Not that long ago David Bowie died and my boyfriend was really, truly sad for about three days. Certain songs on the radio would make him cry and he was quieter than normal. He is ordinarily one of the cheeriest people I know. I knew he was big David Bowie fan but I didn’t really understand the blues that consumed him.
However, this evening over dinner I heard on the radio that Prince died today. Before I could really think about it, my chin was wibbling and I cried. I’m now listening to some of my favourite Prince songs and can’t help but continue to cry.
Although, of course, I’m sad for the loss of his musical skills that’s not really why I’m crying.
I’m crying because the death of Prince represents the passing of a period of time when I was really, very happy at home with my family. I’m crying because along with that man, it feels as though the golden years when my family were the closest and happiest that we’ve ever been, has died too.
I fell in love with the music of Prince during a single car journey with my dad. To Maplins. In Doncaster. Even more specifically, to the song When Doves Cry.
My parents love music and when we were growing up, would often play their favourite albums late into the night after my sister and I had gone to bed. These indulgent evenings would often spill over into car journeys with the occasional Prince CD (or Barry White, UB40, Robert Palmer…). As was required of a teenage daughter, I would slump grumpily down in my seat and demand we listen to Radio 1 or just, for god’s sake, something, anything, that was cooler. Like, just better. And less, you know, embarrassing?
Obviously they didn’t entertain my hideous grumblings. And I became totally engulfed by the pleasurable drama of his music. I loved the way he squealed, how exaggerated the drums and guitars sounded, I loved how camp and how sexy to all was. It was a whole new sound for my tender S Club 7 ears and it was, and remains, inescapably infectious and wonderful. I was a dancer at heart (stage school brat) and whenever I heard music I would always perform an uninhibited self-choreographed performance in my head. Prince is perfect for that.
So that afternoon when I agreed to pop out with my dad in the car to Doncaster to buy whatever cable he needed for whatever reason, I didn’t protest too hideously when he put Prince on. In fact, when he got out of the car, I asked him to leave the key in so the music continued to play. And I played When Doves Cry over and over on repeat and it gradually got louder and louder until he could hear it from across the car park.
From that moment on nearly all family car journeys, even those including my older sister, took us around the country to a psychedelic disco, rock pop soundtrack. Each of us would have our favourites and we would gleefully request ‘track one!’ or ‘track five!’ and as I sit and listen to the same album now I remember with each track to whom it belonged as a firm favourite. There was never overlap. We each liked different songs but that’s what made it such good fun; together we got to listen to the entire album, sometimes more than once in a single trip. We were all united in a joyful communal pleasure, singing our way to our destination.
It was an immediate and consuming fandom that gripped me and I carried his CDs around in my blazer pocket so I could listen to them on my (strictly prohibited) clumsy walkman while I was at school.
I fell so completely in love with his music that I would defy my adolescent instincts to stick with the pack and would proclaim proudly that ‘I love Prince’ regardless of the response I might get from my peers. Sounds simple now, but as a fifteen year old, that required a bit of pluck.
So thank you, mum and dad for giving me musical pluck. And thank you Prince for musical moments in which I could connect with my family. Thieves in the Temple has just come on and I can still picture in my head the dramatic, balletic, interpretive dance routine I always wanted to create in response to it. Thanks for that too, guys.