I was working from home as usual. I check Facebook a lot during the day, like a lot of people do (Oh, c’mon. You do too. Be honest 😉
I think the first report I saw was something about a body being found at Paisley Park. Of course, I desperately wanted it to NOT be him, but I knew it was. Nothing else made sense.
I immediately recalled seeing reports a week or so before, something about Prince and an emergency landing and a visit to the hospital. I had a bad feeling when I saw those reports. Now the feeling was much worse.
My wife Darlene called. “Did you hear about them finding a body at Paisley Park? Oh my God, I hope it’s not what I think it is.”
I found myself checking Google News every few minutes. I didn’t want to count on questionable news reports on Facebook for something this big. If it was indeed true, it would be the #1 headline on Google. And it would be undeniable.
Then I saw it. The headlines read:
Prince was dead.
The text messages started coming in from all our band members. Chet was first, then Jayar, then Brad…all huge Prince fans. We were all in a collective state of shock. One of our greatest musical heroes, gone at the age of much-too-young age of 57.
Just months before, our band had started playing a great funky horn arrangement we found of D.M.S.R., a personal favorite of mine from the 1999 album. On a long summer road trip to New Orleans just months before, I listened to every Prince album available from start to finish.
To me, Prince was so vibrant…so relevant…
And now he was gone.
He didn’t even seem sick. How was this even possible? Didn’t he just put out a new album? Wasn’t he on tour or something? How could this happen??
Over the next few days, like millions around the globe, I was in a state of mourning. It was a feeling unlike any I’ve ever felt. I didn’t know Prince personally, but his music…his presence…his entire VIBE had been around since my whole life.
I remember the first time I heard a Prince song. I was 12 years old, and I would spend hours throwing a tennis ball against a brick wall, listening to music, working on my pitching arm. I had just moved from Mt. Vernon, Illinois to Evansville, Indiana.I was a pretty good baseball player back then…but I didn’t have a lot of friends.
It was 1982.
My older brothers only listened to hard rock. If I wanted to listen to anything else, I had to take my big radio with a cassette player (we called them Jamboxes back then) and go far away from the house.
The local college radio station, WUEV 91.5, was the only station that would play anything “urban” at the time. As a 12-year-old white kid from Southern Illinois raised on Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, and Rush, I had never heard this kind of music before.
But I liked it.
What I heard artists like The Gap Band, Dazz Band, Zapp, The Bar-Kays, all I knew was that it was music that had a great beat, and it made you want to dance. And you could sing along to it. I didn’t know at the time that I was listening to FUNK.
And then I heard Prince.
My first impression was one of…
Yep. The first song I ever heard by Prince was Controversy. I loved the beat. I loved the funky guitar. But as a 12-year old kid who came from a conservative Christian family, when I heard the lyric “Do I believe in God, Do I believe in me?”, my religious radar went up. Then when it gets to the bridge, with all the voices in droning unison reciting the Lord’s Prayer, I got creeped out. I felt like I was listening to something I shouldn’t…something forbidden.
Who WAS this Prince guy? I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
A couple years later, as MTV started playing “Little Red Corvette” and “1999” in heavy rotation, I liked what I heard. But the “nastiness” of his lyrics, and his gaining popularity started putting him square on the radar of the “burn your secular records!” crowd, of which, my church’s youth pastor was a card-carrying member. Once again, listening to songs like “D.M.S.R” and “Lady Cab Driver”, I loved the funkiness, but the lyrics made me feel like I needed to ask for forgiveness.
…But nothing prepared me for Purple Rain.
It was 1984. I was a freshman at a High School school full of pretty girls I had yet to meet. There was a new “under 21” dance club in town called The Victory. My youth pastor was already warning all of us church kids not to go…which of course, made us want to go even more.
The Victory was everything we thought it would be. Loud music. Flashing lights. A big dance floor. And lots and LOTS of very pretty girls who all wanted to dance. And dance we did. All night long.
Purple Rain and The Victory were made for each other. The Victory was where we heard, or should I say experienced: Let’s Go Crazy, Take Me With U, When Doves Cry, I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m a Star, and of course, Purple Rain. They even played the “dirty songs” like Erotic City and Darling Nikki, and we knew every dirty word. Prince protégés like The Time, Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6 were in heavy rotation as well. And we loved every song.
I met my wife Darlene at The Victory when she was 15 (we’re still happily married). The Victory holds a special place in our hearts, and so does Prince.
Perhaps it was just teenage rebellion, but somewhere along the line I got over my religious fear of Prince. As a musician, much later in my career I started respecting Prince as an artist, a prolific songwriter, and a phenomenal musician.
But at my core, what I love most about Prince is his FUNKINESS. From the first time I heard Controversy playing through my Jam Box at 12 years old, it was the FUNK that drew me to him.
Shortly before Prince’s death, I was working a funky little song idea and had went over to Chet’s house (much like Prince, Chet Gass is our guitar-playing, talkbox-playing, keyboard-playing, recording engineer virtuoso) and we worked out the song one afternoon. Chet and I both were listening to a lot of Controversy and Dirty Mind at the time.
That song was SxyGdLuv, the title track of our latest album. Little did we know that Prince would be dead just a few weeks later.
I spell the song title using Prince-style spelling as a tribute to our fallen hero of funk.
And, also in a fitting tribute, the song is about SEX 🙂
Thank you Prince, for providing a such an excellent soundtrack to my youth, for the thrill of watching your electric performances, and for the gift of your music, which is eternal.
We will always miss you.
P.S. Where were you when you heard Prince died? Leave your comments below: