Is it mourning in America again?
It is, Russell. Prince’s death, so young, no doubt hits generations of serious music lovers very hard.
But for those of us who were beginning high school when Prince came bottle-rocketing onto the music scene–this was the height of the fake sock hop, sexually repressed Reagan nostalgia-porn era that was the 80s in America–and we kids who weren’t buying that show–those of us coming of age in that moment–we were basically saved by Prince.
It’s worth remembering musically-lobotomized goo like Dan Fogelberg, Air Supply, Billy Joel—this is what was topping the radio charts in the early 80s in America. Most pop music then made you feel like you were being force fed your mom’s leftover, key party quaaludes. The awful Reagan years, where the government seemed to be chanting, “Don’t worry, folks. There’s no man behind the curtain. Go to sleeeeeeeeep.”
But being a teenager is all about waking up. And Prince, with his gender bending groove and musical virtuosity, his stance against the corporate machines that kept trying to tame and package him—this was essential to ushering in another way of being for many of us. Like, “Fuck your Baby Boomer bobby sox! I can be as freaky as I wanna be!’
If you want to get a point of comparison, there’s the great video of a 21 year old Prince premiering “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on American Bandstand in about 1980. The disconnect between the stultifying Gee whiz!-ness of that era, and Prince’s ass waggling, sexed up, cheeky performance is pretty epic. He preached the truth and beauty of our bodies, and the good, old fashioned business of getting it on for the pure pleasure of it.
I saw one of the shows during his 1999 tour and it remains in memory the single most astonishing concert to which I have ever been. His musicianship was beyond compare. And the sense of fun, freedom, sex appeal. It was water in the desert of one of the nastiest, phoniest eras this country has ever produced. I’ll never forget dancing till I fell down, wearing my totally inappropriate snap crotch lingerie top, mini skirt, pearls and fishnets. Everyone was so deeply alive that night.
Yep. This one is hitting me especially hard. Damn. RIP Prince. You will be sorely missed.