An Appreciation of Prince

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By Allen Callaci

How do you write when your head will not stop spinning? Prince left us. What can I say about a visionary artist and his rich musical legacy that nobody else has said? His 1987 masterpiece Sign ‘O the Times spoke of race, religion, politics, gender and sex backed by a potent mix of jazz, funk, pop, gospel, rock. It covered more musical and topical terrain in 60+ minutes than the body of work of most other artists.

In “When Doves Cry” he created one of the most memorable beats to be found in modern pop music without lifting a bass. As a live performer he held the power to make an audience raunchily grind for joy in the face of Armageddon and then lead them to sing to the heavens alongside him for some purple-colored salvation. We had never seen his like before. We will never see his like again.

My local DJ announced that Prince passed, wept openly over the airwaves and proceeded to play “Purple Rain”. I slumped behind the wheel of my Toyota, frozen and stunned in the air- conditioned confines when I heard the news.

If you know what I’m singing about up here
C’mon, raise your hand

As the song reached its liberating and holy crescendo the memories connected to it rose and broke through to the surface. You know that cliché they tell you about music being the soundtrack to your life? Believe it. We mourn an artist like Prince, whom we never knew as a flesh-and-blood human being, because they wove themselves into our lives like a lifelong friend.

I flashed back to my first job as a slacking and spat-upon telemarketer at the LA Times in the Raspberry Beret-scented summer of 1985. Prince sat right there with me. I used to bust up my older broken-winged co-workers by serenading them with my own altered version of Beret:

I was working part-time at the LA Times
My bosses were Hazel and Keith
They told me several times that they didn’t like my kind
cuz I was a bit too leisurely
Seems like I was busy doing something close to nothing
But different than the day before. . .

The associations that I make with Prince run in a multitude of different directions: performing a champagne-soaked karaoke version of “Purple Rain” at a friend’s Las Vegas wedding reception, dressing up as Prince at a college masquerade party and getting more female attention than I’d ever gotten before (or pretty much since) and of being parked outside a Circle K parking lot listening to “The Beautiful Ones” on endless repeat because it recognized and understood the contours of my recently broken heart.

His music helped pick me up those shattered pieces then and I look to it now to do the same. My favorite Prince song is his serene masterpiece of loss and acceptance “Sometimes it Snows in April”. It’s difficult to listen to now, but maybe tomorrow it’ll go down a little bit easier.

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
But all good things, they say, never last