Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Day The Music Died II

"Purple Rain. Purple Rain." - Prince 

This isn't a story about Prince. 

It is, but isn't. 

It is about the rock star, the impact of his music, yet serving as a backdrop. This is an often-told childhood memory regarding my sister; shot and killed a year ago to the month, by a stalking ex-boyfriend. There's something to be said about scorned individuals, women and men, that attach themselves emotionally to the lives of other human beings, refusing to let go, go on with their lives. 

In short, it's a story about when doves cry. 

Shortly before the summer of '84, Prince released the album "Purple Rain." The track list served as the soundtrack to his similarly-titled motion picture, crowding theaters a month later. Both equated to a nuclear bomb dropped on the music industry; the aftermath felt for decades. 

Prince's recordings were everything as he singlehandedly produced,  arranged, composed and performed entire albums, like no other. It is a most rare thing if it had ever existed. At his absolute best, he illustrated a purple auteur of mental, emotional and spiritual gift. Therein lies the heart and soul of his genius and my sister recognized as much earlier than I did. 

In fact, she brought it to my attention. 

I recall how she sat in front of the radio and television, awaiting Prince at a time where the world anticipated Michael Jackson's thrilling videos on MTV.  Not that she never cared for the King of Pop, she did, but claimed Prince was deeper. In the past I'd liked "1999," "Little Red Corvette," and "International Lover," songs she sang word for word, but preferred the coming-of-age hip hop scene in New York. 

So once our mother provided our monthly allowances that June, I spent some on Run DMC's debut while sis grabbed Prince's strongest work. We only had one record player in the house which led to an all-out war for listening time. She was winning the battle until one Saturday afternoon where, having had enough of hearing singalong to the man that screamed like a woman, I broke the album. Then returned the pieces to its sleeve. 

I was bold. 

Heartbroken, she stopped speaking for about a month or until she was able to re-purchase the album. Never satisfied, that was my sister. 

In the meanwhile, she laid on the couch, linear notes in hand, singing the lyrics in the same tradition as if music played in the background. It is when I say that I remember hearing it, like yesterday. After awhile, and to show Prince's appeal, I began humming the tunes in my head. Once I'd gotten past his falsetto, I realized Prince was a prolific songwriter which boded well, since, back then, hip hop was all about the lyrics, bars. 

Once she had a brand new album in her hands, I found myself asking her to play this song and that song. Before long, we took turns singing verses, emulating guitar weeps. Even in theater, viewing the film together, standing with everyone else. She'd already taken the time beforehand to explain Prince's depth, so her words and his artistry rang true. The man had no peers. 

True enough, the Michael Jackson and the hip hop culture continued to define my childhood. But whenever I wanted to listen to the one artist that wiped his competition, it was Prince; even now, thanks to sis.

It's only fitting that both left this world in the same year. I can tell you: She cried when Prince died and I cried when she died. 

Rest In Peace.