A Columbus Alive writer remembers Prince.
My heart is heavy because we just lost Prince, one of the most significant figures in American popular music. In the 1980s, his cutting-edge music broke down barriers in a segregated industry. He challenged censorship and social conventions with his frank, sexually charged lyrics and performances, and the Purple Rain album and blockbuster movie solidified him as a pop icon.
Prince was also a musical virtuoso - he mastered numerous instruments and genres, released over thirty albums and penned songs for many other artists. An innovator in the music industry, he fought Warner Bros. to gain control of his master recordings, and became one of the first artists to use the Internet to distribute music. Another inventive business move comes to mind: He included a copy of his 2004 Musicology album with each ticket to his popular concert tour, thus securing high album sales and the number three spot on the Billboard 200.
But more than anything, Prince has been a major part of my life. I was first introduced to Prince via his 1990 movie, "Graffiti Bridge," the "Purple Rain" sequel that my sister and I watched frequently along with Michael Jackson's "Moonwalker." I am certain that I heard the song "1999" over-played on the radio, along with "When Doves Cry," "Kiss," and "Adore."
However, I didn't become a super-fan until my junior year of high school in 2002. BET was repeatedly running "Purple Rain." I sat down to watch the movie and was surprised that I had never seen it. I thought the movie was interesting, but one scene especially caught my attention: the performance of the song "Computer Blue." I was intrigued by the way Prince played guitar, and I knew in that moment that he was an extraordinary musician. I was hooked.
I became obsessed with researching Prince's career (listening to old albums, reading biographies, etc.). In 2004, I lied to my professor to get out of a school engagement so I could see him play at the Gund Arena in Cleveland. I was also fortunate enough to see him again in 2010 at Madison Square Garden. Call me superstitious, but I felt in my heart that this pattern of seeing Prince every six years would continue; I just knew he'd be coming to Columbus this summer, but he has passed on to a better place…
Prince is also the center of what I consider my life's work, a book on his spiritual journey. It may seem crazy, but Prince always explored spirituality in his life and music, even in his most sexually explicit songs. He became a Jehovah's Witness later in life, but my intention is not to convert the reader to a particular faith. The fascinating part of the story is how he overcame his internal struggles to achieve a peace which I'm sure comforted him up until his death.
I was hoping to meet and interview Prince one day, but I was prepared to finish my book if that did not happen. So even though I am distraught, I am committed to finishing what I started. Prince certainly completed what he was destined to do in his lifetime, and his amazing music will continue to be a part of my life (when I can bear to listen to it again). With that said, I'll leave you with one of his quotes from a 1990 Rolling Stone interview:
"When I pray to God, I say, 'It's your call - when it's time to go, it's time to go. But as long as you're going to leave me here, then I'm going to cause much ruckus!'"