The mom turns up the radio as her sons exchange glances. It looks like it’s going to happen again. Is she going to . . . yes. They close their eyes as she sings at the top of her lungs, “Stop the press . . . Who is that? Vicky Vale . . .Vicky Vale . . . I like BATMAN!” and then slump completely into their seats as she rolls down the windows because this stuff is just too good to stay contained in the minivan.
You want the truth about the passing of Prince? I think you can handle it.
Although if you are a 40-something maybe you can’t. I’m not handling it all that well, which makes no sense since I am grown and I was not a personal friend of The Artist. So why the grief? Or rather, why the bi-polar emotional extremes, reflective sadness one moment and then celebratory public caroling the next?
Maybe because Prince’s music provided a soundtrack to the pleasure and the pain of our adolescence. His death has thrown us into a surround-sound 80’s throwback extravaganza, and it seems I subsequently have returned to the emotional extremes of my middle school years.
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The first rated-R movie I ever saw was Purple Rain. I went to the theatre with a group of kids from my middle school and deviously bought tickets to a more benign, age-appropriate, unmemorable deal and then promptly snuck into “the Prince movie.”
My movie-hopping juvie crew included a boy I grew up with who had been a really good family friend for many years. He then became my first crush. Then my first kiss. Then my first teen humiliation, when he “broke up” (um, not really sure that’s what you call it when you are “going with” someone/not officially dating because hello! this is 7th grade!) with me in a note that was penned by his giggling posse and passed across a crowded classroom until it landed on my desk. My hands shook as I unfolded it and read, “You look like my dog.” In a feat of superhuman strength I did not crumble into a heap onto the floor, although my face burned so hot it felt like it was melting off of my body like an adolescent Gus Fring from Breaking Bad. I did not give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
What hurt the most, of course, was that someone who had been a friend most of my childhood could be so awful. His subsequent regret did mean something to me, though, and in a nod to the weirdness/roller coaster that is middle school we became drawn to each other again eventually. And found ourselves watching Purple Rain. I don’t remember much about the movie except that the music was amazing and my tender teenage heart found the story completely wrenching. Prince and I had both had a really tough time of it, apparently.
Listening to the Prince tributes in the car has been an education for my kids – and for me, too. They listen begrudgingly about his artistry, his gender-bending, his fight for control of his music. I listen with a new set of ears, realizing that if I heard these lyrics in any of their music I likely would change the station because of its inappropriateness. I am forced to acknowledge that they are now the age I was when I devoured Prince. The music brings back a flood of memories from my middle school dramas and makes me realize I should really cut them more of a break when they come home from school moody or quiet. Losing Prince has thrown a bunch of us old-timers into a most funky retro situation but the truth is, it never hurts to be reminded that we are all gathered here together – to get through this thing called life.
Want to get a better handle on the passing of Prince? Appreciate what has been lost with this recording of Prince’s amazing guitar solo at a Rock Hall of Fame induction ceremony, see a Pretty Woman sing classic Prince, and learn some fun facts about the movie Purple Rain.