Prince – Let’s Go Crazy (by way of Hamilton)
The videos are not online. Or, if they are, they won’t be there for long. It was a strange mourning, to be at work and wanting to listen to the songs that we all knew but knowing that they wouldn’t be available to illustrate the shared grief. Luckily I had a meeting that afternoon in a room at the library. I did a quick catalog search and wrote down the call numbers and headed over to the meeting a few minutes early so I had time to stop in the music collection.
I grabbed Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and Sign O’ the Times. I really wanted 1999 but they didn’t have it. I was not a huge Prince fan but I turned 13 in 1980. That means the entirety of my teenage years occurred during Prince’s biggest decade. If you can remember the videos, I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that Prince was responsible for kick starting a lot of teenagers’ sexual awareness back then. Let’s not forget it was Prince’s “Darling Nikki” that shocked Tipper Gore into founding the PMRC.
I still didn’t listen to the CDs when I got back from my meeting, I saved them for the car ride home. I decided Purple Rain should come first. When “Let’s Go Crazy” started, and those lyrics I hadn’t paid much attention to came on, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…” I lost it. Then the drums kicked in, and he was talking about the afterworld, and I cranked that song up so loud I thought my rear windshield was going to shatter. I pulled out of the parking lot and into traffic and I didn’t worry about anyone seeing an errant tear falling down my cheek because I was sure everyone else would hear the music and feel the same.
It surprised me that I reacted so strongly. Of course I knew all of these songs. Of course they were a part of my life, but it wasn’t music that I had felt especially tied to or even thought about frequently. I respected Prince and I acknowledged the huge role he had played and the love a lot of my friends had for him but I wasn’t among the truly devoted. I even tried following him on Twitter just two weeks ago or so and gave up after a day because I couldn’t make sense of his tweets. As I drove home and listened to all of Purple Rain and then started it over again, I teared up again.
I spent last night watching news come in of late night block parties in Brooklyn and an all night dance party at First Avenue in Minneapolis, and watching all the cities turn their lights to purple. Because none of his music is available online (come on, do you know anyone with a TIDAL subscription?) the legions of his faithful fans had to physically come together, turn on the radio, bring out their albums, just like we used to do. Hell, even MTV was relevant again. Back in January we took to our computers to reach out to friends when David Bowie died, to share obscure videos and pictures, favorite songs, memories. We met there. It helped us all to feel less alone and isolated in our shock and grief. This time it wasn’t enough.
The video above is from the curtain call of Hamilton on Broadway the night that Prince died. I saw it come up on Twitter and I blinked away tears again. I think what moved me so much was watching how people had to be together. These songs were so much a part of our formative years, so much a celebration of living, dancing, sex, love. Even if I never thought about those songs as having special meaning for me, when I listened to them in the car I realized that they are a part of me. And I don’t feel old enough for this piece to be over.