If this open letter finds you, I hope it finds you well. And that you are well.
I’d start by saying I’d admired you as a person and a musician since February 2007- but the truth is that you’d been on my radar for years beforehand. Some examples;
*the “1999” video- one of many MTV music videos recorded on an old VHS tape- to this day, I still find the visuals and sounds so iconic.
*”Purple Rain”- we came across the movie (in progress and completely at random) while flipping through the channels… the final 10 minutes of performances left such an amazing impression on me that you were an artist I never forgot about.
*appearances on “American Idol” and “Good Morning America”
I guess you could say that the SuperBowl HalfTime show- as a football fan, the first one I actually paid attention to- gave me the excuse I needed to finally research your career and your music.
So many people have dismissed you for your eccentricities and the envelope-pushing nature of your music, so I knew I had to learn people that took the time to really get to know you… the people who’d gone to your concerts and bought/listened to your albums… your fan-base.
Most of what I learned came from various people on Prince Internet messageboards. Nowadays, those sites either don’t exist anymore or they’ve become bogged down with jaded fans, haters and trolls. But in those days, there were a lot of amazing people that helped me learn everything I wanted to learn about you.
Most importantly, those people gave me their advice about what albums to buy. Your discography is so huge that it was hard to know where to begin.
By the time spring break came around (I was in my sophomore year of college), I had a list of 7 albums I had my eye on.
Within a couple years, I ended up with 21…. at last count, I think I have 34- either in physical form or in MP3 form [thanks to many generous members of your fan-base… one of whom I’d been friends with since 2007- and to this day, we still share the same admiration for you as a musician and a person].
I’d loved music as far back as I can remember. At a young age, I was raised, literally, on MTV music videos and to this day, the 80’s is my favorite musical decade. Then when I started defining my own musical tastes- beyond whatever CD’s my parents played in the car- I listened to a lot of bubblegum pop.
Then there came a time, between 2003-2006, when I became disenchanted with music. A lot of the songs on the radio focused on rap and hip-hop. I didn’t recognize any of the artists and the music… I didn’t even see it as music, I couldn’t stand any of it.
In late 2006, the popular music scene started to improve, but I still wasn’t satisfied.
Around that time was when I found you… yet again… and your music saved me from all that negativity I was feeling towards something I used to enjoy.
I not only fell back in love with music, but I gained an appreciation for it that I never had. I gained an appreciation for true musicians. People that actually wrote their own lyrics, played their own music and created a unique image for themselves.
I also gained an appreciation for albums. Back in my younger days, I used to just listen to the songs I heard on the radio. But with you, I started listening to albums in their entirety. And to this day, that still applies for a lot of my favorite artists.
[Since 2008, when the music scene became inviting again, I’ve invested in a huge variety of artists- Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Coldplay… just to name a few]
I resisted digital music for a long time because I was afraid they’d replace physical CD’s. Because of you, I had to surrender and get an iPod- which I used to put all of your music in one place. You have so much music and it’s hard to know sometimes what albums I’m in the mood for.
To this day, I still prefer physical CD’s to buying albums digitally, but when I don’t have an alternative, I do buy full albums on iTunes.
With your albums, though, I like having physical copies because of the cover art and album booklets. This is something you haven’t done since “3121,” but I love going through album booklets before listening to new albums. It gives me an impression of what I can expect from the music. “Lovesexy” had me feeling like I could expect the second coming of spring and themes of rebirth. “Come” had me feeling like the contents would be dark and depressing (not all of it proved to be true, but it’s one of my favorite winter albums- since it symbolizes the end of something).
Probably the biggest change I went through after becoming an admirer of yours- I became more comfortable with explicit content in media. I didn’t grow up in a conservative household, but I wasn’t comfortable around foul language or sexual content. People who knew that about me and knew how you used to be as an artist probably thought I was nuts for pursuing my curiosity about your music.
And there were points where your music pushed me to the brink of my endurance.
When I finally saw all of “Purple Rain,” I was nervous going into “Darling Nikki”- and it was pretty intense the first couple times. [As for the movie as a whole, I still love it to death. The music’s so amazing, all of the people in it are amazing… and “Purple Rain” itself- I still remember how I bawled my eyes out when I heard it the first time].
Then I heard “The Gold Experience” for the first time… That album was my first real test of how much I could handle about the explicit nature of your music. Between the cursing in “P. Control” and “Billy Jack Bitch” and the intensity of many tracks like “Endorphinmachine” and “I hate you”… I think I failed that test miserably.
Eventually, I did grow a thick skin about the language of your lyrics and I grew to understand that you handle lewd content in an artistic way. And of course I listened to a lot of it so much that I became desensitized, so I can handle a lot more than I could years ago.
Of course there are two ironies about this:
Obviously, you cleaned up a lot of your music since you became a Jehovah’s Witness- and that became one of the reasons why a lot of people who grew up on your music stopped enjoying your output (plus all the cynics who claim you don’t write anything good anymore… I don’t just love 3121 and Planet Earth, but I also love your new music with 3rd eye Girl as much as your music from the previous decades).
And the second irony: “The Gold Experience” is my favorite of your albums with “Purple Rain” as a close second.
With TGE, my saving grace was the very song that convinced me to get it in the first place- the title track.
As great as “Purple Rain” is, “Gold” holds special meaning for me that makes it my favorite Prince song. Sometimes when I listen to it, I’d be going through something and there’s always something about it- whether it’s in the lyrics or the music itself- that makes me feel better. Sometimes, it even helps me find answers to problems I’d been having in some aspect of my life- both in the long-term and short-term.
I don’t know if you’d understand this or buy into this now, given your religious affiliation, but at a prior time in your life, you might have believed as I do that that’d be called “spiritual intervention.”
Considering how so many of your fans have turned against you and stopped believing in you, I’m sometimes surprised that I still feel the way I do about you.
That you’re still the most amazing musician I’d come across. That you’d written so much amazing music that I still listen to along with my other favorite artists.
I started this very blog with the intention to discuss your music as I was learned more and more about your career- but also because posting a bunch of threads on messageboards wasn’t enough for me to get my point across in full and fully realized.
I do have my occasional moments of cynicism, though. We all do.
You’ve written enough music to last me a lifetime. But I spent a couple years being discouraged because you weren’t releasing albums anymore. I remain discouraged that the only Prince songs I hear on the radio came from the 80’s. Yes, they’re great songs, but I’d also heard them thousands of times. So many people are left with the impression you’re no longer relevant, that you’re another 80’s has-beens that hasn’t had a hit record since “Purple Rain.”
If this open letter does reach you, the one point of cynicism I’d really like you to consider is your method of touring.
Honestly, Prince, why can’t you tour like any other NORMAL artist? Artists who release their tour dates MONTHS in advance? Lately, everything has been so late minute with you…
What upsets me the most is the fact you haven’t toured the east coast since 2010.
I live in northeast PA, so the closest concert avenues I can reach [in addition to Mohegan Sun in Wilkes-Barre and the Sands in Bethlehem, which may not be big enough to support the audiences your concerts attract] are in NYC and near Atlantic City… both of which would require ample planning in advance.
I mean, c’mon… Morris Day and The Time managed to come here for an R&B concert event (granted, at a small venue that’s no longer in operation due to bankruptcy and local corruption) and it was the best concert I’d ever been to.
You wouldn’t want Morris Day to maintain those bragging rights, would you?
I’m sorry if that was me coming off too strong. I mean no disrespect for how you operate as an artist. There was a time where your methods of operation worked really well and in this day and age, it just doesn’t. Not from my neck of the woods anyway.
Going to one of your concerts is one of those things I really want to do and I’d hate to look back years from now after you’ve gone from this life and regret that I never got to see you perform in person.
Because that’s an experience I wouldn’t be able to get from anyone else in your business- because there’s no other artist out there like Prince.
While it might not seen like it now, I am a very patient person and I’d be willing to wait forever for you to do a concert I can go too… I’d just prefer it if I didn’t have to 😉
I guess there’s nothing else to do now but to stop writing… if you read any of my earlier blog entries, you’d see that it’s hard for me to stop once I’ve started 😛
Even if I had a lifetime, there’s no way I’d be able to say everything I want to say about you as an amazing inspirational person or about all the music you’d written… just by being yourself, you’ve changed so many lives, including mine.
[aka DreamyPopRoyalty at prince.org- which I haven’t visited since 2010]
[aka @DreamyPopLover on Twitter]