‘Why do we scream at each other? This is what it sounds like, when doves cry.’ Prince always prophetic, always a few light years ahead of the rest of us.
That’s why it’s so hard to believe and painful to think that the genius artist whom I loved and listened to more than anyone else, who had such a profound effect on my life, is no longer here with us, physically at least.
The rock-funk-soul-pop deity who started out with some sizzlin’, unforgettable late-70s funk then went in all sorts of crazy directions ever since.
I clearly remember dancing and singing furiously to ‘1999’ with schoolmates at my Melbourne state school annual disco, held at lunch break in the assembly hall behind black-curtained windows.
I’ll never forget when, in ’87, an artistically-inclined high school friend handed me four carefully-recorded cassettes of Prince’s first albums — For You, Prince, Dirty Mind and Controversy. I listened to them non-stop, until I had learnt every lyric.
As I discovered these first, infectious works, dreamed up by this brilliant musical mind and doused in raw, seething sexuality — clearly influenced by James Brown; songs like ‘I wanna be your lover’ and ‘Little Red Corvette’, performed in flasher-like trench coats with just a g-string underneath, I felt like I had entered another realm.
His movie Purple Rain signalled a revolution and I distinctly remember the surge of excitement my sister and I felt as watched it at a cinema on Collins St, then watching it again and again on videotape. Some fellow students mocked our Prince obsession and tightly-permed hairstyle, but we didn’t care. We were hoping to look a bit like his then amore, Sheila E, one of the several strong, sexy women who stood next to him, and performed with him, on an equal footing.
That shock of thick curls, kohl-lined eyes, thick lips, swaying hips, his overtly sexual stage demeanour had us just-turned-teens all wide-eyed, open-eared and glued to the screen and playing his vinyls non-stop. Even my younger sister, who was barely out of diapers, adored ‘Ponce’ and would watch him prancing about in his purple trench coats.
In 1987, Sign ‘O’ the Times was way ahead of the times, as was Lovesexy. I loved sitting for hours — without today’s techno-distractions — and trying to decipher the meaning behind all those esoteric lyrics. Back then, music was hard to get. You had to buy the vinyl, and later the CD. Then he brought us Diamonds and Pearls and Come in the ’90s, forcing us to tear up dance floors everywhere. I’m glad that he saw to it that his music is still relatively inaccessible, unless you actually buy it.
The artist, who has taken us on all sorts of mind-bending aural journeys, socked it to Warner Bros at a time when the mega record labels wielded all the power and could make or break a musician, and relinquished his name for a while. It was impossible to release your own album back then, without their backing. I love that he retained that sexy 70s groove throughout most of his music. I love that we are members of his new love generation. Because it was always about the music.
I love that he rocked an afro again in his fifties. And I feel so ridiculously fortunate to have seen him perform live, writhing on a circular bed on stage in Brisbane in ’92 as part of the Diamonds and Pearls world tour. I cried with joy then. It’s all the more vivid in my mind as I shared the experience with a best friend who’s no longer with us.
Because there will only be one Prince and, although this might feel like a sad day for music, I feel so blessed to have experienced the evolution of this legend.
Like Bowie, he did whatever he wanted to do, as an artist, and didn’t give a hot damn but succeeded. And, yes, like Bowie, he left us this year but, in answer to all those who say 2016 is turning out to be a horrible year, I say it’s a sign of our times to show more gratitude and humility and feel blessed for having one another.
Today, I’m wearing a purple scarf and a tee with the word revolution spelled backward — highlighting ‘love’ — in his honour.
Thank you to a true artist who forever remained humble and true to his art. Thanks for the crazy ride in a little red Corvette, the dance in purple rain, the cream, the diamonds and pearls. Because nothing compares to you.
Thank you for inspiring us and showing us that anything is possible.
So, people, love like your life depends on it, ’cause it does. Live for love, just like Prince did. And do exactly what you want do with this all too brief but extremely beautiful thing we call life. I think all he really wanted was for us to start a reLOVEution!