We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life
Sometimes you just want to talk about who is being brutally murdered in one of your favorite (and extremely lethal) fantasy realms now that you do not have any more original source material to refer to, but ultimately who lives or dies in Westeros is of little consequence compared to deaths here in the real world. 2016 has already seen the loss of one of my favorite all-time musicians in the great David Bowie, yet his illness and age made the announcement of his death less of a surprise than last Thursday’s news that Prince had joined him in the Afterworld. There is plenty I could say about Prince that so many already have, so today I would like to write about some of the memorable moments that added to the mystique of the man for me, specifically the almost forgotten honor he is the last to have been awarded by the Oscars.
Prince was born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, so yes, his real name is Prince. The Love Symbol and “Artist Formerly Known as” business came later as a result of his one of a kind everything. He was a jack-of-all-trades when it came to music, capable of playing multiple instruments and styles, and of blending them all together to create groundbreaking music that influenced countless other artists, and, like Bowie, will continue to long after his death. Due to this grand impact, it should come as no surprise that Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during his first eligible year to be able to in 2004. During the induction ceremony, Prince, Tom Petty, and a number of other rockers played a tribute to George Harrison and his solo still remains as the best version of the song and one of the best guitar pieces I’ve ever heard. And not just anyone can make a guitar disappear like that upon finishing! I first heard this in 2007, the most formative year of my current musical tastes, while I was researching the Rock Hall and many who had been welcomed into its ranks. It blew me away, but it was not surprising to hear Prince’s weeping guitar sound so good since I had already been exposed to his showmanship and professionalism earlier that year in the greatest Super Bowl Halftime Show I’ve ever seen. Prince stole the show away from an admittedly fairly uninteresting game (why is that always the case when Peyton Manning wins?), but most impressively shone like the sun amidst the only downpour in the Halftime Show’s history. It rained on Prince’s parade and he made it seem like he planned it that way from the start. Playing a medley of his own songs and others by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan, and the Foo Fighters, Prince made every moment a legendary one. All of the genuine fears of stage and stadium orchestrators were annihilated like Charlie Murphy’s coterie in a basketball game.
Fun fact about this fun skit (which is probably my favorite from Chappelle’s Show), Dave Chappelle and company drew from Prince’s lesser-known, yet actual love to play basketball for inspiration for it. It’s hilarious for any who watch it, including the mocked man himself, who responded to it by placing Dave Chappelle dressed as him on the cover of his single “Breakfast Can Wait“.
Dave Chappelle is not the only comedian to have a respectful laugh at the audacious charisma of the man who once changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. “Weird Al” Yankovic gave Prince and his affinity to use numbers in place of letters and words a shout out in his song “Word Crimes” from his most recent album Mandatory Fun.
My introduction to Prince was from the songs he wrote for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, but I heard plenty of his hits on the radio, especially “When Doves Cry”, “1999”, and my personal favorite, “Let’s Go Crazy”. “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” are both off of Prince’s remarkable album Purple Rain which is all music written for his film of the same name that is so wonderfully Prince-y in every aspect. I’ve said this a lot about Prince’s works, but Purple Rain is one of the greatest and most unique movie soundtracks ever produced, however, I really do mean it. One of the treasures of my dad’s cassette tape collection (because we can’t all be driving cars made in the last 10 years) is Purple Rain. When I finally saw the film I felt about the same as most critics in that I enjoyed it, but mostly for the music. The movie is definitely held together not only by Prince’s songs but also his passion, and it could not have worked as well as it did with anyone else in his place. Thanks to all this and the aforementioned pair of songs that featured in the film, Prince ruled 1984 musically and cinematically and had the top album, song, and film in the United States for a good chunk of it. Also from Purple Rain is the song “Darling Nikki”, which, like almost all of Prince’s songs, is extremely upfront regarding its subject matter (it’s about sex!). It inspired Tipper Gore, the separated wife of former US Vice President and climate change educator Al Gore, to begin her infamous (or famous depending on your stance on the First Amendment) crusade for censorship and the founding of the Parents Music Resource Center that is the reason why your favorite rap album has PARENTAL ADVISORY slapped across the cover of it.
Purple Rain has another special distinction and is easily atop another list for me. This will take some explaining though. There is an award category for the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, that is still around today, but never has had a film nominated for it under its current title of “Best Original Musical”. It used to be called “Scoring of a Musical Picture”. Then it was the “Best Original Song Score and Adaptation Score” and then simply “Best Original Song Score”. John Williams got his first Oscar in this category for Fiddler on the Roof. In order to be nominated, a film needs to have at least five songs that are original to it, i.e. written for it, and there need to be enough other films fulfilling the same requirement during the same year so that if there is only one movie that fits this bill it does not win by default.Oh, and the song’s need to be tied into the story somehow; they can’t just be good songs that are thrown into the movie, even if they are being heard for the first time in it. Since musicals are not as popular as they once were, this award has not been in the Oscars mix since 1984. What was the last movie to ever win this strange award? You guessed it: Purple Rain. In the last time it was presented, and the only it was presented under the title “Best Original Song Score”, Purple Rain took home an Oscar for Prince. No matter what you may think of the movie, you cannot deny that it earned that Oscar, and for me it is the most deserving selection of songs to ever win the award. You can peruse the list of past winners and nominees for yourself, but I only want to see Prince laughing in the Purple Rain.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to return for the State of the Season next week, and remember to live for now even if things are the wrong kind of crazy.
Are we gonna let de-elevator bring us down?
OH NO LET’S GO!
Let’s go crazy,