I can remember hearing that blended so many genres together seamlessly. It’s possible that he is a large factor in bridging the racial gap in music, or the reason so many suburban white kids got into gangsta rap. Prince was a gateway drug for music.

Purple Rain was the first cassette tape that I ever got at the young age of eight.  My Mom was constantly telling me to turn it down. She probably should have listened a bit closer, as her sweet little boy with a bowl cut learned things that eight-year-olds should not really learn after listening to the tantalizing four minutes and 14 seconds of “Darling Nikki.”

I saw Prince live just once, in 1985, on his “Purple Rain” tour. I recalled that night with considerable fondness a couple of years ago for a piece celebrating The Purple One’s birthday. If you wanna know how my wife (then girlfriend) and I handled listening to “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” live with my mom standing right next to us, go here. Otherwise, I’d prefer to share some thoughts a few of my Facebook friends expressed yesterday. Richard Molina, of Fuska and The Blue Ghost District, wrote about Prince’s guitar-playing prowess, a common theme, but also how he “taught me early on that you don’t have to be big and tough to be a man and have the ladies adore you for it.”

My folk-punk friend Asa Martin shared his dad’s running joke, which went, ‘Asa, when you’re on stage you’re the best person playing anywhere…I mean, unless Prince is around…He told me today that I’m the best.” The biggest Prince fan I know is my childhood friend, Shawn Mansfield. He could only muster  “I haven’t felt this bad since SRV.” But perhaps most fitting of all was the send-off by Handsomebeast’s Jacob Rodriguez’s, which read simply, “Rest in Paradise, you sexy mutherfucker!”

Beyond the great music he composed, his extraordinary guitar-playing abilities, the way that he carried himself as the coolest man in the world at all times, the fact that the songs he gave to other people were so good that he could have built separate whole careers on them, and his killer live performances, I just want to remind everyone here that Prince was the first artist listed on the PMRC's The Filthy Fifteen, ahead of Judas Priest, Twisted Sister and Venom. Sure, those other guys might have looked scary, but Prince was the guy who could write great songs and was a cultural force. Of course he was more of a danger to the children of parents who couldn't be bothered to pay attention to what their kids were listening to. Every time you see that parental advisory warning, remember that "Darling Nikki" is responsible for that.

I was always amazed at how deeply people loved Prince. To me, he was just another ‘80s pop star — not quite in the MJ/Madonna tier of fame and fun. I never caught him in concert; hell, I’ve never even seen all of Purple Rain. My favorite Prince memory is probably of Dave Chappelle’s otherworldly portrayal of the man. I was an outside observer to his career, not a fan. And yet, I never once saw Prince screw up. Every time I saw him perform on TV, it was flawless. I have no doubt he recorded many duds over the years, but they never reached my ears. Prince was like an alien who came to earth to wiggle lasciviously and deliver the hits. Now he’s gone back home, along with Bowie, Lemmy and God knows how many more giants of rock and roll we’ll have to say goodbye to before this accursed year is through.

When I initially got this, it was simple — try and capture your feelings about Prince in a few words. Only I couldn’t. I struggled with it because much like Michael Jackson some seven summers ago, I couldn’t exactly create the proper words to describe Prince.

What was Prince? Prince was the last of the true musicians, a drummer who was better than your favorite, an underrated stick man who may have created the greatest love song without a bass line ever (“When Doves Cry”) and a songwriter who could be clever, witty and sincere all under the guise of being provocative and daring. In short, Prince was a “bad motherfucker,” but even that may have sold him short.

In one 2015 article, the Daily Beast crowned Taylor Swift “the new Prince” after she railed against placing her 1989 album on streaming services. It was a novel compliment, but it was far more facetious than anything else. There isn’t a “new Prince”; there won’t ever be a “new Prince.” Prince Rogers Nelson was a badass, someone who isn’t going to be duplicated. When he dared himself to be better, he taught himself every instrument and played it. When he felt like being bold and audacious, he starred in his own movie that became a cult classic (Purple Rain). So what if the sequel wasn’t all that grand; his hip-hop phase was kind of off and his stances in regards to the Internet somewhat kooky and out there. It didn’t really matter because in the end, Prince gave us him. The many sides of shade, of glossy fervor that could growl, screech, wail, and feel demure but also playful.

There is one lasting memory I’ll have of Prince, in a live setting anyway. That cramped room in Austin at La Zona Rosa during SXSW 2013, back when sneaking into heavily secured venues for select parties still felt like losing your concert virginity. Questlove was there, A Tribe Called Quest opened and Prince closed it out. When I heard it was Prince and Tribe performing, I darted out of Justin Timberlake and zoomed over. I caught Tribe at just the right moment, back when Ali, Q-Tip and Phife seemed happy. Then Prince came. Then they said no photography. Then he played until 4 a.m., practically daring the Austin Police Department to shut him down. It’s the last actually happy memory I have of SXSW, and now it's kind of fractured. Phife died a few weeks before I turned 28. Prince died a few weeks after Phife.

Nine weeks after he lost his onetime protégé Vanity, he decided to leave in the most human way possible. Then again, we never truly thought Prince was capable of being human. We thought of him as this being who glided in heels, delivered his truth as a musician for all musicians with a headwrap to make sure his perm, his Afro, his whatever was laid properly. Because that was Prince Rogers Nelson, a man whose only competition in his eyes was himself. To try and top Dirty Mind or Sign O' the Times or "1999." When we sat on one album or piece to fall in love with, he’d positioned himself to create something bolder and more urgent.

Prince is gone — and there may be no more sadder moment to realize it’s Snowing In April than that.

Numbers (300 Westheimer) will be screening Purple Rain before its regular installment of Classic Numbers tonight, when it plans for "PLENTY of Prince tunes and vids mixed in ALL NIGHT!" Doors open at 8:30 p.m.; no cover until 9:30. Fitzgerald's (2706 White Oak) is also hosting a "When Doves Cry" wake featuring $3 "Purple Rain Drops" shots. Doors open at 8 p.m.; also no cover. The Alamo Drafthouse Houston will show Purple Rain at 10:10 p.m. Saturday at its Mason Park location (531 S. Mason Rd.) and 8:45 p.m. Sunday at Alamo-Vintage Park (114 Vintage Park Blvd.) Both screenings are $5.
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