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Sometimes It Snows In April…

Oh, I know some of my friends and associates are wondering when I’m going to stop. Soon, I guess. Hours, days…I don’t know. It’s up to me, after all, isn’t it? A lot of people realized how I would feel. Texts, e-mails, phone calls, tweets, posts…too many to count. Combined it was easily over a hundred. Hey, I’ve gone to work each day. I help my kids with their homework every night, after I’ve picked them up from school, and before I’ve made their dinner. My world has kept moving, life is going on, and bills still need to get paid. But no loss of a rock/pop star has ever affected me, like the sudden loss of my favorite…Prince.

You see, I’ve posted nothing on Facebook and Twitter, but Prince-related stuff–since it happened. It’s what I’ve chosen to do…that’s all. Everyone in my world knows how crazy I am about Prince. It’s part of me. When New Year’s Eve celebrations were ushering in 1999–and all you heard constantly, was “1999”–I consistently encountered friends and acquaintances who uttered, “I couldn’t think of anyone but you”. I’m not arrogant enough to believe I’m alone. Somewhere out there are fans bigger than me. Heck, I’ve recently watched Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon holding back tears when introducing a Prince retrospective on Saturday Night Live. James Corden was even more emotional after rushing back to the studio to pay tribute, after finishing up filming for an episode of “The Late Late Show”. Lin-Manuel Miranda led the cast of Broadway’s “Hamilton” through a rousing rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy” after the show’s April 21st curtain call. I know I’m not by myself. In good company, I remain. It’s a certainty…I have kept reading.

Genius. One-of-a-kind. Modern Mozart. All of that, and more, applies. You know what else does? Oscar-winner. Humanitarian. Multiple Grammy recipient. Activist. Movie Star. They all work. Human being is the most important one, though. An especially gifted, diverse, fascinating, imperfect, complicated human being. I’ll never forget hearing “When Doves Cry” for the first time, and how it rocked my world. I was aware of Prince before, but this is where it began for me truly–in May of ’84 with the “Doves” single. The “Purple Rain” album followed in June. The movie…a pseudo-autobiographical film starring Prince himself…arrived in late July. It was all mammoth. I had to have EVERYTHING after that. Many were done buying Prince CDs by the early 1990’s. I never stopped. And whatever the “vault” supplies…I’ll be there for that too.

My first ever long term girlfriend…our song was “Purple Rain”. My college radio show was called, “The Parade”, and the opening theme music was “Christopher Tracy’s Parade” from Prince’s 1986 “Parade” album, which also served as the soundtrack for his 2nd movie, “Under the Cherry Moon”. I broadcast two separate shows called “Minneapolis Jam”, over the course of one year–they were my most popular easily at Ramapo State in New Jersey. That studio phone never stopped lighting up. I attended at least one major concert tour each decade. My wedding song was “Forever in My Life” from the 1987 masterwork, “Sign o’ the Times”. I have a Prince “symbol” chain necklace. I’m wearing it now. There is a Prince album for my every mood. And every year, on average, almost without fail, there was a new one to buy. They’ll keep coming too, but not arranged by him. For that finale, we look to “Hit n Run Phase Two”. That followed “Phase One” after only 3 months. Like I said…prolific.

So, where do I go from here? As the film critic, and arts contributor, for the national radio program, “America Weekend with Ed Kalegi & Christina Stoffo”, I’m fortunate to have been asked to do a retrospective. And while there will be talk about his vast discography, I plan on focusing on his impressive filmography as well.

There’s the 1984 smash “Purple Rain” movie, that won Prince the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, grossed the equivalent of nearly 200 million in today’s dollars, and made Prince one of the ten most bankable film stars in the world.

Then the 1986 follow-up, “Under the Cherry Moon”, a black-and-white, Prince-directed, critical and financial bomb, shot in France. Hey, it ain’t that good, but it’s beautiful to look at, contains the #1 hit “Kiss”, a bunch of other fantastic songs, along with launching the career of eventual Oscar-nominee, Kristen Scott Thomas. I rewatched it the other day. Its fun, and boasts a solid sense of comic timing.

Of course, there’s the 1987 concert film, “Sign o’ the Times”, a movie that many critics have labeled among the best of its kind. “Batman” arrived in the summer of 1989, and Prince wasn’t in that one, but he composed the mega-hit soundtrack for it, appeared in a bunch of music videos supporting it, and entered into a relationship with co-star Kim Basinger because of it. The success of “Batman”, and its music, helped finance Prince’s vanity project, and final major film work, “Graffiti Bridge” in 1990. It’s a loose sequel to “Purple Rain”, reunited most of that cast, and was backed by a fine album of the same name. It tanked, and the filmography of Prince was complete. It deserves a lot of the negativity it got, because it plays like a collection of music videos, with a weak narrative line. But some of those videos are pretty damn good.

The music. 1980’s “Dirty Mind” was the first masterpiece, and 1982’s “1999” the initial multiple-disc opus, of many. 1984’s “Purple Rain” was the game changer, but all Prince fans know that 1987’s “Sign o’ the Times” is equally great–if not superior. I could go on infinitely. Catharsis takes different forms for many of us. My father was in a variety of institutions and nursing homes for 24 years, due to irreversible brain damage brought on by severe alcoholism. He was only 46 when it began. That tragedy dominated my life from the age of 23 to 47, until my Dad passed suddenly at the age of 70, in 2013. Those were difficult years. But there was always another Prince album coming to help keep me going. Until now. It’s been the soundtrack of my life, and, even not having known him personally, I’ll miss him forever. At the end of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is the immortal line, “Good night, sweet Prince, and flights of angels, sing thee to thy rest!”. It’s my favorite Bard play, and the words are achingly appropriate. Too it, I’d like to add…this is what it sounds like when doves cry. And sometimes it snows in April. Indeed.

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4 comments on “Sometimes It Snows In April…

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful tribute Mark. Your passion shines through in every word. Thankfully, the legacy of a great artist lives on in their body of work so it is comforting to know that you can keep enjoying Prince’s music (and movies) and reflecting on the wonderful memories. Best wishes, Simon

    • Thanks so much, Simon. It’s been a very tough bunch of days, mourning someone who influenced me so greatly. I’m certain I’m not finished writing about Prince, but I needed to compose this sort-of eulogy. So happy that people, like yourself, appreciate it. That’s very important to me.

      ML

  2. What a very moving piece of writing. The honest way that you weave the personal into the tribute to Prince is just terrific. Thank you for writing this.

  3. So very thankful for your kind words, Greer. It’s an extremely personal connection for me, that a select few have realized how deep it goes. Seems like you truly get it. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    ML

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