April 21st is a day I will never forget. I was sitting in my AP Human Geography class listening to my teacher give a lecture about agriculture in rural communities around the world when my phone started going crazy. I turned it on silent and ignored it for a bit, but after about 15 minutes I went ahead and checked it again. I was initially shocked seeing 8 missed calls from Mom and a text from a friend that will stick out in my mind forever – “Bruh. TMZ just broke a story that PRINCE FREAKING DIED. Wtf? Is this true? Just heard it on the radio.” My heart instantly felt like it was in my stomach, then another text came through: a text from my mom – “I’m so sorry and will never forgive myself for not taking you!”
You see, about a month before all of this happened, my high school’s girls basketball team had made playoffs and was going to be playing at Sleeptrain Arena in Sacramento. It just so happened that Prince was performing in Oakland the same night, just him and his piano up on stage. The day tickets went on sale, my mom had floor seats, right next to the stage, in her cart and was about to checkout when she decided that I should watch my girls basketball team play instead. I begged and pleaded, but to no avail. “You have the rest of your life to go see Prince. He’ll be back eventually. You’re only a high school Senior once and you need to go support the girls!”
So, there I was, sitting in class, with those words running through my mind, over and over – “You have the rest of your life… He’ll be back…” I felt numb and text my mom to have her pull me out of class. I drove home from school early and proceeded to place the needle on Track 1 of Side A of the Purple Rain Album, “Let’s Go Crazy”, lay in bed, and cry. I did have to get up and flip the vinyl album, which has skyrocketed in price, over to Side B, but laid back down and continued to cry. Then, it came on…
You see, “Purple Rain” is one of those songs that instantly sends chills down your spine. With the first strum of guitar, goosebumps formed on both arms, my chest tightened up, and I could feel my heart breaking. I can’t explain it, but the sheer power of his guitar solos paired with the incomparable soul of his voice made Prince one of a kind. I love music, but there are few artists that can make me instantly emotional as soon as they open their mouths, Prince being one of them, along with Otis Redding.
I can remember sitting in my carseat belting out “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” followed immediately by “Little Red Corvette.” Maybe my brain is just hardwired for the nostalgia, but I think that there’s something deeper. There’s something about Prince’s voice that sends people to a different place as soon as they hear it. Even when I can’t relate one bit to Prince’s lyrics, I can relate to his music. See, I’ve never had my heart broken, been seduced by Nikki, or instantly fallen in love with someone, but I feel it. I feel the music and I get it. “Nothing Compares 2 U” comes on and I’m taken right back to when my long time girlfriend and I broke up, leaving me absolutely devastated and longing for nothing but her touch; an experience I’ve never had.
See, that’s what’s so awesome about Prince: he could do it all. He was able to make you feel his music, no matter what mood you’re in. Plus, his range was completely earth shattering. I mean at the snap of your fingers he could go from the high-pitched whisperesque sounds of “Kiss” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover” to the deep harmonics of “I Would Die 4 U” to the smooth melody of “Starfish and Coffee” and top it off with the electric reverb of “U Got The Look,” but it wasn’t just the pitch of his voice. He could touch you emotionally with slow jams, making you sit there, just thinking while “The Beautiful Ones” plays, then turn right around and start a dance party with “Let’s Go Crazy” or an orgy with “Gett Off.” He could literally do it all and not just musically.
You see, we didn’t only lose a musician, we lost an artist, philanthropist, unknowing best friend, revolutionary, and above all a teacher. Whether we listened to his music or not, Prince taught us all something in one way or another. Every musician after Prince had a little bit of him in their music and I honestly think it’s safe to say that Prince has reached everyone, maybe not directly, but he’s worked his way into their lives somehow. He was sneaky and mysterious like that. He pushed the boundaries and gave solid evidence to the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” He kept us guessing and intrigued. He was a sexy mother and he knew it. I’ve often wondered to myself, how can you fit that much sex appeal into such a small man, but he did it… with ease.
Now, you may be wondering, “Why does it matter to you? Why do you care so much? You’re just a 17 year old kid.” and I totally get it. I didn’t know him personally. I wasn’t alive for the release of Purple Rain. I didn’t get to buy his albums as soon as they were released. I never got to wear out his cassettes while cruising in my car. However that’s what’s so great about Prince; he’s multigenerational. He connected with people of all ages and he’ll continue to impact generations to come. I’ll make sure of it. You can bet that my kids will be listening to Prince some day.
I feel sympathy and envy all at the same time for the generation before me who was witness to the revolution (no pun intended) that was Prince. I mean, to have watched that first hand… the anticipation of his next album or new style. I can only imagine.
You may have forgotten by now, or you may still be wondering, and the answer is no. The girls basketball team didn’t win. Was it worth it to miss the Prince concert to see my high school girls basketball team play in a professional arena? No. I’m sure you were expecting a more sentimental answer, and think what you want, but I’d have much rather been in Oakland with Prince. I know that sounds terrible coming from the Student Body President, but I’m an honest man. Have I forgiven my mom for letting our tickets go? I was never mad at her. Sure, I missed the opportunity of a lifetime, but in life we learn lessons every day. Some are just more monumental than others. I know I’ll get my chance to see Prince someday. He’ll be back eventually…