So I did it for real today … I really cried.
The wife and I took our younger son and two friends to AMC 25 in Times Square to see Purple Rain – which he has never really seen in its entirety and never in a movie theater. For one reason or another, developments of the past few days kept me from the various gatherings designed to help us with our collective "Princely" grief. It was a bit frustrating.
Yesterday, in fact, my family had our annual unorthodox-politically-more-than-correct Passover Seder with my soon-to-be 93 year-old Mom (Bernie never had a more ardent supporter). After all the storytelling, the politics, some pretty good chicken soup and matzoh balls (I actually made those), chicken, cous cous, and more … my brothers, my wife Sandra, Mom and our kids (minus Elijah – of course!), gathered in the living room for some guitar/piano noodling – Beatles and then the song Purple Rain. We ran so late, I couldn't attend the "Prince" parties that have been erupting across NYC.
I had some initial tingling in my body when we were playing. Part of it was my shock that my mother didn’t shut us down, dismissing the chord progression as derivative and pedestrian. (Her pleasure at hearing Geoffrey and me play together overcame any reservations she may have had.) But more of that sensation was my ability to finally start connecting at a deeper level with my emotional reaction to Prince’s passing.
Why do I care? Really, why do I care so much about this event? It’s just another musician – another pop icon – who has left us.
It’s a gut thing. Yes, Prince was less than a year older than me (as was Michael Jackson), but I didn’t “grow up” with his music like I did with the Jackson 5, the Temptations or Pete Seeger. Yes, I absolutely love much of his music and am in awe of his musical genius and performance prowess – but I didn’t drool over every song and certainly not over “Under A Cherry Moon.” Yes, I wish I had his waistline … but not his height. :)
For me, Prince was a champion of my artistic evolution. The infectious nature of his early music never waned, but the styles and contents were ever-changing homages to everything that makes music the international and inter-generational language of love and life that it is. And it was always done with an original twist. As an artist, there is nothing more engaging, inspirational, and admirable than another artist who has all the elements that keep one committed to being an artist – and true to oneself.
(Prince’s social and political consciousness also evolved over these decades, and that was good to witness as well. After all, at one point in his early years he expressed admiration for Ronald Reagan … but he grew to understand America much better and he ended his life providing support to Black Lives Matter and victims of police violence, amongst others.)
There are many musicians and composers I admire and musical groups whose work I adore. But, in my life, Prince is and will probably always be not Prince or King, but an Eternal Emperor, reigning alongside humanitarians such as Bach, Beethoven, Odetta, Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger.
So … watching Purple Rain in a theater for the first time since 1984 – and with my son, no less – rocked me to the roots. And I cried hard. It was my acceptance not of loss, but of the importance of “the artist formally known as me" in my own life. I cried because The Kid’s ultimate acceptance of -- and desire to remain connected to -- the beautiful ones/things in this world is what I want, too. I want it in my politics and I want to share it through my art.
I have told people that I need to keep writing and performing because “music keeps me sane.” Obviously, that is only part of the story. Being an artist keeps me sane, and music is my art.
As a neophyte journalist in 1984 with the now-defunct City Sun, I was assigned to review the Purple Rain album -- long before I saw the movie. I was immediately smitten and wrote the weirdest album review ever -- made even more weird due to a typographical error by the paper that mixed up chunks of paragraphs. It was an honor, even if it wasn't my finest journalistic hour. (I got a bit better over time.)
It's hard to believe that my tingling of 32 years ago was now reinventing itself ... and I cried. It is sad indeed to acknowledge that losing Prince is reawakening my sense of self and purpose ... and I cried.
But the man did proclaim to all of us ...
Honey, I know, I know, I know times are changing It´s time we all reach out 4 something new That means you 2 you say you want a leader But you can´t seem 2 make up your mind I think you better close it And let me guide you 2 the purple rain
And I feel better now. Where there is music, there is life. Where there is life, there is hope.