Why it’s hard not to shed a tear over the death of Prince
PUBLISHED: 11:18 22 April 2016 | UPDATED: 11:18 22 April 2016
A life-long fan of the late legend reflects on why his passing leaves a mighty hole (even if he is 40-odd years old)
Once in a while, the planets align and someone you have never met and whom you will never know personally, enters your life and stubbornly refuses to leave.
I was just 11 when I fell under the spell of Prince in 1984. A move away from my friends as my family shifted from Tunbridge Wells to Ashford, meant I took solace in the weird world of pop music.
He was like nothing I had ever seen before; as if he were human mixed with something alien.
I played the Purple Rain album until the grooves of the vinyl started turning grey. Let’s Go Crazy was - and remains - the only song I have never, ever tired of; capable of picking me up when I am down and my all time favourite as a consequence. It wasn’t his best musical offering, but it exerted a power over me nothing else could.
As I grew a little older, so his music became my guide into another world. And, should you have listened to some of his earlier material, it certainly left little to the imagination. He blurred lines and barriers, swore and spoke of acts I had to consult the dictionary to define. He was intoxicating. And he just kept getting better.
When he released Sign O‘ The Times - surely his definining single piece of work - I was 14 and needed more. An agonising few hours spent on the phone and I had tickets to a Wembley Stadium show in the summer of 1987. I was ecstatic. Wear something peach or black, it said on the ticket. My mother obliged...the peach shirt was ready. I bored people at school to death about it. But just weeks before the show took place he cancelled. I was devastated. I must admit I blubbed like a spoilt child.
I never cried again about Prince until this week.
The following year, promoting his Lovesexy album (where he perched naked on the album sleeve), I finally went to see him live at Wembley Arena. It would be a defining moment. From 1988 I would attend at least one show on every subsequent UK tour. Watching him perform was like nothing else. He danced and sang, played the guitar, the piano, the drums and everything in between. He climbed on beds that would swing out above the crowd, drove around the stage in a full-size car, and then after all that head off to a small venue for another long show stretching into the small hours. He was relentless. And I loved every single minute.
Granted, his musical output would start to decline in quality from the mid-1990s onwards, but there was always something about every subsequent release which made him worth it.
He and I got older together. Him in the luxury I continued to keep him in. Me in the slightly less well off state had I not just splurged yet more money on his concert tickets. He was a constant. A physical link transporting me from that 11-year-old to the 40-something I am now.
I stopped boring everyone about him long ago - there is surely nothing worse than a proper grown-up with an obsession about a pop star - but my devotion never died. He did things and said things which I didn’t agree with and I came to the conclusion that it probably best to distance the man from the music.
But he kept the real man so hidden beneath the carefully constructed public persona I was able to focus on that. I liked the fact he rarely gave interviews, liked the fact he always looked like the perfectly groomed superstar that he was. I could focus on that and the music even when he was doing daft things like threatening fans with legal action for having a photograph of him on their website.
His music still had the power to move me and his live shows were, without exception, the most thrilling events I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
While others played golf, or obsessed about films, or pottered around with cars, I had Prince.
It’s a cliche to say when one of your heroes dies a little part of you goes with them. But with Prince goes a chunk of my life that I clung to like a rock. He became a hobby and a hero in one. No more will the panic button be hit when tickets for his shows are about to go on sale. No more will my cousin and I - my partner in crime when it came to our mutual devotion to Prince - have glorious, unforgettable, days out to see him. And that in itself is an agony.
On the day he died I could not bring myself to listen to his music. Nor could I fully comprehend the headlines on the rolling news channels. I couldn’t, pathetically, even see how people at this stage could already be ‘celebrating’ his life. That must surely come later. Now the pain is too raw.
As I drove my kids into school the morning after, Purple Rain came on the radio. The car fell silent and, embarassingly, tears streamed down my face. And I’ve always mocked people who are so moved by the death of celebrities they never knew. It was a sobering moment.
Prince is gone. But his place in my life will never be forgotten. As silly as I know that is.