A few months ago, I had just received Thom Hartmann’s outstanding book entitled “The Crash of 2016”. It was, and is, a profound work. In any event, I got on air with Thom to express my admiration for the book as it was extremely well written. Somewhere along the conversation, I told Thom that his writing skills made me want to hang up my ink, and likened the experience to when I saw Prince in concert during the Purple Rain tour here in Los Angeles. It was at the Fabulous Forum in 1985.
Now, I am a pretty fair guitarist. I mean, I was good enough (at that time, anyway) to work my way through undergraduate school by having many an odd job but, mainly, by playing music with my band in local, smoky jazz dives. However, that night, when I saw Prince play the guitar, I seriously had doubts as to whether or not I was even worthy of looking at a guitar…let alone calling myself a guitarist. As I recounted the story to Thom, he told me about a friend of his that actually has one of Prince’s first guitars on display in his home. Thom said he was awestruck.
Though noted for his popular music, few people outside of musicians truly realize how brilliant that brother was. Composing, arranging, orchestrating, transposing, improvising, even contracts and an uncanny understanding of the brutal music business…the dude was a savant. But, more than anything, he was a virtuoso guitarist in the musicianship stratosphere of Jimmy Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Chick Corea, Mozart, Miles Davis, George Duke and John “C” (that would be Coltrane for the unenlightened).
That night in 1985 was an epiphany; a soul stirring spiritual experience. After all, Purple Rain is a Gospel tune; a fact that few people realize. Listen closely to the lyrics: “I never meant to cause you any problems, I never meant to cause you any pain…you say you want a leader, but you can’t seem to make up your mind. I think you better come, let me guide you, to the purple rain”.
You defined my early adulthood, brother. People throw the word “genius” around with reckless abandon. You were truly a genius and someone I truly loved. I will miss you, and look forward to seeing you again. In the meantime, I will console myself with the musical legacy that you bestowed upon your loyal subjects; of which I am one.
Rest in peace, sweet Prince.