I had a whole other News and Notes post written, but there are a few Prince-related things I’d like to share instead.
- Like a lot of people probably did, I found out he died via Twitter. It’ll most certainly be a “Where were you when…” moment for me, though where I was seems so lame: Zaxby’s. Waiting for my order of chicken fingers. The juxtaposition of such an inspiring cultural figure and such an uninspiring setting is enough to make me want to make some serious life changes.
- Like David Bowie, Prince represented, for me, a profound bravery. A willingness to be super weird in the name of being true to yourself. I feel intense, normative pressure — I’ve felt it my entire life — and I’m not sure I’ll ever manage to strip enough of that away to be all the weirdo I could be, but listening to artists like Bowie and Prince is one way to experience weirdness vicariously and safely. It’s a pale shade of actually putting yourself out there, but it strikes me as a crucial part of the enormous contribution that Prince made.
- Social media platforms can facilitate a kind of performative grief that I’m not crazy about, but I do like seeing pictures of the records people are listening to at a time like this. There’s a line from Almost Famous that I’ve always loved, and I think it applies here: “If you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” Prince may be gone, but you can still pick up and hold a copy of 1999. It’s a real thing with size, weight, and shape. It’s a comfort. Seeing that other people are holding and spinning the same albums — it’s like a big, diffuse vigil. I joined in by spinning Around the World in a Day while cooking dinner last night.
- Records are especially important in this case, because of Prince’s vigilance when it came to pulling his music from streaming services and sites. You can’t just go to YouTube or Spotify and channel memories that way. I don’t have all his albums, but I have enough to last me until the inevitable and unfortunate postmortem price gouging runs its course. When it does, I recommend getting your hands on hard copies too. It’s the right thing to do generally, but it’s extra meaningful this time around.
- The last record of his that I bought before he died was a used copy of the Batman soundtrack, and I’d been meaning to write a thing about what that album says about Prince’s character. Doing the soundtrack for a superhero movie that your label’s parent company is making sounds like a recipe for disaster, but he absolutely dove in, writing songs from characters’ perspectives and changing his iconic look to match the universe that Tim Burton created, and the album was a huge success. Some of that has to do with cross-platform promotion and the movie itself being a hit, but still — that spirit of taking something frivolous and fully inhabiting it creatively says a lot about the kind of artist Prince was, I think.
- Overheard at work yesterday: “There is nothing better than when Prince comes on the radio.”
- My band does a cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which was written by Prince. Somebody got a crappy iPhone recording of our version at practice one night, and I put it on Soundcloud a couple years back. It’s pretty harsh — watch out for a jarring, loud start — but it’s more in the vein of original arrangement than Sinéad O’Connor’s, so you might get a kick out it. I definitely do when we play it. Soloing during a Prince song feels incredible, like total freedom. Like you’ve been temporarily transported to another musical dimension where confidence is infinite and gravity doesn’t exist. I’d like to think that’s exactly where he is now.