Prince, Again


You know, I just didn’t want this one to be an overdose.  I knew it was; I knew it as soon as the autopsy was over and no one came out and said words like “heart attack” or “brain aneurysm.”  I knew it as soon as the rumor mill started generating stories about save shots and long-term hip problems and addiction specialists.  I knew it and I hated it.

I still do.

And I still hoped against all hope that it wasn’t an overdose.

With the toxicology reports in, we now know without a doubt that an accidental overdose killed Prince.  It just seems so. . . ordinary.  Musicians die of overdoses all the time.  Maybe I didn’t want it to be true because of the kind of artist Prince was.  He was so intensely creative, so exuberant, so different.  Prince was bigger than life, and this news of his death is so damn small.  So yeah, even though I knew this was coming, it hurts just a little more than it should.  We should be comforted knowing the cause of his death.  Instead, I feel like the Universe has done Prince an injustice, making this supernova shooting star all too human with all the accompanying frailties.

More Prince


I make no promises about the future availability of any Prince clips I find and use.  I suspect this video won’t be there in a week. And as much as I hate looking over my old posts and seeing the video I chose unavailable, I just want to share.

Prince loved women.  That really wasn’t much of a secret.  He apparently really liked sex, too, although his music became less risqué after he became a Jehovah’s Witness.  He also disavowed a lot of his earlier, sexier songs, which was a damn shame, because they weren’t just songs about sex.  Prince was probably the most sex-positive musician out there.  It wasn’t hateful and misogynistic when Prince sang about a woman’s sexuality or body; it was reverential and joyful.  He really, really loved women.

Which makes “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” one of the most heartfelt songs Prince ever made.  He wrote it for his first wife, Mayte Garcia, but in a way, it was for every woman.  And it doesn’t matter who you are–gay or straight, young or old, whatever–if you’re a woman and you hear this song, for just a few minutes, you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world.



It seems really weird to write this post.  Not just because Prince has left this plane of existence at only 57.  Not just because this is the most surreal year in the music business, and it’s only April.  (It’s going to get worse.  I just have this terrible feeling.)  But because I am posting about the loss of this brilliant, brilliant man and I am not posting a clip of him.

Prince was a paranoid, controlling son of bitch.  I don’t blame him for it; he knew that if he was going to make money off of his artistry, he was going to have to hold a tight rein on when and how it got disseminated.  I’m pretty darn okay with that.  But his control was such that he didn’t even post his own videos on YouTube, much less let someone else post them.  His online musical presence is pretty much nil.  He designed it that way.  If you wanted Prince’s music, you had to pay him.  Like I said, I’m okay with that.  But it makes paying tribute to him that much harder.

Prince was a true original.  He made music unlike anyone else.  In his music, you could hear echoes of influences, genre-bending styles, and an absolute disregard for what anyone else but Prince thought about pretty much anything.  He understood the world from a distinct perspective.  You could get glimpses of it in songs like “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Sign O’ the Times.”  You could hear it in the sexy playfulness of “Little Red Corvette” and “Raspberry Beret.”  You could see it in his smile and sideways glances at the camera in his music videos, or in his strut and swagger onstage.  But you never would get the full picture.  Prince managed to be something very, very few celebrities and artists ever pull off convincingly.  He was an enigma.

I’m still in shock.  After losing Bowie and so many others this year, it’s just kind of numbing.  When I go home in a few hours, I’m going to queue up some Prince on  my iPod, and I’m probably going to cry then.  Because even though I did not know him–almost nobody really did, I think–losing Prince today still hurts.  He was my generation’s funky master of all trades, jack of none.  He belongs to us even though he did his best to keep his distance.   That’s why I chose this cover of one of his songs by Cyndi Lauper.  Not just because it was one of the very few Prince-related songs I could actually find.  But because it  states what I’m feeling right now.  “I don’t care, ’cause I love you baby, that’s no lie.  I love you more than I did when you were mine.”



Today I learned that searching for Prince videos–the officially released MTV videos, mind you–of Prince songs on the interwebs is, much like resistance, futile.

I was watching VH1 Classic this morning because they were playing 80s videos, and “Let’s Go Crazy” came on.  I stopped and enjoyed the purple goodness, and thought about what a great backing band the Revolution was.  And I was going to post the song, and ruminate a little about how Prince never should’ve gotten rid of them.  (I still think Prince dumping his original backing band was a mistake on par with Bruce Springsteen dumping the E Street Band.  Just beyond stupid.  At least the Boss saw the light, and called the best thing that ever happened to him musically back.)  But, you see, it’s rather difficult to find videos of Prince songs.  The closest I could find to a decent performance was a live clip from the 2013 Billboard Music Awards.

But that’s not Prince & the Revolution.  That guy is just a shadow of the brilliant, sexy, charismatic interstellar explosion that was Prince in the 80s.  I freely admit that I did not fully appreciate him at the time; I was too mired in my love for classic rock to comprehend what an innovative and fascinating talent Prince was.  He’s still talented, but he seems more concerned with . . . well, to be honest, I don’t really know what Prince is concerned with these days.

Now, I can’t really blame him for breaking away from major label record companies, or the business of music.  It is corrupt, racist, and sexist.  The music industry is the last place to look for anything with any real creative vitality.  When good music makes it onto a major label or radio station these days, it’s purely an accident.  Prince’s tendency to sell his music himself might keep his current output out of the spotlight, but it ensures that he has full creative control and reaps maximum profit from his own work.  I’m totally down with that.  But Prince is also one paranoid little fucker.  He keeps as much of his musical output, past and present, under lock and key as he possibly can.  Again, I get it.  Piracy robs the artist, not the corporations.  It also means, however, that I can’t wax poetic about music I love, and include the classic version of it that I love so much.  I’m not saying he doesn’t have a right to reap the rewards of his hard work.  I’m just saying that he could relax a little.  Why doesn’t he start his own official YouTube channel?  Probably because he’s too busy hiding from the world and hoarding his talent like a creepy miser.

Maybe that’s why he got rid of the Revolution.  They were talented artists in their own right, and maybe they were demanding a say in how things went down.  Maybe the only way Prince can be totally happy is if he has total control of everything.  The problem with having total control is that there’s no one there to tell you when the walls you’ve built up around yourself have turned into a prison.


“When You Were Mine”


So I was listening to music on the computer to choose a song for tonight’s entry, when I noticed something odd.

Prince’s “When You Were Mine” came up on the shuffle, now this is a song I really enjoy, despite the 80s synth attack.  I also really enjoy the Cyndi Lauper version from her debut She’s So Unusual.  So I turn off shuffle and scroll to the C’s, because I think writing about Cyndi’s version will be fun, and I find out that for some unknown reason, her version was not in my computer.  Neither was “She Bop” (one of the best songs about masturbation ever, and there’s been more than you think).  I could’ve sworn I had both on there at one time, and checking my iPod wouldn’t have done me any good since I’ve synched it a couple of times in the recent past.  So I rectified the situation pronto.

“When You Were Mine” is a typical sad sack, oh-baby-please-come-back song.  Lauper’s version suffers from the same awful 80s production and can be considered slighter because she is so obviously imitating Prince throughout most of it.  Luckily, her wonderfully quirky voice and personality can’t be held down for too long, and she breaks through in the second half.  What really gets me is the genderbending.  Or the lack of it.

See, when a woman sings a man’s song (or vice versa) she will generally change the gender of the pronouns from “she” to “he” (such as Shawn Colvin’s cover of “Every Little Thing (He) Does is Magic”).  I don’t think it’s any kind of commentary on sexual orientation, but I could be wrong.  The Prince version is about a guy pining for a girl he lost, even though he gave her everything he had.  He even let her sleep with other guys in his bed.  And so did the girl in Lauper’s version.  The thing that makes this stand out is that she doesn’t change the pronoun: “I know that you’re going with another guy.”  She doesn’t mind “when he was there, sleeping in between the two of us.”  This is wonderful, although it begs the question just which one is bisexual, the Cyndi-character or her wayward partner.  Admittedly, this is all presuming both Prince and Lauper are singing as characters of their own sex (which bends the gender question just a little further).

The only other song I can think of like this is Joan Jett’s version of “Crimson and Clover” (infinitely better than the original).  And I know for a fact that Jett likes chicks (whether she’s bisexual or lesbian or an ambisexual walnut is her business. . . but she did date Carmen Electra).  I remember being kind of wowed to hear that, too.  I was around 11, I think, and homosexuality wasn’t really important one way or the other to me at that point.  I do remember knowing instinctively that what Jett did was somehow transgressive.  Because the convention is for women to sing about men, and men to sing about women.  Openly gay artists like Bob Mould and Elton John (these days) tend to keep their love songs gender neutral.  Personally, I think that’s kind of a crime.  Who cares if a gay man is singing to another man?  Isn’t that how it works?

Cyndi Lauper not changing the gender pronoun in her cover of “When You Were Mine” might not seem like that big of a deal.  Until I start to think about how rare it is.  And then I get a little angry.  Everybody should.  Love is love.  Who cares how someone else expresses it with his/her chosen partner?  Bedrooms have doors for a reason, after all.