Let’s Go Crazy

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.





Prince – 1999

I was stuck in traffic on my way to work the other morning. I turned on the radio to find out what was going on and, after learning I’d be there a while, started flipping through the stations. During the half hour I sat there I heard three Prince songs on three separate stations: When Doves Cry, Raspberry Beret, and Little Red Corvette.

Chances are if I’d been stuck there a little longer they would have played 1999. The album 1999 came out in 1982 (whoa, over thirty years ago!). At the time, the turn of the century seemed so far away and I couldn’t begin to imagine where I would be or what I’d be doing by New Year’s Eve 1999.

By 1999, I was living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan at a giant publishing company. You would think New York would be the ultimate place to be for New Year’s Eve, that one especially. However, I had my then fiance and his mother staying with me for the holidays. My future mother-in-law was 75 and didn’t speak English and taking the two of them into Manhattan where millions of people would be jammed in the streets, seemed like the worst idea possible.

My best friend was living outside of Philadelphia then and they were going to be away for a few days so she offered me their house. New Year’s Eve in Philadelphia instead sounded much more manageable and the chance to see the famous Mummer’s Parade on New Year’s Day was a big plus. Not many people would leave New York City for one of its biggest nights but that’s just what we did.

It also turned out to be Ed Rendell’s last night in office as the mayor of Philadelphia and they had a number of events all around the city creating a kind of roving party. As one event was ending and the crowd was making its way out of Rittenhouse Sq., someone bumped into my mother-in-law and said, “Oh, excuse me!” It was none other than the mayor himself. After that we made perhaps one more stop on the party tour but it was cold and we didn’t want to get stuck in traffic so we made our way back to my friend’s house before midnight and watched the fireworks on tv. Pretty low key. Let’s just say we didn’t bother knocking on Prince’s door.

(Sorry about the ad, the original video was removed from YouTube. I’ll keep looking for a better solution.)