Confession: I haven’t intentionally listened to a Prince song in years and I don’t think I ever bought one of his albums. When I was a teenager, I thought Prince was a bit too glam rock for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved his songs. They were wild and quirky and full of amazing lyrics that spoke to me. I just don’t want to portray myself as his biggest fan ever. I was not. When I heard he died on Thursday, I was not overly shocked or even that sad. Everyone dies, right? Rock stars and actresses. Kings and queens. He may have been called Prince but in the end, he was only human, just like the rest of us.
Since then, I have been watching the coverage and the tributes on TV. I have been listening to his music and trying to figure out what was so fundamentally special about him and what he did. I bought Raspberry Beret on iTunes and played it for my daughter. I wanted her to like it and I found myself saying, “It’s a song about young love—Prince style.”
She was not terribly impressed. So why was I and the majority of my contemporaries so drawn to the music of that short guy in high heels with an unsexy mustache and too much hair gel? What did Prince inspire in so many of us?
I found it could not be easily explained. It was more of a feeling, something we all lived through. Back then, Prince represented a sexy rebellion for teenagers. Kids like me who lived in the era of Ronald Reagan and Dan Quayle, the start of the AIDS scare, and the war on drugs—we needed Prince. Prince understood. He was the one who told us to “Just Go Crazy, honey child!” He told us to go in through the out door, enjoy our extra time and that kiss, and party like it’s 1999 because in this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld. In this life, you’re on your own.
Prince gave us permission to be young and free. When the rest of the world was telling us how serious everything was and how serious we had to be, he told us to let loose and be ourselves—to go joyriding in that little red corvette and swim in the purple rain of life.
I guess that is what my nostalgia boils down to today—my youth and one exceptionally talented man who understood what it was like to be confused and excited and scared and full of desire all at the same time. My God, what a ride. Godspeed to him now.