When I was growing up I played every single sport imaginable. Football, baseball, basketball, you name it and I played it. That was the way of life in a small Texas town. Our talent pool wasn’t deep enough to allow you to specialize in one sport, so if you played one, you played them all.
For much of my grossly mediocre athletic career I depended on my parents for rides everywhere. Which naturally meant they controlled the radio, as is customary law in all cars; the pilot controls the music.
This meant from the time I was about eight years old I was being exposed to a myriad of musical artists, and it’s part of the reason I hold the esteemed status of knowing every lyric to every song amongst many of my friends.
I owe my first exposure to George Strait, Guns N Roses, and The Eagles is all thanks to those car rides.
Now, those car rides were different depending on who was driving. If it were my dad and I, we typically rode in silence. Appreciating the music for what it was. Be it the masterful lyrical stylings of Glenn Frye and The Eagles, or the guitar riffs from Slash that made your soul shudder with excitement.
However, if I were with my mom there was a strong chance those rides weren’t spent in silence. We were going to do our very best damn to play the role of back up vocals to whatever musical selection happened to be the choice for that day.
And that’s exactly how I remember listening to Purple Rain, the penultimate and timeless classic that is known the world over, and subsequently being exposed to the artistic genius of Prince for the first time.
I distinctly remember how taken aback I was the first time I heard that song. The guitar licks, the commanding drums, and the almost gospel sounding voice of Prince. It was addictive, and impossible to not feel moved. I revisit that feeling every single time I hear Purple Rain.
The power of music.
Music is an interesting art form. Most everyone refrains from commenting on works of sculpture, painting, or drawing, citing their inexperience as reason for not being able to adequately comment on it’s genius.
Yet everyone is a music critic. We all listen to music; we all have music we prefer to listen to, and thus have our own deeply ingrained opinions on music; opinions that we’re often not afraid to share.
Here’s a brief example of this in action: One of my favorite debates to have with people is by posing the question of Prince or Michael Jackson?
I like to use the question to start up conversation, but I think someone’s answer reveals quite a bit about him or her. People who choose Michael Jackson, without a doubt a massively influential genius in his own right, tend to be a bit different than someone who chooses Prince.
Obviously it’s impossible for any one person to be right in matters of musical opinion, unless we’re talking about how Prince is superior to Michael Jackson, of course.
I’ve always thought that we all view our own musical tastes as superior to everyone else. We’re inherently biased in this own way, and I’m no exception.
But no matter how much more refined we may think our taste in music is compared to others, the beauty of music is that it’s never truly a competition. There’s enough music to go around, and we can enjoy it with everyone. And not only enjoy it with everyone, it can function as a way to bond us with those near us on a spiritual level. If you’ve ever been to a concert that left you in awe, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Music offers both an escape from reality, and manages to rip the veil off of our eyes and bring the cold harsh truth of reality into clear focus.
At times, the perfect song can offer distinct clarity to something deeply ambiguous. It can bring unparalleled joy into our lives, help us to understand circumstances that we’re grappling with, or provide the necessary salve a deep emotional wound.
Prince’s music managed to do just that for so many people.
Whether it was singular talents with the guitar, playing riffs that ripped through the air with unforgiving force straight into your cerebellum, or stadium anthems that you were belting out right alongside him before you even knew what was happening.
The artistic renderings of Prince ran the gamut of human emotions. Prince turned the vulgar into the erotic and the weird into the attractively eccentric while creating milestones that will forever hold their place in the pop culture landscape.
Prince wrote music that captured the very essence of the human soul. He understood love, pain, heartbreak, and anger, and that was evident in his music. Whichever emotion you found yourself grappling with, at any point in life, you could turn to Prince. He was there with the perfect song to capture exactly how you felt.
The word amazing or awesome truly doesn’t do justice to the genius that was Prince. Those words have been cheapened by their overuse, and even if we didn’t lazily depend on those words, they still wouldn’t get the job done. They’re woefully under representative of the talents that Prince possessed.
Prince was transcendent in the truest sense of the word. He somehow melded funk, pop, jazz, rock, blues, soul, and any other genre of music he damn well pleased. If he wanted to turn out a hit, he turned out a hit. If we wanted to flex his creative muscle and create more obscure music, he did it.
Prince was genius like we’ve never seen, and we’ll never see again. The doves are crying, and I’m joining them.