Rest in Power:
A personal reflection
on a lifetime of Prince
This is not an obituary. A thousand dilettante hacks from a thousand bland newspapers will be mining Prince Rogers Nelson’s Wikipedia page for facts, inventing vignettes; inauthentic expressions of mourning for someone who demanded authentic emotion. Instead, I’m going to share some personal remembrances of one our favourite artists.
I must have first heard Prince when I was seven or eight years old. We used to spend family holidays at a friend’s house in Spain. Dad would drive us there, all the way from suburban Kent – the drive being £10 cheaper than flying. It was a 48-hour drive, so Dad would make mixtapes for us to listen on the journey. Most of these were called Dance, You Bastards, Dance: Vol. X or whatever (the more chill versions being Relax, You Bastards, Relax), and they ran the gamut from Bruce Springsteen to Bob Dylan, Enya to Ultravox. We were in some part of the Pyrenees when Sign of the Times cut through the pap. I’m not saying I had some kind of epiphanic revelation on the mount (I was seven), but it did seem so totally different to everything else: emotive, sensual, and political in a heartfelt, angered way that resonated so much more (with me) than the world-weary tones of Dylan.
Many years later, I had the chance to see Prince on day two of Hop Farm Festival in 2011. I’d seen Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Ray Davies and Pete fucking Doherty on day one, and had had my fill of Dad music. In 2011, I was in the grip of bloghouse, Hypemachine, and 100,000 ephemeral MP3s at the time, and I didn’t see Prince. I later discovered Prince’s performance there was lauded as one of his best ever.
Then, a couple of years ago, a friend told me Prince was playing a few small concerts in Camden. I happen to live close by, so went down to check it out. It was February, freezing, and hundreds of people had turned up hoping to see the show too. I was determined not to miss out again, and waited in the cold with my girlfriend for over four hours. Not wanting to disappoint those of us who’d queued for so long, Prince played a set while we waited, got everyone out, then let the rest of us in for a second set. I can honestly say, without hesitation, that it was the best gig of my life. Ending on a medley, he leaned over the microphone and said, ‘You know how many hits I got?’, before launching into I Would Die 4 U, When Doves Cry and finishing on Purple Rain. Now that I was old enough to understand the lyrics, the version of Sign of the Times he did brought me close to tears.
All his fans will have memories like this. He created a personal connection with us before this age of mystique-less stars, those always ready for a selfie, always available on Twitter, sharing every miserably posed inch of their gaudy existence. He was pure energy onstage and on record – whether that was funk, sex, hype, anger or sadness – and I think that’s why he was so loved. We have lost a Prince today. This is no justice, so there will be no peace. We hope Prince rests in power.