Taking a piece of the 'Prince Pie' or 'Connecting with Prince'

Photo by Micahmedia at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13466179

In the aftermath of the tragic news of music icon Prince’s passing, it’s no wonder that just about everyone has come out of the woodwork to express their connection to the legend. Even though millions of us never had the opportunity to personally know the uber-famous/talented musician, many of us try to grab a smidgen of Prince’s spotlight. I suppose it’s all part of ‘processing’ yet another icon who supplied a good deal of the soundtrack of our lives. A cliché indeed, but so true.

My 10th grade English teacher once told us that we students didn’t “have a time.” I countered that “our time” was then, in the 1980s. The 1980s stands as the ‘heyday’ of our generation which would be later labeled Generation X. The Baby Boomers have the 1960s and 70s. The Greatest Generation has the 1940s and 50s. Looking at the younger set, the Millennial generation has 2000s and 2010s. Generation X claims the era of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen (yes, Bruce Springsteen 2.0), David Bowie (again, David Bowie 2.0), Whitney Houston and Prince. These icons not only produced the soundtrack of Generation X’s soundtrack, but inspired looks and fashion due to MTV and music videos. Who can ever forget the look of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know?” David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” and Prince’s “Purple Rain” videos? They are forever imprinted in our minds.

This doesn’t mean that Generation X “owns” these artists. There’s no doubt that other generations were inspired by them, but those of us who were in our adolescence in the 1980s fondly recall growing up on music videos which inspired us in many ways. I’ll never forget a classmate channeling Michael Jackson, even going as far as copying the legend’s moves in a high school talent show.

Then there were many of us who attended the concerts “back in the day.” I saw Michael Jackson, Madonna, David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen, but not Prince. Of course I now regret that decision. Still, Prince inspired me. My co-worker Buddy at my high school job in a drug store turned me onto Prince with “1999” and “Little Red Corvette.” When Buddy turned up “When Doves Cry” announcing that it was the new Prince single, I was hooked. I had to go out and get that record. There was just something about the structure of that song that got me hooked. “When Doves Cry” was included on the Purple Rain soundtrack and of course Buddy had to go out and see the film of the same name. When he came back the next day from viewing the film, Buddy was beyond excited informing me that Prince was far shorter than me.

Even though I never was a musician by any stretch, I was inspired by Prince because -- like another hero of mine, David Bowie – he took chances and re-invented himself not only with music but with the visual arts including video and film. Prince constantly topped himself after Purple Rain. I will never forget the excitement of the next three subsequent releases including Around the World in a Day, Parade and Sign ‘o’ the Times. The hits poured off of those albums.  No, I didn’t personally know Prince or Bowie nor do I ever claim to be even remotely like them, but their auras mesmerized me, making me wish to be as creative as possible.

Like millions, I’m shocked that Prince, David Bowie, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson are no longer with us. In my mind they were to last forever or into their 80s performing for us for several years going forward. As the cliché goes, they left us way too soon and so, Generation X gently weeps. 

Fellow musicians even get in on their connections to one another. Bruce Springsteen delivers a beautiful, haunting version of Prince's 1984 hit "Purple Rain."


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