Here’s the thing about Prince: to a midwestern guy back in the early 1980’s, Prince wasn’t necessarily in the cassette player. To most of us dudes, it took a while. For me, it took my friend Ron Hefner turning me on to the Dirty Mind and Controversy albums, and letting me borrow them back in 1983. I gave them back and went out and bought both.
And I’m not sure why. It certainly wasn’t Bob Seger. It wasn’t John Mellencamp. It wasn’t really quite like anything on the radio. It was adult and juvenile at the same time, with keyboards and groove. Funk. And sex. Lots of sex.
But with the 1999 album, on the title song and especially with “Little Red Corvette”, the Midwest boys started to get it. And maybe it was because the Midwest girls already did. They knew Prince had the goods that made it easy to dance.
Then it was Purple Rain, and the movie. The explosion.
Look up his catalog on Wikipedia. I did. Amazing. Ubiquitous on the radio for ten years. Hit songs – ah, career songs – for other artists: Chaka Khan. The Bangles. Sinead O’Connor. Sheila E. Did you know he played the synthesizer that is so crucial to the sound of Stevie Nicks’ hit “Stand Back?
Tonight, I’ve been listening to 89.3 FM The Current, an NPR station in Minneapolis that has been playing nothing but Prince music since a little after 1:00pm. They’ve done marvelous work.
It’s midnight now. They are playing “Jungle Love” from The Time. It sounds good. Damn good.
The thing is, everything they have played has sounded good. Everything. The drum and keyboard sound that is the Minneapolis Sound – the Prince sound. It reminds of the brilliance of his guitar playing and the twist he made on the mixture of Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton and his own brain.
Maybe it’s the filter of loss that makes the music sound more alive. Maybe it’s because we are now able to somehow hear the soulfulness and heart and guts of Prince’s music more clearly.
What I hear when I listen tonight is intelligence and the groove. Funk and the smarts. Rock and roll and charisma. I’m glad it sounds so good, through the lens of a rewind. Happy to know the music was really that good, and our memories hadn’t tricked us.
I’m elated that we have the music to remind us of his genius. And so very sad that it’s where we are tonight.