I became a Prince fan in the early 80s with the 1999 album. I use to love bouncing around incessantly like a crazy person – dancing of a sort – to “Delirious” in my preteen years. I wanted to see Purple Rain (1984) when it came out in theaters but had to wait for the magic of VHS and kind friends whose parents weren’t as strict or watchful. I got to see Prince live only once, in my teens, but I can still honestly say it was an impressive show. The man could play every instrument with easy and the best part was just him at the piano.
Like most people I know, I became less and less interested in his new stuff, as time went on, and I spent many years making jokes about, “sign man,” but I never lost any admiration for his talent. As I have grown older and worked with musicians and behind the scene personnel who knew Prince well, I have heard some unflattering stories of his ego and odd behavior, but even the most critical voices always have something good to say about him as an artist. When I edited the concert documentary, First Avenue: Hayday (2006), consisting of lost footage from 1985-1992, we badly wanted to include Prince but his performances were not to be found in the night club’s basement; they had been taken by him years earlier. When our director, Rick Fuller, attempted to talk to Prince’s people about letting us have a song for the film it seemed like it just might happen, but then Prince filed for divorce and didn’t want to deal with anything. Not having him in that artifact of Minneapolis History is one of my great disappointments.
There have been a lot of tributes paid to Prince and his influence today, as there should be, but I’d like to highlight a lesser known, largely forgotten (it seems) tale, that didn’t make the local or national TV news I was watching tonight. Did you know that it was Prince who inadvertently inspired the creation of warning labels on albums? His song, “Darling Nikki,” off the Purple Rain album, was the trigger that set off Tipper Gore to get her husband, Senator Al Gore, and his buddies, to hold hearings about the music industry (why she was buying her eleven year old daughter the soundtrack to a rated R movie was something I don’t think anyone asked at the time). The Gores and their friends were unsuccessful in their efforts to completely trample on the First Amendment but the cowardly record labels did agree to put parental advisory stickers on questionable content, which in turn stopped large retailers from caring those products and prevented many people, especially in rural areas, from getting easy access to the music they wanted. Sad but true, and worth noting.
To end this on a lighter note, did you see the photo @acgoodyear took of a rainbow over Paisley Park this evening? RIP Prince.