If you've ever been around me you know that I am a MASSIVE Prince admirer, fan, zealot, devotee, junkie and, um, nut! I first discovered Prince back in the early '80s when I was just a pup. A black friend of mine, Ronnie Nance, came to school one day wearing a Prince "Controversy" shirt. The only reason I point out that he was a black kid is because most of the other people I was around while growing up white rednecks and they exposed me to a lot of country and southern rock music (to my disdain) but they did also expose me to Queen and for that I am forever grateful. I had never heard of this guy named Prince but I liked the shirt (the picture was the album cover) and I liked the idea of controversy and I did whatever I could to find a way to listen to Prince.
This is almost exactly the shirt Ronnie Nance wore but his was white
I remember calling one of the urban R&B stations and requesting a Prince song. I think I waited for what seemed like hours listening for the DJ to say the name Prince so I would know which song was his. Then, there it was and I heard the song "1999." From that point forward Prince had his funky, quirky, eclectic and mesmerizing hooks deeply implanted in me. As a classically-trained musician I was starting to fall out of love with all things classical piano and realized I didn't have to play Bach, Beethoven or Schubert anymore. I could use my talents to play something that had me shakin' my booty (sorry for the visual here), movin' my feet and really groovin' with a song rather than trying to stay with the rigid structure of classical piano. Clearly, even at an early age I didn't like to follow the rules. 🙂
Fast forward through high school and college - I was still an ardent fan of Prince and bought everything he put out. Hell, when I was in college I found a great music store where one of the workers was just as much of a fan as I was and he would hook me up with bootleg recordings... LOTS OF BOOTLEG RECORDINGS! I had tapes and tapes of Prince sitting at the piano by himself just playing and singing, CDs of recordings Prince did for other people, Outtakes from sessions, Live recordings and many other items. Unlike most college students who spend much of the extra money on beer my extra money went to buying Prince recordings. I couldn't get enough of him and his songs and would study his intricate music more fervently than I would the scores from Bach, Beethoven and Schubert! I still have some of those bootlegs, rare collectibles and recordings.
Here is what's left of my Prince rarities, bootlegs and collectibles. It's a much smaller collection than what I once had.
Please understand that his music was what mattered to me more than anything else. I heard all the rumors about his life while being a fan. I heard about his sexual exploits and/or preferences, his massive cocaine habits, his random firing of employees/musicians if they crossed him and so on. Frankly, I didn't care about his personal life or love life or anything else for that matter. I cared about the music. Oh, and what great music it is! I could get lost in so many of his songs and most of what enamored me were the songs that weren't the hits. To this day my FAVORITE Prince song is the b-side to "Raspberry Beret." The song is entitled "She's Always in My Hair" and if you don't know this song or have never heard it then you are really missing out on one of the most powerful guitar riffs Prince ever created. It still captivates me whenever I hear it.
The worst part about being a Prince fan (at least for me) was that he never played live in a city close to me during his tours. Well, let me rephrase that... when he did tour, my places of residence always seemed to be at odds with his touring schedule. I may be traveling the country for work and he would be in my hometown the week I was traveling. Or, I would arrive at a city just after he left. This went on for about 14 years until I FINALLY was able to see Prince live while I was living in St. Louis. It was on the "Emancipation" tour and when he walked on stage I started pointing to the people around me and shouting "there he is!". It was pretty embarrassing now that I really think about it. But I LOVE live music more than ever listening to a recording. Live music brings out the personality and idiosyncrasies of the musician (often times it shows how bad some musicians are too) and no one is better live than Prince. I ended up seeing him live 8 times before his death and the best show I ever attended (even though it was an incredibly mellow show) was when my wife and I ended up in the FRONT ROW of the Troubadour to see an impromptu Prince performance. I was able to bring my wife to all of the L.A. shows and she instantly fell in love with Prince's live performances. We were fortunate enough to see him perform with Maceo Parker, Candy Dulfer, Sheila E., Mary J. Blige, Janelle Monae and the legend, Stevie Wonder.
Here are the instructions for the Prince show at the Troubadour
Prince at the Troubadour on May 11, 2011
When I learned about his death, I cried. These were not just little tears but some big "HOLY SHIT THIS IS REAL" tears because of what his music meant to me growing up and through much of my adult life. His music was my soundtrack and in many ways still is to this day. I do have to admit that I had a bit of a falling out with Prince's newer music in the early 2000s when he became a Jehovah's Witness. The music seemed less authentic, more forced and uninspired and perhaps my musical tastes were changing as well. I did enjoy watching Prince evolve throughout his career but during that time, sadly, he lost me. I am happy to say that he was winning me back and his last few albums were full of life, sound, inspiration, funk, rock and soul. I think the world lost an amazing musician and I am (selfishly) sad because I will never get to see him perform again and at some point the hundreds of songs in his vault will be released and there will be no more. I am also saddened to think about how future generations will only know the "hits" and never get to see him perform live as well. So long Prince and thank you for touching so many lives including this humble one!
Oh yeah, the other time I cried this much for someone I never knew... Freddie Mercury (arguably the greatest front man of any Rock 'n' Roll band in history).
The greatest front man to ever lead a Rock 'n' Roll band. Long live Freddie!
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