Man…six years. I remember it all like it was yesterday. Sitting in my office just before lunch seeing breaking news that someone had died in Paisley Park. There was no confirmation who that person was, but the rumors were flying. TMZ said it was Prince and – as much as it pains me to say it – they seem to usually be correct when it comes to matters like this. My faint hopes that it was all a hoax were dashed within minutes as my phone flooded with notifications from reputable news sources. Prince was gone.
I frequently think about what happens when somebody dies. Specifically someone like Prince. He dedicated his life to music. Nearly every waking moment of his 57 years spent in pursuit of mastery of a craft that cannot be perfected. Gone in an instant. All that work and knowledge vanished into the ether. Of course he left a literal vault full of music and memories behind but that doesn’t account for what lived inside the man. Not just the technical knowledge of countless musical instruments and equipment, but stories and experiences. He started documenting them with his memoir The Beautiful Ones, but like so many other projects he dreamed up it will remain incomplete. I can’t stop thinking about that when people die, especially Prince. What an amazing life.
Now I describe Prince to my kids using phrases like, “You weren’t there. I can’t explain.” I played the song “Uptown” for my 15-year-old daughter recently and attempted to get her to understand how groundbreaking that song was in 1980, which is especially difficult because I was only four years old. I didn’t have to be aware of “Uptown” in 1980 because it’s a concept I don’t think most people started to fully comprehend, much less embrace, until about ten years ago. Even today social conservatives still think something as simple as a place where people can be themselves and completely free is outrageous and sinful. However, my high school daughter – who has grown up in a far more accepting generation than I – just shrugged and said, “That’s cool.” It’s a good sign that our society has come that far in 40 years, but Prince deserves at least a sliver of the credit for smashing that ceiling. How can someone in 2022 appreciate how wild “Little Red Corvette” was when every Megan Thee Stallion track makes the Little Red Corvette and the girl with the raspberry beret sound like nuns?
I swear I didn’t intend to turn this into my “get off my lawn” Prince rant but I guess that’s where I am. My point is that those of us who love Prince need to take days like today to make sure Prince gets his proper respect. Keep his memory alive. He wasn’t just the greatest musician in the history of popular music. Nobody in popular culture can match his combination of style, fearlessness, creativity, work ethic, and talent. Everyone throws around titles like “genius” and “icon” but he one of the rare few worthy of that level of praise.
Two years ago I began writing about Prince every day to pass time during Covid quarantine. I ended that project after six months with a post celebrating my 20 favorite Prince songs. In 2021 I decided to turn that list into my personal Prince Hall of Fame and make it a living playlist that I’d continue to add to every year…like a professional sports Hall of Fame. I promised to add more to the Hall of Fame every year on April 21 in celebration of Prince’s life. I’ve been thinking about which songs I’d be adding for a couple of months now, but before I get there let’s recap.
Here are the original 20 songs that I inducted into the original Prince Hall of Fame class in October of 2020:
The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker – Sign O’ The Times (1987)
The Beautiful Ones – Purple Rain (1984)
Computer Blue (Hallway Speech Version) – Purple Rain Deluxe Edition (1984)
Darling Nikki – Purple Rain (1984)
Erotic City – “Let’s Go Crazy” 12″ Single B-Side (1984)
Head – Dirty Mind (1980)
Housequake – Sign O’ The Times (1987)
Kiss – Parade (1986)
Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix) – “Let’s Go Crazy” 12″ Single (1984)
Little Red Corvette – 1999 (1982)
Mountains – Parade (1986)
Partyup – Dirty Mind (1980)
Purple Rain – Purple Rain (1984)
Raspberry Beret – Around The World In A Day (1985)
Sign O’ The Times – Sign O’ The Times (1987)
Sometimes It Snows In April – Parade (1986)
When Doves Cry – Purple Rain (1984)
7 (Acoustic Version) – “7” Single (1992)
17 Days – “When Doves Cry” 12″ Single B-Side (1984)
1999 – 1999 (1982)
On April 21, 2021, I added two songs:
Adore – Sign O’ The Times (1987)
Nothing Compares 2 U – Originals (2019)
This year I’ve decided to add three more songs to the list. How did I choose them? I have no specific criteria. They’re songs that have struck me in some way in the past year. Maybe I learned more about them. More likely they just stuck in my head for one reason or another and I couldn’t stop listening to them. To be honest, here’s how I really gauge whether or not a song is Hall of Fame worthy: Do I skip it? If it’s impossible to skip whenever it comes on that’s a start. So call this the Prince Hall of Fame. Call it the Unskippables. Call it whatever you want. Here the are my 2022 inductees in alphabetical order:
“Controversy” – Controversy (1981)
There are a few reasons I chose to add “Controversy” to this list. First, 2021 was the 40-year anniversary of that album and I spent more time than usual listening to it and reading articles about it. More importantly, I listen to my Prince Hall of Fame playlist often and my reaction is always, “Why don’t I have ‘Controversy’ on this list?” The playlist is incomplete without it. As I alluded to above, Prince was a master of subtle songwriting. Singing one thing but meaning another. He could somehow be sexually explicit yet leave a lot to the imagination simultaneously. He didn’t tell you what he was singing about but you knew exactly what he was singing about. “Controversy” isn’t one of those songs. He didn’t just address the elephant in the room, he destroyed it with a sledgehammer made of new wave funk. “Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay? Do I believe in God? Do I believe in me?” Prince knew exactly what everyone was saying and he wasn’t shying away from it. Then in a move that I’m sure fucked with everyone’s heads in 1981, he sincerely recited The Lord’s Prayer before closing out the track with a chant of, “People call me rude, I wish we all were nude. I wish there was no black and white I wish there were no rules.” Again, not his most subtle work. Like so much of what Prince did it was funky and thought provoking. “Controversy” is a worthy – and overdue – addition to my Prince Hall of Fame.
“Gett Off (Extended Remix)” – Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
I once read that “Gett Off” was the last in a long line of truly nasty Prince songs. I’m sorry that I don’t remember who wrote/said that our I would give him/her the proper recognition here. That person clearly stopped listening to Prince in 1991, but I think I know where he/she was coming from. I’ll compromise and say that it’s Prince’s last truly nasty hit song…unless you count “Sexy M.F.” or “P. Control” as hits. For the purposes of the Prince Hall of Fame let’s put that line on the imaginary plaque anyway: “Gett Off”: Prince’s Last Truly Nasty Song. I never considered “Gett Off” one of my favorite Prince songs but I can tell you this: Every time I’m in my truck and “Gett Off” comes on I turn that shit up. “Gett Off” never gets skipped. Here’s my complaint: there are at least five different versions of this song and the only one that contains everything that I like is the 8+ minute extended remix. Eight minutes might be a little long for “Gett Off” but if you want every bit of Prince’s filthy rap like “I pulled your dress up, shit, you ain’t got no underwear on. I shoulda known, I shoulda known,” you need the full remix. “Gett Off” is a filthy, funky masterpiece, but in the midst of the hedonism Prince takes time to flex his songwriting brilliance. Who but Prince could open a song with this verse?
“How can I put this in a way so as not to offend or unnerve?
There’s a rumor goin’ all around that you ain’t been gettin’ served
They say that you ain’t you know what in, baby, who knows how long
It’s hard for me to say what’s right when all I wanna do is wrong”
Outstanding. That’s a Hall of Fame-worthy verse.
“Power Fantastic (Live in Studio)” – Sign O’ The Times (Super Deluxe Edition) (2020)
For those of you unfamiliar, here’s a little background into “Power Fantastic” and my reasoning for its inclusion. The Parade and Sign O’ the Times era of 1985-1987 was one of the most prolific of Prince’s career. He was writing and recording a lot of music with Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin and pianist/keyboardist Lisa Coleman. Prince was simultaneously working on music for multiple projects, including one called Dream Factory with Melvoin and Coleman. Prince was also engaged to Melvoin’s twin sister Susannah at the time and they had just moved into a new home that contained a recording studio. Shortly after moving in – March 19, 1986 – Prince had The Revolution over and they recorded “Power Fantastic” in his new studio. This was shortly before the days of Paisley Park so he did not have unlimited space for the band. They were forced to scatter people throughout the house to make the recording work. Drummer Bobby Z was downstairs. Lisa was upstairs on piano. Wendy (guitar), Eric Leeds (flute), and Atlanta Bliss (trumpet) were also somewhere in the house…the documentation I’ve seen was vague. Prince sang his vocal in the corner of the control room. Prince had to give cues to the band through the microphone and that’s what makes this version of “Power Fantastic” stand out over the studio version that was included on his 1993 The Hits/The B-Sides compilation. It’s a rare peek inside of Prince’s recording studio and the rapport he had with The Revolution.
Of course, none of this would matter if the song was wack. Obviously, it is not. Quite the opposite. “Power Fantastic” is a beautiful, stirring ballad unlike almost everything Prince and The Revolution recorded. A credit to the songwriting of Wendy and Lisa and the musicianship of The Revolution. So much of Prince’s work famously contains the line “produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince.” That wasn’t always the case and too often the individual members of The Revolution don’t get the credit they deserve. Prince wrote and performed some of the best music of his career with members of The Revolution – specifically Wendy and Lisa – by his side and this song is a testament to that.
Sadly, The Revolution broke up six months later. Work from the Dream Factory project would appear in 1987’s Sign O’ The Times but like so much of Prince’s amazing work “Power Fantastic” did not make it onto SOTT or any other album. At the beginning of the track Prince instructs the band to, “Just trip. There are no mistakes. This is the fun track. It might not be the one we keep, but play anything you want.” It was a keeper. Perfect. Hall of Fame-worthy, in fact. Well done, Prince and The Revolution.
If you’re interested in listening to the Prince Hall of Fame playlist with these 25 songs that I’ve had on repeat for the past several days you can access it via Apple Music here.
It’s late in the day and it’s shocking to me that I’ve seen and heard nothing about Prince today. Last year April 21 seemed like a big deal. Today, nothing. I haven’t seen any social media or watched TV other than a couple Parks and Rec reruns with my daughter so that probably has something to do with it. Didn’t even get to sneak in any Purple Current today but I guarantee they’ve been celebrating Prince all day. Maybe I’m not seeing it because I’m not looking for it. Regardless, I’m glad I’m getting this posted even if it is late because we need to continue to keep Prince’s greatness front of mind. There will never be another like him. As always, we love and miss you every day, Prince.