Thank you, Prince

How is it that losing a physical embodiment of your memories, even if you never were in his presence, makes you so sad?

The death of a musician for a fan always interrupts their day with a mix of disbelief, nostalgia and poignancy. You want to post their music on your Facebook page for commiseration or stream them on Spotify as a personal memorial. (With Prince, your opportunities for this are extremely limited, but I help you out below.) But some artists are more than just great to listen to. Some have woven their music into your very life in a way that makes you unable to separate it from who you are and what you became.

For many GenXers, Prince is probably one of those artists. He was our very own virtuoso rock star. Our very own James Dean riding on his motorcycle in Purple Rain. Our very own taboo-breaking icon.

Prince was pop and funk and rock and psychedelic and blues and soul and even a bit of metal — everything that had taken hold in the modern era of popular music. He transcended each genre to create a sound that was uniquely Prince. Anytime another artist covered one of his songs, even if it was the first time you heard it, you knew it was his — and not just because of the way the title was written.

It was hard to wrap your head around Prince. One year you are turning the volume down on “Darling Nikki” so that your parents don’t hear it belting from your room. Then years later you find out Prince has become a Jehovah’s Witness.

He’s Prince, then a symbol, then Prince again.

He emerges from years away from Top 40 radio to single-handedly kick the most ass ever (and probably forever) in the rain at the 2007 Super Bowl halftime performance.

Then he saunters out to present a Grammy in 2015 in a Dreamsicle-colored chemise stating that albums still matter — and that black lives matter. And you imagine if anyone could crystallize that truth, it would be him.

It’s hard to wrap my head around Prince’s death. His music makes me remember moments that otherwise would have disintegrated into forgotten personal history. His songs are like glue that holds together the narrative of a certain time in my life. With his death, those years are just a bit further away from me.

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Grammy Highs, Lows, Questions and Folly

Grammy AwardOh, the Grammys. Yes, I know they don’t necessarily award the best in music. Yes, I suspect that they plant certain nominations to raise their television ratings. But yes, I am loyal, as often the Grammys deliver on something interesting to see, even if it’s a train wreck.

As the saying goes, “if you can’t say anything nice…” But I can say something nice, so I’ll start with that.

Beck had a big night — two awards and a great performance with Chris Martin of Coldplay. His award was announced by Prince, and even Kanye graced him with attention.

Thumbs up to the Grammy broadcast producers, too, for pairing Sam Smith and Mary J. Blige. His earnestness and her passion were a good combination, not to mention how well their voices sound together. I was getting a little tired of that song by the end of the night, but that was only because the clip was played those zillions of times Smith walked on stage to collect yet another award.

Lady Gaga proved herself to be a master of reinvention, and she didn’t even wait for her AARP card to show off her chops with the standards.

AC/DC? It’s been a tough year for these guys. Their opener dragged a bit, but they redeemed themselves with “Highway to Hell.” (The devil horns in the audience, though, didn’t help.) It was a female country artist who really rocked it — Miranda Lambert with “Little Red Wagon.” She was even bleeped.

And Annie Lennox. If you didn’t see it, I hope you have it DVRd.

But the Grammys always leave me with questions and curiosities and deliver more than a hint of folly, especially when Kanye West is around. Here are a few I had last night.

Since when are novelty songs nominated for Record of the Year? “How was it that “All About That Bass” was treated as a serious contender? It’s not as if this subject hasn’t been covered before. Off the top of my head Sir Mix-a-Lot and Queen come to mind as having honored the more robust female physique decades ago. Of course, that was a case of men, not women, sexualizing more ample female bodies. Perhaps that’s why those songs tend to elicit snickers and not Grammy nominations.

What are the folks behind the Grammys broadcast going to say about the problem with McCartney’s microphone? I can’t wait to hear the excuses. Maybe they’ll just ignore it, hoping it goes away, like that disastrous performance when they paired Taylor Swift with Stevie Nicks in 2010 for “Rhiannon.” Who knows. But McCartney handled it like a pro. I can’t imagine what kind of tantrum Kanye West would have thrown had his mic been silenced. (We might look to the toy aisles at Target for an answer to that question.)

Speaking of looks, what do you think Prince’s expression was when Kanye indulged himself in a flashback moment and began to take the stage when Beck won Album of the Year? We couldn’t see behind his shades.

Maybe it was just more of this.

Prince

 

 

 

Also, do we need to stop referring to him as the Purple One and begin calling him Orange Julius?

Why was Best Rock Performance not televised? Every artist in that category is well-known, and there is a whole lot more creativity going on among them than the Record of the Year or Song of the Year nominees. (It might have been nice for one of those songs to have been included in these cross-genre categories… break the cycle of “girl power” anthems.)

Maybe these guys just weren’t interested in showing up. Can you blame them? The 2015 Grammys may have been a lot of things, but it wasn’t rockin’ (Miranda Lambert excepted).

 

Best Opening Lines

guitarnotepadEarlier this year I collected from a broad cross-section of my music-loving friends a list of rock/pop’s best opening lines.

I was motivated by this post from vh1.com. My feedback to them — it is hyperbole to say that your intern has identified the 40 greatest opening lines in music history. Your list includes too many that don’t measure up and omits too many that deserve the props. More than a handful are obvious, in an obligatory way. If anything, your list is a reminder that there are many more than 40!

So what makes a great opening line? I’m not sure what the criteria was for my friends — all great choices by the way — but for me it’s imagery. Does the first line set the scene? It’s energy. Some lyrics pull you right in. One I chose for its cleverness. Does it compel you to sing along?

At any rate, I felt that my sound posse could put more genuine consideration into this topic. I’m sure no one thinks their list is exhaustive, but we’ve got everything from Jethro Tull to Robbie Williams, and even two each from Death Cab and Prince, so that counts for something, right?

From GenXatmidlife, who takes this kind of stuff very seriously…

Buckley– “Love, let me sleep tonight on your couch.” So Real, Jeff Buckley

– “Instant karma’s gonna get you… gonna knock you right on the head.” Instant Karma, John Lennon

– “How I wish you could see the potential… the potential of you and me. It’s like a book elegantly bound, but in a language that you can’t read… just yet.” I Will Possess Your Heart, Death Cab for Cutie

– “That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid,” It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, R.E.M.

– “Cold late night so long ago, when I was not so strong you know… pretty man came to me, never seen eyes so blue.” Magic Man, Heart

 

From Paul, who forces me to admit that, yes, Rush is a pretty good band…

led-zeppelin“Hey, hey mama, said the way you move… gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.” Black Dog, Led Zepplin

“You know that it would be untrue. You know that I would be a liar. If I were to say to you, ‘Girl we couldn’t get much higher.'” Light My Fire, The Doors

“I once had a girl… or should I say… she once had me.” Norwegian Wood, The Beatles

“The sky is burnin’. I believe my soul’s on fire. You are… I’m learnin’… the key to my desire.” Burnin’ Sky, Bad Company

“I was born in a crossfire hurricane. And I howled at my ma in the driving rain.” Jumpin’ Jack Flash, The Rolling Stones

 

Tom-Petty-ww04From Amy, who is Tom Petty’s girl (really, check out her post)…

– “She grew up in an Indiana town. Had a good-lookin’ mama who never was around. But she grew up tall and she grew up right with them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights.” Last Dance With Mary Jane, Tom Petty

– “Psychic spies from China try to steal your mind’s elation. Little girls from Sweden dream of silver screen quotations. And if you want these kind of dreams, it’s Californication.” Californication, Red Hot Chili Peppers

– “Love of mine, some day you will die, but I’ll be close behind. I’ll follow you into the dark… no blinding light or tunnels to gates of white… just our hands clasped so tight waiting for the hint of a spark. I Will Follow You Into The Dark, Death Cab for Cutie

– “I want love to: roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around. I want love to: grab my fingers gently, slam them in a doorway, put my face into the ground.” Love Interruption, Jack White

– “I guess I should’ve known by the way you parked your car sideways that it wouldn’t last. See, you’re the kinda person that believes in makin’ out once love ’em and leave ’em fast.” Little Red Corvette, Prince

 

american_pie1From Sue, who introduced me to the genius of Morrissey…
– “A long, long time ago I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance, and maybe they’d be happy for a while.” American Pie, Don McClean

– “I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you, that I almost believe that they’re real. I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you, that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel.” Pictures of You, The Cure

– “I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar. I am the son and heir of nothing in particular.” How Soon Is Now, The Smiths

– “It’s been seven hours and fifteen days, since u took your love away. I go out every night and sleep all day, since u took your love away.” Nothing Compares 2 U, Prince

– “I sit and wait. Does an angel contemplate my fate? And do they know the places where we go when we’re grey and old?” Angels, Robbie Williams

 

queen-band-i14From Dave, who made country the majority shareholder of his musical tastes this past summer…
– “She keeps the Moet Chandon in a pretty cabinet. Let them eat cake, she says, just like Marie Antoinette.” Killer Queen, Queen

– “Suckers walk! Money talks! But it can’t touch my three-lock box.” Three-Lock Box, Sammy Hagar

– “In the twilight glow, I see blue eyes crying in the rain.” Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, Willie Nelson

– “I bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste, a flannel for my face, pajamas, a hair brush, new shoes and a case. I said to my reflection let’s get out of this place.” Tempted, Squeeze

– “The only two things in life that make it worth livin’ is good tuned guitars and firm feelin’ women.” Luckenbach, Texas, Merle Haggard

 

lita-ford-liveFrom Jill, the source of all things pop culture, including the VH-1 list…
– “I went to a party last Saturday night, didn’t get laid, got in a fight.” Kiss Me Deadly, Lita Ford

– “He said the way my blue eyes shined put those Georgia stars to shame that night. I said, that’s a lie.” Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift

– “I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone. I recommend walking around naked in your living room.” You Learn, Alanis Morrisette

– “Come on, Virginia, don’t let me wait. You Catholic girls start much to late.” Only The Good Die Young, Billy Joel

– “You walked into the party, like you were walking onto a yacht. Your hat strategically dipped below one eye. Your scarf it was apricot.” You’re So Vain, Carly Simon

 

albertking580From Mara, whose has seen everyone from Paul McCartney to Ricky Martin to the Black Keys…

– “Born under a bad sign, been down since I began to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, wouldn’t have no luck at all.” Born Under a Bad Sign, Albert King and others

– “Sitting on a park bench, eyeing little girls with bad intent.” Aqualung, Jethro Tull

– “Purple haze was in my brain… lately things don’t seem the same. Acting funny but I don’t know why. ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix

– “She loves you… yeah, yeah, yeah.” She Loves You, The Beatles

– “There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief.” All Along The Watchtower, Bob Dylan

Gimme some feedback. What did we miss? Please leave your comments below.