Man, 2020… I sat down on this Friday evening to write about “The Sensual Everafter” and breaking news hit my phone the instant I sat down in my chair:
Actor Chadwick Boseman has died at 43. He starred in Black Panther and also played black icons such as Jackie Robinson and James Brown.
I have a weird habit of going to movies alone. I love it. Most of the time the people around me aren’t interested in the movies I want to see, so I wait until they’re all sleeping and go by myself…sort of the same way I wait until they’re all sleeping, then I write about Prince.
I first saw Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42. That movie should be required viewing. I knew he’d be one of my favorite actors the instant I saw the trailer for his James Brown biopic Get On Up. I’ve never watched trailers for a movie more than Get On Up. I’d watched those trailers so many times before the movie was released I had scenes memorized by the time I saw it. I went to Get On Up by myself on opening night. My wife had to work that weekend, so after everyone in my house fell asleep I snuck out to see it. Watched the entire thing with a smile on my face. Kept thinking he was a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. Jamie Foxx got an Oscar for playing Ray Charles. Chadwick Boseman should get one for playing James Brown, too. You watch that movie and forget it’s Chadwick Boseman. He was James Brown. Just watch this scene. “Does it sound good? Does it feel good? God made your ears. You didn’t make ’em. You gonna argue with God’s ears? If it sounds good and it feels good then it’s musical.” I could watch that on repeat for hours. Rest In Peace to Nelsan Ellis as well, the talented actor who played Bobby Byrd in that scene. Another one gone too soon.
At some point I had only one worry about Chadwick Boseman: Why is he in all of these biopics? He was the 20th century biopic guy. Maybe he’d be Stevie Wonder or James Baldwin next. I wanted to see him tackle a fictional role instead of learning to be someone else like Jackie Robinson, James Brown, or Thurgood Marshall. In February of 2018 we all got that chance.
I wasn’t much of a Marvel guy, but I’d seen a few of the movies. The hype for Black Panther was so great that I had to see it, but there was no way it could live up. Man, was I wrong. Once again, I snuck out to Black Panther by myself while my family slept. It was so good I had tears in my eyes when the credits rolled accompanied by the amazing “All the Stars” by SZA and Kendrick Lamar. It helped that Chadwick was joined by the great Michael B. Jordan, another one of my favorite actors since he played Wallace on The Wire and Vince Howard on Friday Night Lights. I had to see it again so I dragged my wife to Black Panther, too, and she loved it. A few days later we took our then 9-year-old son and he hasn’t stopped watching it since. He wanted to go again, but seeing Black Panther four times in the theater seemed excessive.
Last year I went to see Sorry to Bother You – by myself, of course – and saw a trailer for 21 Bridges, an action movie starring Chadwick Boseman as a detective. I sat there staring at the screen, shoveling popcorn in my mouth saying, “Oh, hell yeah,” while watching the trailer. It’s fun talking to myself out loud in a theater when I’m by myself. I always hope there’s someone thinking, “Who is this freak talking to himself?” I saw 21 Bridges…by myself. Chadwick Boseman had become required viewing for me.
I’ve said this about Prince many times and I’m thinking about it again tonight: How do you mourn a celebrity that you never knew? I was such a fan of Chadwick Boseman’s work, but he seemed like a truly good person as well. What can you know about someone from a few Jimmy Fallon appearances? I know this: I feel truly sad tonight despite the fact that I never knew him. His work brought me hours of happiness. Let’s not forget his appearance on Black Jeopardy and Karen’s potato salad. I rooted for him as if he was a friend. I can’t imagine the strength it took for him to carry on while fighting colon cancer for the past four years. I’ve seen up close what chemotherapy can do to someone. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And yet, we never knew it. He was never anything but polite, cordial, and engaging whenever he was interviewed. Even as he was nearing the end of his amazing, inspiring life he was speaking of better days ahead. Encouraging young people to vote for change. Forget about Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman was a damned superhero.
Rest In Peace, Chadwick Boseman. You will be greatly missed.
As for today’s song, “The Sensual Everafter,” here’s a brief synopsis. This song comes from the 2001 album The Rainbow Children. The album was a big shift for Prince (and his first album under the name Prince since 1994) as he went with a lot of live instrumentation instead of the drum machines and sampling that he’d employed frequently on other recent albums. “The Sensual Everafter” may be nearly 3:00 long, but it’s an extended instrumental interlude, and unfortunately largely forgettable. After a brief spoken word monologue about God and his muse done with the pitch dropped to make him sound like James Earl Jones with extra bass, Prince starts an instrumental that I’m led to believe is the musical equivalent of whatever the “sensual everafter” is. It’s not terribly sensual in my opinion. In fact, for some reason this song reminds me of the movie Top Gun. Is that weird? This sounds like music that should be playing while Pete Mitchell rides his crotch rocket in to the Miramar sunset. Check it out and see if you agree.
Honestly, I’m glad there’s not much to this song and it was easy to cover, because for the second night this week I’ve had my creativity sapped by other events. I’ve had enough of 2020. Thoughts out to the family and friends of the great Chadwick Boseman tonight.