Last Thursday, a music legend (and I don’t use that term loosely) died. Prince Rogers Nelson died at his home at the age of 57. I’m sure most of my readers know him so I won’t go into details about who he was and the accolades he achieved. (But if you don’t know much about him – like just that he liked purple – then check him out.) What is on my heart today, is the lasting legacy he’s had on my life.
Purple Rain, both the movie and the soundtrack came out in 1984. I was ten. Because of its “raunchy” material and themes, I was not allowed to see it until later, when my friend acquired it on laser disc (remember those? Think gigantic CDs for movies.) and we watched it in her basement. Of course, our first thoughts were to watch it because it was Prince and it contained his (raunchy) songs. We felt like we were getting away with something (and we kind of were.) As we watched, it became so much more.
You see, Purple Rain, is more than a movie about Prince’s music. In fact, I truly believe it is one of the most enduring stories about a plethora of themes – that most people aren’t even aware. If you haven’t seen Purple Rain, despite any feelings you may have about his music, I encourage you to watch it. It’s not simply about his music, but his music connects the story in such a fascinating way. I’ll be clear: the music is the best part, the acting is not Oscar worthy and the filming seems very… well, 80s. Get over it. Because, you see, the movie moved me when I was eleven and still until this day because of its themes and, I think, it’ll move you, too.
Domestic abuse, bullying, depression and suicide are major themes throughout this movie. Prince’s character struggles with how to cope with every single one. He does it mainly through music. Now, as a writer, I realize that this connected to me because I seek to express myself through my creativity, too. I’ve not overcome the things Prince’s character had to overcome, but we all have something. In addition, before you point to Prince’s “raunchy” music as a reason NOT to watch… I’ll say this: Yes. A lot of the music is… raw. But the character Prince plays does not do drugs, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink (in fact encourages his girlfriend not to) and rarely swears throughout the film (although he does struggle with domestic abuse because it’s what he knows). Can we say that of many of our movie characters today? He is a tortured soul, trying to find his way in the world against pretty crappy odds. But he has a talent. He excels at it, in fact. And he uses that talent, that life purpose, to make his way and to get out of the life mess he is in.
Guess what? It’s 8 Mile before Eminem. (In fact, this movie may have inspired Eminem, too, since he’s my age.)
In his lifetime, Prince donated millions of dollars to charities that were dear to his heart, but we’ve not heard about it until now. Now, after his death, people are coming forward to say how he changed their lives, and businesses, with his generosity. This is a man people ridiculed for his purple attire, his flamboyant costumes and his small stature. But now as the world grieves over the loss of this man, I am amazed that now, only after he’s dead, do we finally see the true, and deep, humanitarian that he was. There is no more name calling, no lewd comments about his love life, no more snickering at his outfits – in fact, I’m wearing purple today as are many others, his music and his movies are being played continuously on MTV, and even NASA colored a nebula purple in his honor.
For me, it started when I was ten. I saw him from day one as the creative being he was not just some guy in purple clothes. I recognized the God-given talent that he exuded and I admired his dedication to his craft. He often spoke in interviews about being an “artist” (in fact, it was part of the reason he changed his name at one point) and that many “singers” today are not. I love that. It’s what has made me cry over his death – something I rarely do for someone I don’t even know. He wasn’t a god – he was just a man – but his words and his life touched me. He was real – no auto tune, no gimmicks, just music. And I want to be like him. I want to stand firm in my convictions, understand and hone my craft, and be a light onto others – no faking it.
Thank you, Prince, for your life and your legacy. I pray it will go on as you would have it go on, it would not be tarnished by anything and your light would continue to shine.
My favorite Prince songs, it was hard to choose just one and this list is not even complete, are I Would Die 4 U, Purple Rain, Diamonds and Pearls, and Take Me With U.
What are yours?