May We All Live a Life So Restlessly Excellent: Reflections on Prince

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I was a 13 year old preacher’s kid. I was not ready for the likes of Prince’s impact on my life. My father had died only a year before, and his sound came to me through the door of my older brother’s room, laying waste to what I thought I knew, and remade itself into something electric. . . Sensual. . .lyrical.

My first concert. I was too young to be there, but I went. I made a fake ID that still sticks with me to this day. Into the Veteran’s Memorial I go. . . No one explained it. I don’t think anyone could have prepared me. You had to have seen it first hand. It was early, but the power was fixed. “Controversy,” laid a foundation which lit the final fire to my old self. I couldn’t help but return for more. Seeing him live became a life’s work, I only today understood, it could not last for ever. This electronic music, early on, exposed synapses to synthesizers that only going back and revisiting the early 70’s recordings of Stevie Wonder did.

But these sounds were different. They were not the melodic, soaring portamento of Stevie’s Arp and Moog lead lines.  Prince used Oberheim Obxa’s and Juno 106’s.. Cutting, biting. Clawing. Creating insistent waves that substituted for brass. . . Screaming, “Let’s Work”. My path as an artist was set largely as a result of Stevie, and because of Prince Rogers Nelson.

Understand. I loved Michael Jackson. I Got signed as a 15 year-old with Bobby Taylor, the man that brought Michael and his brothers to Motown. But Prince, ahhhh Prince. He held a different space. He was not just loved, he was a guide. He was a coach, like the ghost of that brother I would loose. The one who first introduced me to Prince music. I imagined asking questions. I listened to the cadences of lyrics. . . The clever way, something naughty became sexy, not nasty. . .How girls innately understood the difference, in the right moment. I could imagine asking musical questions, and then I could imagine listening to the music, then trying to play it on my own keyboard, letting the answers come.

I could never imagine that in just a couple of years, now in Los Angeles, I would go to a private screening of “Purple Rain” on the Warner Brother’s lot. He attended. To have experienced the joy of being at Barry White’s house. To have heard him exclaim how much he loved “When Doves Cry”. “He said, “aaaaand, that MF took the bass off the track, and still and made a hit!” ‘Sure you right Barry’. . . Yes he did.

I grew up. I watched the “Sign of the Times” era morph into the “Black Album,” which morphed into a new kind of spirituality that challenged us to “Lovesexy. . . “To “Symbols”that spoke of me being a slave to the industry that threatened to swallow me whole. . . That was swallowing many of my signed friends. . . Beyond this entered a wisdom that learned a language that considered words as not just a kind of freedom, (as he did in the earlier days. . . ) Words came to to hold more power when they were suspended by a thought, that did not require the expletive to make the point. (Hip/Hop. . . Hold on to this). . . I delighted in seeking out b/sides and unreleased gems. . . I studied. For me, Prince was like a college masterclass. Full of surprises and music that challenged.

I never formally met Prince, but he gave me one of his signature guitar picks from the stage of the former Billboard Live. We were that close on many occasions. I had always hoped to hang in Chanhaussen, at Paisley Park, even had a session booked, that had to be cancelled. I did get to the twin cities on a couple of pass-through trips, and even got to lake Minnetonka, where mosquitos the size of small planes dive-bombed me, but I did not get to Paisley Park. . . I thought I still had time.

Fully formed, I have made music with, performed, or done artist to artist interviews, with many musicians who worked with Prince over the years including Gayle Chapman (see our performance on youtube), Rosie Gaines, (see my interview with her about life, music and Prince, back up on my website soon), and Sueann Carwell, the first female Prince would sign. There were others like Malia Franklin who weren’t band members per se, but were important parts of certain eras at Paisley Park. Those who jammed with him like Meshell Ndege Ocello and Frank McComb. There are many other members of his bands, and solo artists in their own right, who I have over the years been graced to have shared kind words with from afar like (Andre Cymone, Shelia E. Appolonia Kotero, Jill Jones-Muhlum, Kat Glover, Matt Fink, St Paul Peterson, and others). I am honored to have been a fellow traveler, passing on the same road.

To Prince’s family, and those who knew him best. . . I share my condolences and love.  May we all strive to lives that are so restlessly excellent.  Well done sir.  Well done

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