Prince is dead. I enjoyed his music. I wasn’t a rabid fan, but I knew most of his major songs by heart and always liked to watch him perform. I knew that he wrote songs for lots of other musicians, too (“Manic Monday” is probably my favorite non-Beatles song ever, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor is magnificent.) Prince was a storyteller, and as a storyteller myself his work always struck a chord (pardon the pun) with me, even as a child. Circa 1984 at age ten, I had a Purple Rain LP that I wore out on my portable turntable. I watched his videos a lot on cable, and always wondered why he had those asymmetrical buttons on his crotch on all those pairs of skintight purple pants of his. (Nobody else had pants like that, not even Michael Jackson. As a poor kid who mostly wore hand-me-downs and thrift-store clothes at the time, I thought it was cool that Prince wore clothes nobody else seemed to wear, and people seemed to like that about him instead of tease him about it, like I was.)
Prince was an enigma, a quiet, shy person who didn’t say much out loud but said a great deal with his writing (lyrics, music, and other art forms). He valued solitude and peace but took no crap. I especially admired that about him, and even as a ten-year-old kid, thought I’d found a kindred spirit when he showed up at the Grammys and didn’t give any acceptance speeches other than “Thank you.” Prince let his art do the talking and that was it. In the mid-1980s I was a latchkey kid from a broken home that nobody at school seemed to understand because I was quiet and different, and when I saw Prince, I said to myself, I want to be like THAT when I grow up.
Okay, well, that part probably didn’t work out quite so well. I don’t have a sprawling mansion in Minnesota and I don’t have millions or dollars, and nobody besides my immediate family would mourn me if I died. But I do think I stuck to that notion. I, too, value solitude and peace and take no crap. I wear what I like, and I use my creativity to make my living. (It’s not a rock-star living, but it’s a decent one.) I have ethics and apply them to my work and my life. Prince seemed to do the same.
Here’s my tribute, such as it is—-a statement of what I like, and what I don’t. It’s not much, but sometimes it snows in April.
I don’t ask for much, folks. Be nice, be factual, pay attention to reality, do your fact-checking, and make art. Learn to recognize what is real and what is manufactured. Tell the truth, and don’t be petty. Don’t break all your toys and go home when something doesn’t go well. Persevere. Don’t trust what authority is feeding you: learn to test everything empirically and draw your own conclusions. Speak truth to power. Learn to embrace change instead of fighting it, because the only thing that is constant in this life, is change. Sometimes the “inevitable” isn’t inevitable at all. Sometimes the good guys win, even if it makes you mad, or sad.
Where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire.
You are who you associate with. (Lie down with dogs/get up with fleas, and so on).
You can often tell what kind of a person someone is by how much profanity they use, and how they use it. (Profanity itself isn’t bad. But targeting it at specific people for malicious reasons is. Prince often used profanity in his songs, but never in real life, and he’d call people on it if they did it around him. Just ask Van Jones.) Generally speaking, if you wouldn’t want your kids or your mom or your boss to hear it, it’s probably something to keep either in your bedroom or in a barroom.
Picking fights with your friends and then abandoning them when they stand up to you is generally called bullying, not friendship.
I like tea and ice cream. I like comfortable shoes. I like red lipstick. I don’t like schmoozing.
I don’t think money should open doors. Only people should open doors, and for reasons that have nothing to do with themselves.
The world needs more humility.
The ends never justify the means if the means are wrong.
Don’t be fake. I don’t like fake people. If you don’t know how to be real, start by being yourself. (Stop trying to impress people with your stuff or your job or your friends, and just be kind. That usually works.)
Class cannot be bought. There is nothing more offensive or tacky than seeking money for its own sake. Make your work worth something. You’ll feel better about yourself and the rest of the world will, too.
Ignoring injustice is the same as perpetuating it.