Toiling away in my little office day in and day out has given me an appreciation for music. Without it, I think that accomplishing what I need to do would be a little more difficult. Music sets the mood - happy, sad, or something in between. Sets the tone, and more importantly, sets me up for a successful day of wrestling with the images in my head.
Music frees up the imagination as it evokes certain memories and emotions. I find it helps grease the rusty cogs and enables me to do what I need to do in a much more deliberate and efficient manner. Which is why the death of Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson has affected me much more than I would have anticipated.
As an unsure teenager, I came across a weird little album in the main branch of the Edmonton Public Library titled “Prince.” I borrowed the album and brought it home inside my big gym bag because (if I’m being honest) my teenage self was inexplicably uncomfortable with the rather forward gaze of the seemingly naked androgynous man on the front cover. The track “I Wanna Be Your Lover” reminded me of some of the upbeat pop/R&B/disco songs from Cool and the Gang and Earth Wind and Fire. I also thought that “I Feel For You” had an honesty that the later overly polished and produced Chaka Khan version lacked (although I still loved it). While the general feel of the songs reminded me of these other groups, they had a feel of their own. A signature. I was hooked.
Later albums with tracks titled “Head,” “Do Me, Baby,” “Jack U Off,” and the legendary “Darling Nikki” only cemented Princes’ place in the soundtrack of the uncontrolled raging hormone period of my life.
Later on in college, I was delighted to learn that some new artist named Sinead O’Connor had done a cover of Princes’ song "Nothing Compares 2 U." I sought out the album at the local record store (sounds weird saying that in these days of digital downloads) and eagerly brought it home for a listen. I was blown away with her interpretation. The words were the same, but this was something different. I had a new appreciation for Princes’ songwriting when truly phenomenal artists like Ms. O’Connor takes the basics and make the song truly their own. It was magic.
I admit that Princes’ albums after “Diamonds and Pearls” failed to register with me. In trying to establish the ‘adult’ phase of my life, I lost touch of Princes’ work. Until yesterday.
I was genuinely shocked when my wife told me that Prince had passed away. I guess I always expected him to be there. Looking back on it now, I didn’t realize how this stranger had affected me. This man that I’ve never met. It seems really shallow to just bring out that hackneyed expression ‘rest in peace’ when he did so much for me and others like me - people who were desperately trying to fit in. And along comes this dude. This dude, though small in stature, oozed self confidence. This dude didn’t care what other people thought of him. This dude was true to himself.
I hope all artists achieve some measure of this. I know sure as hell that he did.