Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince

So I never saw him.

I've seen almost everyone it feels like but I never saw Prince. Missed all the tours, missed the small shows in New York, missed the four-hour barnburner when he tore down La Zona Rosa at SXSW '13.

But from an early age, I loved him. I didn't have a choice in the matter. None of us did. I mean, who didn't like Prince? You might not like INXS or U2 or even the Beatles, but everyone loved Prince.

I had the tapes, later the CD's and then ultimately playlists. But as time passed, he never lost relevance or felt like a throwback. You could throw on "Raspberry beret" at a party in 2005 and get the same reaction you'd have got in 1985: a bunch of people dancing and enjoying the hell out of themselves.

In August of 2012, I went with some friends to see My Morning Jacket play Williamsburg Park in Brooklyn. They used to hold those summer concerts down at the waterfront but by then they were held in what amounted to a big outdoor parking lot a few blocks inland. Around the edges were food vendors, beers, the usual. But this was one of those beautiful late summer Sunday evenings in the city where everyone seemed to be either just getting home from vacation or getting ready to leave on one. At least it felt that way. The sun had just set behind the stage and was casting a beautiful light up over it, the Manhattan skyline spiking behind it in the distance. After an incredible knock-out punch of a show, they'd already covered Galaxie 500's cover of George Harrison's "Isn't it a pity?" in the encore. But then for the second to last song of the show they dropped in a wildcard cover: Prince's "I could never take the place of your man."

It brought down the house.

We all remember it as a great single. But like most people, I'd forgotten the album version of that song is a full six and a half minutes. The song didn't have one guitar solo, it had two. Back to back. At the end of the song. The first is him just ripping it, the second is a slow grooved-out blues solo. Three minutes of an amazing pop song (give it another listen) and then three minutes of guitar solos. Solos. With an "s."

So I never saw Prince.

But in the same way I've never seen god. But you still see them in things like sunsets and Sunday afternoon summer concerts overlooking New York City. And in a band reminding you of the genius of a twenty five year-old song you'd forgotten about.

Did I just compare Prince to god?

Maybe I did. Maybe I did.