21 April 2016

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Prince*

1. Share everything. Prince has shared with the world some awfully weird-ass corners of his brain. And do we love him any less for it? No, we think of him as someone brave and weird and most of all, willing to let us in to see and hear his incredible array of feelings and thoughts, melodies and sonic textures.
2. Play loud. If playing loud lights your fire, do it -- and do it now. As every death of a cherished musician or actor or public figure reminds us, we may not get another chance to play it again in our wild and loud life.
3. Don't hit people. I saw Prince's Purple Rain movie and fell hard for him at age 20. Talk about a rock god -- Mick Jagger and Roger Daltrey suddenly had as much interest for me as dust. I felt Prince was a kindred spirit: we had seen so much darkness and abuse but knew there was something better out there. We wanted more for our loved ones and ourselves -- we were determined to trade bullying and meanness for constructive and beautiful ways to express ourselves and our feelings.
4. Put things where you can find them when you need them. Prince was a master at creating the world he knew existed in the musical persona he dreamed up out of his own talent and the successes of the Jackson family and Stevie Wonder and the Supremes and Soul Train and Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix and every other rock god and goddess from whose wells he drew water. He surrounded himself with great people and insisted that he could do it his way. And then did it.
5. Clean up after yourself. Prince protected his brand, to a fault some say. Case in point: a few months after I posted a video my friend made of me air-guitaring and lip-syncing "Purple Rain" at the Boulder Theater, YouTube removed the video for copyright infringement. But I give Prince a pass because I figure it's because he cared deeply about his image and public identity. Some people let the world define them, but Prince was all about control.
Prince onstage at the 2015 American Music Awards (The Guardian)
6. Don't take things that aren't yours. Prince had an identity that crossed the usual gender lines long before mainstream Americans started paying attention to the T in "LGBT," but you didn't see Prince categorizing himself or making a big deal about whatever it was that he was, beyond coming up with the elaborate phallus-crossed-with-guitar symbol he presented as his name, becoming "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince." Until he returned to being called "Prince" and "The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known as Prince."
7. Be yourself. I feel so indebted to Prince for his incredible mastery of rock and pop and R&B and soul and funk -- and his generally badass songwriting skills. But it was his determination to always be himself that really got me. One day I cried out, "I love Prince!" My husband said, "You love the idea of Prince!" I never quite understood what he meant by that -- I have always felt my love for Prince was something true and deep and automatic ("I not only see you but I recognize you") and innocent -- wholesome, as my dear mother (who also loves Prince) would say. But above all, his strangeness and his beauty and his willingness to howl -- vocally and on guitar -- in front of people, to me represented one Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket after another: permission slips to be my freaky self and go out and share the joy of that deep revelatory feeling with others.
Prince, I thank you. Rest in peace, dear friend. I hope those heavenly jam sessions are as spectacular as the ones I hear and see in my imagination, and I promise to keep your spirit rocking in the here and now.
*With apologies to Robert Fulghum

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