Where were you when you heard the news? In woeful moments, I can’t help thinking that Prince’s death deserves that question as much as Neil Armstrong’s infamous moonwalk and JFK’s shocking assassination (sorry Dad!). Perhaps even more so for the kids who grew up in the US during the eighties.
I had just boarded a plane headed for Nashville. I settled into my coveted aisle seat, tucked my coat over me to fight the arctic blast spewing from the tiny air vent overhead. I was taking in the newness of the plane and I was thinking that United must be upping the ante. In addition to the perfunctory barf bag and self-promoting magazine, this newer plane had tv screens in the back of the seats. I had brought a book but the prospect of vegging out for a couple hours and watching the Food Network made me smile.
I glanced up at the tv screen. The news. Nope. Not today. Headed out of town without the kids. This trip was about getting away. And I was about to change the channel when I saw the headline. “Singer Prince Dead at 57.” I didn’t believe it. So, I logged onto Facebook (where else?)and searched Prince. It was true. My heart slumped. I felt wobbly, like a Salvador Dali painting, a being without bones. I was cold and numb at the same time. Prince’s songs made up the bulk of the soundtrack to my youth. I could feel my younger self, floating away, and I couldn’t stop her. I felt old.
Like so many other children of the eighties, Prince’s music accompanied my mundane and life-changing moments. I learned so much because of Prince, and I could wax poetic for a long time, but since I’ve probably already lost most of you, I’m going to cut to the chase and share just two of the countless things I learned because of Prince.
Little Red Corvette taught me that even dorky girls with glasses are desirable.
It was 1983, and Prince’s album 1999 had been out for a few months. I was at my first boy/girl party and I wore a brand new drop-waist mini dress that made me feel cool, in spite of my thick glasses and a bad haircut. The parents actually left the house and all twenty ten-year-olds were alone and allowed to whoop it up as we saw fit (parenting circa the eighties).
After some awkward dancing, we ended up in the basement playing 30 Seconds in Heaven and listening to Prince. If you don’t know the game, it’s spin the bottle on steroids. Someone spins the bottle two times and a boy and girl go into a closet to do ANYTHING while the entire group counts outside. It’s really romantic.
Despite all the fluttery nerves and anxiety a game like that produces in a dorky girl, I learned something important. I learned that boys REALLY like girls, even girls they would push to the curb in front of other kids. It’s something I still believe, and I’m forty-four, and guys ain’t that horny anymore at my age so it’s something other than hormones.
I know you’re dying to know what happened, so here’s a short recap. We were down to the last couple seconds. The pressure was on. Eyes were shut. I could hear Little Red Corvette playing outside the closet. “Baby you’re much too fast…” I was beginning to think it wouldn’t happen. Then, it did. There was a peck on the lips–the kind my nine-year-old son gives me now–and flushed cheeks. The door flew open, it was on to the next couple, and we were forgotten. But I never forgot that moment or the song.
Let’s Go Crazy taught me that planning and practice lead to success.
Flash forward a few years from that fateful first boy/girl party, and I’m finally old enough to go to my first teen dance (yes, I realize how small town that makes me sound). I was sick-to-my-stomach nervous. I had been waiting for this moment for years. I’d watched my older siblings, confident with their feathered hair and tight jeans, saunter into the dance while my friends and I had to wait outside and peek in windows.
The week before the dance, my best friend and I played Prince, mostly Let’s Go Crazy, and practiced our dance moves. We perfected a move that solidified our status as born-without-funk. It was somewhere between a Russian Copack Dance and a sidekick from high-impact aerobics. We thought it was just right for Let’s Go Crazy, and when the song came on at the dance, I was prepared. Whatever the move was, it was just strange enough that a boy came up to me and said, “Rad.” All my hard work paid off.
I know there are so many other children of the eighties out there with countless Prince stories to share. My husband listens to country, always did, and has been rolling his eyes at me. But I know I’m not alone. RIP Prince.