Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince [1958-2016]

Artist: Prince
LP: 7" single
Song: "Delirious" 
[ listen ]

Like the rest of the world, I was shocked to hear that Prince died today. He seemed so prolific, so active, so healthy! But I have to admit I'd actually been prepared for this sad day by something that happened over 30 years ago. I was in the 9th grade at West Valley Junior High when the news began to spread through the school's orange-carpeted hallways that Prince had suddenly died of a drug overdose! I was living in Yakima and we didn't have the Internet back then, so we all just had to assume Prince was dead—until several months later when his new album came out.

My first encounter with Prince was in early 1983. I was 13 years old and his "1999" single debuted at #43 on the 'Major Top 60 Hits' pop chart I collected every other week from Talcott Music Store in Yakima. (Why yes, I think I do still have the charts:)

As you can see, the song descended two spots to #45 before disappearing from the Top 60 altogether. But my curiosity had been piqued. The song got no airplay in Yakima (the city was still firmly stuck in the '70s, so there was no way in hell they were ready to leap forward to the dawn of the 21st century—plus, Yakima has never been the sort of town that caters to royalty) so I was only able to look at my charts and wonder: "What is this futuristic pop single from this strange and enigmatic person called 'Prince'?" Of course, the next single Prince released was "Little Red Corvette," which blew everything wide open, shoving innovative musical royalty down the unwitting ears and  throats of Yakima residents everywhere, but mostly in Yakima. The "1999" single was then re-released, and this time it climbed to #16 on the Talcott Major Top 60 chart of August 22 - September 12, 1983. 

As he was for many, Prince became a prominent performer on the soundtrack of my formative years. I recall dancing to "Delirious" with Traci Borup on the deck of her family's countryside home during a young adult dance night there. I think it may have been Traci's birthday. I remember when Kristine Paulson and I danced to "Take Me With You" at the Mormon Youth Dance at the 6th Ward building in West Valley. When Jaymi Dressel played "When Doves Cry" in our 9th grade typing class, Mr. Buckmiller nearly had a conniption! He had absolutely no tolerance for good music. And was there any better song to listen to in the summertime in the '80s with the car windows down than "Raspberry Beret?" I don't think so. I have to admit too that the unfolded poster sleeve for Prince's "Delirious" single (went to #23 on the Talcott Major Top 60 in October/November of 1983) gave 14-year-old Mormon Alex of Yakima plenty of sexy fantasy material to work with. (Prince sleeps naked!?) You can read all about Prince and his incredible career here, go here to read his obituary in the New York Times, and there's a nice piece I heard on NPR today you can listen to here.

[ June 7, 1958 — April 21, 2016 ]
We will miss you, Prince.

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