Not enough to lose

The first time I heard Prince wasn’t until his fifth record, his gigantically popular &8220;breakthrough&8221; album called 1999 (and when I say &8220;breakthrough,&8221; I mean the album where us white folks finally caught up with what this dude was layin’ down). The first cut on that disc, the insanely sensational title track, seems eerily and wonderfully powerful now, in the wake of his most unwelcome demise, where the first thing we hear is God, or some heavy cat with a low, distorted voice, saying &8220;Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you. I only want you to have some fun.&8221; And then, sure as shit, we proceed to have an absolute blast with the man as he sings, righteously and prophetically enough, &8220;Life is just a party and parties aren’t meant to last.&8221;

And god damn it, Prince’s party is now over, and it’s just a crying fucking shame because here’s a guy, a five foot two inch supernova of funk, joy, guitar, sex, love and terrific music who was 57, looked 40, and led this apparently thoroughly self-realized existence as a stone cold bonafide musical legend, icon and superstar and then—poof. Gone.

Ah, well. Shit happens. Frequently. Sometimes, it’s quite the drag. This one sucks pretty good. I mean, who did we just lose here? Well, only a man who was pretty much the superfunkadelic hybrid love child of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, that’s all. And according to my calculations, we ain’t got too many of those to lose. Dig, if you will, that picture!

One of the best Prince stories now in circulation is the tale of his Super Bowl performance in February 2007, which happened in Miami for the game between the Bears and the Colts. As weather luck would have it, this would be the first Superb Owl to take place in a full-on rainstorm, which was troubling news for all those involved in the halftime show. It was raining that morning in Miami, and the forecast was for it to rain right through the game. And indeed it did.

Before the event, with a soggy downpour now a certainty, the crew chief got together with Prince to talk about the situation and concerns about the slickness of a real wet stage and everybody in the band being in heels and no cover or shelter for the musicians and dancers and so on and so forth. And Prince’s brief, sly, memorable, legendary response—“Can you make it rain harder?”

Not only is this a quote from a supremely confident artist and musician, it’s a telling statement from a guy who very obviously had complete faith and trust in his electricians. Cuz, you know, playing electric guitar in the rain—what could possibly go wrong? Right?

Sure enough, he goes out in that steady rain and just nails his set and of course, finishes with a totally perfect “Purple Rain,” giving 70,000 fans and 100 million viewers what was easily the greatest Super Bowl halftime performance ever.