Oh my, you’ve been a rollercoaster ride, 2016 — at least for fans of American pop culture.
This past week, social media exploded with the news that rock n’ roll icon Prince had died at age 57.
Prince was always an enigma to me, and that was before he changed his name. The man just kind of seemed a little supernatural to me.
I grew up riding in the car with mom driving, my brother in the passenger seat and the radio dial locked to Oldies 96 — the longrunning local radio station that also died this year, canned in favor of a bland offering of “the hits of the ’80s, ’90s, and NOW!”
Basically, it’s every other station on the radio, divested of anything that made it unique. In a world where my 1980s heroes the Dukes of Hazzard, Hulk Hogan and Bill Cosby now represent a sort of triumvirate of evil to some people, this format is nice and safe. Instead of maybe a Motown song or songs from rock’s golden era, now we get the Goo Goo Dolls three times an hour.
My ideals of rock growing up were, of course, No. 1 — Elvis Presley and No. 2 — the Beatles. This sort of flipflopped later as I started playing and writing my own music, but it would be hard to argue against the King as the perfect embodiment of rock n’ roll.
At first glance, Prince was like … Elvis Lite? In contrast to the paunchy, sweaty, capewearing crooner of Elvis’ later years, Prince was a tiny, stick-thin little dude in a tight velvet suit, kind of like a sassy leprechaun or a pixey with a pencil mustache drawn on.
You can’t argue with the catchiness of some of Prince’s music, most of which have titles not fit to print in a family publication — well, aside from “Kiss” and “When Doves Cry.” In high school and beyond, most of my friends were metalheads, so it was always shocking to me to find out that they were Prince fans. But Prince was able to provide that one sound that links metal fans to the rest of humanity — squealing electric guitar.
I learned quite a bit about Prince and his music this week though, including the fact that he played all the instruments on his first few albums. As impressive as it was to find that out, I was blown away by videos of live performances in the rain at the Super Bowl and as part of an allstar tribute to late Beatle George Harrison.
For some reason, I didn’t remember the Super Bowl show. I must have thought “Oh Prince is playing the halftime show. I wonder how the Puppy Bowl is going.” On second glance and in light of the man’s untimely death, the performance took on a new power … generation. It reminded me of that scene in Caddyshack where the rain is pouring down as the priest shoots the best 18 holes of his life.
And so, as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight, sweet Prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” firstname.lastname@example.org