April in Glenwood: Crying purple
For the next few days, I’ll be wearing purple.
I’m in mourning, reeling over the loss of one of my childhood music idols, Prince. Also known as Prince Rogers Nelson, the Purple One, and the Artist Formerly Known As, Prince died Thursday, April 21, a day after my birthday. Prince was just 57 — which seems too soon.
Any age would probably feel too soon to lose Prince.
I first remember hearing Prince when I was only about 10. I grew up listening to a range of music, thanks to my parents, from The Doors and Crystal Gayle to the Bee Jees and Roy Orbison. So I had an early appreciation of music that truly spoke to me. For me, Joan Jett comes to mind. As well as the Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson.
Prince’s album and single “1999” really spoke to me.
I didn’t know anything about partying then, and I know I didn’t actually think the world might be over on “two thousand zero zero.” But I knew I was instantly infatuated with vocals and lyrics that seemed new and fresh for the time. He also played his purple guitar with passion, and I loved that. “Delirious” was a song I played repeatedly, I’m sure making my metal-loving older brother feel just that.
He was more into the guitar stylings of Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads.
By the time 1984 rolled around, I was in my prime ‘tween stage and completely lovelorn. I was an awkward 12-year-old crushing on the most talented of pop stars, especially Prince and Michael Jackson, like it was my job. The “Purple Rain” soundtrack cover was my favorite poster on my cotton candy pink-colored bedroom walls. In the now-legendary image, Prince sat regally atop a purple motorcycle, looking sexy in a purple suit, surrounded by smoke while Apollonia stood on the stairs in the background. Move over Elvis, the king of my parents’ generation for creating groundbreaking music, now we had Prince.
For many ‘80s kids like me, he was the ultimate musical royalty.
I still own one of the 13 million original copies of Prince’s record-breaking 1984 album that sold nationwide. I listened to “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U” and “Let’s Go Crazy” on my stereo’s record player over and over, until I memorized every single word. With the help of my baton teacher Mark Kelso, I created a baton routine to another Prince favorite, “Baby I’m a Star.”
I believed every word was about me, too.
Against Tipper Gore’s wishes, and my mother’s, I also snuck many hours of listening to the risqué “Darling Nikki” from the “Purple Rain” album. I didn’t understand those lyrics either, but I was crashing into puberty like a speeding little red Corvette into a brick wall, so there was no slowing my curiosity for the taboo. I’m not sure if my mom knows this, but I also saw the R-rated “Purple Rain” before I was old enough.
She knows now.
Not only did I love Prince, but I was also a big fan of his side project band the Time, featuring lead vocals by Morris Day. I remember doing the dance move “The Bird” to “Jungle Love” at my middle school dances. Ironically enough, the Time recorded a song later in 1990 called “Donald Trump,” with the lyrics, “… Maybe that’s what you need. A man that fulfills your every wish, your every dream. Donald Trump … come on take a chance.”
They probably could have never predicted he’d be making a bid for president one day.
Over the next few days, more information will be released about Prince’s untimely death, thought to be related to flu-like symptoms he had recently experienced. We will soon know more about his amazing life and career that started, and continued to flourish, in the Minneapolis music scene. I regret I never saw him live.
Soon it will truly sink in that we’ve lost a legend. Little-publicized facts will be reported, including that he suffered seizures in his childhood, a fact he mostly kept private. That Warner Brothers signed him at 17, and he produced, arranged, composed and played all 27 instruments on his first album, “For You.” And he recorded more than 30 albums, won seven Grammys, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe for his “Song of the Heart” in the animated film “Happy Feet” and sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
Just a few reasons I’ll be wearing purple over the next few days.
April E. Clark’s favorite Prince song is “Alphabet St.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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