COMMENTS: I for one among many white boys was slow to pick up on the magic of Prince. Not having been raised on the funk, and being preoccupied with other crises at the time, even "1999" slipped by me at the time. Two years later I was still intending to get around to buying it.


We weren't so slow on the uptake the next time. This song set the nation on its ear. More particularly it set me personally on my ear. The song riveted my attention to the television within maybe two seconds. Those initial 15 or 20 seconds of guitar solo will stand up to any moment of playing Jimi Hendrix ever did. Oh, yeah, and obviously it shot him instantly past the likes of Eric Clapton. He laid out all the fancy technical skills, playing real fast and all. Also he had subtle control of the changing timbre. Most of all, though, here was an undeniable mandate for attention from someone who obviously had something important on his mind that he urgently needed to say.


Nor did my attention drift when the band kicked in and the main tune started. This stuff demanded attention right now. It was so immediate and dramatic, these things he was just figuring out. I had never heard anything like this before. Even people who knew their funk had never heard anything that sounded much like it, cause there was no such thing.


Suddenly he's had a moment of clarity that he has to share with his lover. He sees how he's taking out his frustrations on his woman, just like Dad. Here's where the cycle of dysfunction comes full circle, and he doesn't yet have a clue how to stop it.


Part of the appeal of the song is how obviously personal it was. The guy really poured out his guts in a glass. He may as well have said "Eat, drink, for this is my body..." Well, actually the album did have "I Would Die 4 U."

Mostly, though, it was in the unique way he said it. This melody cries out in the most beautiful pain ever in a pop song. Oh, it was so pretty and vibrant and sensitive. There has rarely been a moment on a record as vulnerable and desperate and gorgeous all at the same time as the key line of the chorus. "How can you just leave me standing alone in a world that's so cold?"


The rest of the record made a luscious palette of orchestral colors on which to present his testimony. The tough percussive synthesizer chords give it a compelling backdrop. He erased the bass line he had recorded for the song, the better to give a stark aura. The sound was both hard rock and funk, but ultimately neither. You wouldn't mistake this record for Van Halen or James Brown.


Anyway, the man got my money right away, no further convincing than one listen to the lead single required. Imagine my surprise when there turned out to be a whole album worthy of this single.

Prince's Purple Rain costume


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