What Prince meant to me….
The way I will remember Prince . . .
I am going to first apologize for the delay in writing this tribute. I really had a hard time writing this, not because I didn’t want to, but because it made me have to truly acknowledge his death. Anyway, here it goes. In preparing, a vast number of emotions were internalized. An overwhelming deep sadness was felt, and that was followed later by acceptance and joy. This might sound odd, but let me explain. The acceptance was understanding that people die every day, and no one death outweighs any other. The shocking emotion was the joy I felt. The joy I felt wasn’t that he had died, but for all of the great art, the elevation of music, and humanitarian work he was able to accomplish while he was alive.
In my eye, Prince was the greatest entertainer of all time, and I wholeheartedly believe that, without trying to be disrespectful or denigrate other artists, but to emphasize how great he is. This reminds me of the Jordan verse every basketball player debates, just because you say someone is better doesn’t mean the other person isn’t good or great. Which brings me back to discussions one of my best friends Michael (Big Mike) and I would have in high school about Michael Jackson versus Prince. I am sure that you can guess who had Mike and who had Prince. I was lucky enough to see both Prince and Michael Jackson perform in concert. I have always said the greatest, the best, and the most memorable concert that I have ever been to was Prince’s. I want to repeat that is not taking anything from Michael Jackson—so please don’t blow me up on social media saying I am hating on Michael.
I want to expand on the experience I had at that Prince concert that allows me to confidently make the assertion I just did. So imagine a younger me just finishing freshman year of college, coming home for the summer to take calculus at Berkley so that I would never have to take a math class again because I despised math. At this point in my life, I thought I had all the answers regarding music because of the wealth of knowledge that was bestowed upon me by my Uncle David, the jazz/funk music nerd, combined with me being a hip-hop and oldies nerd. My uncle, who knew I liked Prince, asked if I wanted to go see him in concert for the Musicology tour. At first, I was apprehensive, thinking I might miss a party or function with my friends, but I begrudgingly said yes. That decision changed my life in so many ways.
The first thing I noticed, which was similar to the Michael Jackson concert, was that there was no one dominant age group, race, or gender. People from eight to eighty-eight could be seen, and most looked as though they were going to see something amazing. Then you have me—like, what time will this end, my friend Kevin said there is a party tonight. My uncle, aunt, and myself took our seats, and one of the first things I noticed that was different from any other concert I have ever been to was the vast array of instruments. I have seen other musicians and bands, but never did they have the plethora of instruments that was on this stage. I would later understand why. Another memorable moment even before the performance started was the fact that each person received a CD—the full CD. This was before digital music was the staple of how music was listened to. To be completely honest, I don’t recall or remember if he had an opening act, I only remember—vividly—from the moment Prince walked on the stage until he walked off after saying good night and thank you for coming.
Prince walked out with his guitar behind him, the microphone in front of him, and the stage dark. The energy ebbed and flowed, providing a peaceful but exciting atmosphere. He performed at least one or two songs from every album in his vast collection, of course hitting us with the world-known classics like “Purple Rain,” but he also sang deeper cuts that people that listen to the albums love. He didn’t just sing, but danced and played the crowd. He also played at eight to ten different instruments during the show with amazing solos on those instruments, which would put some musicians who only play that instrument to shame. The man never stopped going during the entire show. He gave and showed his love for the music, the internal passion, and that he poured his soul into his art.
That is the joy I felt, the joy that I opened this tribute with, because that is an amazing gift he gave to me, and I know he did that for a lot of people. He lives on through that energy and the tremendous amount of his art. The joy is knowing that many people never get to see and understand even a tenth of what their impact on this world is, and I believe he had some idea, though maybe not to this magnitude. He will be missed, and the world lost a magical note that had never been heard before, but he lives on, not only through his work but also through other artists that he inspired. If you read any reviews I have written, you know that I hear Prince’s influence in so many songs, hooks, melodies, and guitar riffs.
I will end this by saying thank you, sincerely, from DeRa Brinson to Prince Rogers Nelson. I will remember the way you made me feel about music, which is love and joy for a million days and more.
Check out the Stay Woke! podcast we did for Prince as well here.